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Pains of the past

A stand on violence against women

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 08/00) - The candles burned brightly as tears trickled down the cheeks of many Yellowknifers in mourning Wednesday.

They were weeping for the 14 women who were brutally murdered at Montreal's Polytechnique University on Dec. 6, 1989 and the many other Canadian women who are affected by violence every day.

Organized by the YWCA in Yellowknife, the event was held in the Great Hall of the Legislative Assembly. White candles were handed out to at least 100 people who took time to attend the noon-hour ceremony.

Lyda Fuller, executive director of the YWCA, said the Montreal massacre is a powerful reminder of how vulnerable women are and how acts of violence can affect each and every one of us.

"We tend to think about it in terms of violence in the home because we see it a lot, but certainly with this case it was violence in a broader context in society and I think it touches on everybody."

Fourteen volunteers, representing the 14 victims, circled around a table covered with red roses and a single pillar candle. Each of them held their own candles which were lit as the names of the victims were read by two female students.

Mark Heyck, one of the volunteers, said he agreed to be a candlelighter because the Montreal tragedy affected all Canadians.

"Quite often violence against women is sort of an underground problem that doesn't flare up to the public's attention very often, but an event like that really brought it to everyone's attention."

Heyck said from the statistics he has seen, acts of violence against women are more prevalent in the North than in other regions of Canada.

"That assumption is based on reported cases and I know that many, many, many cases of violence against women go unreported, particularly in the North.

"I think we have a long way to go before the problem is solved," he said.

Members of the Range Lake School Performing Choir participated in the ceremony, singing 'Where have all the flowers gone' and 'I will remember you.' Choir director Leanne Ostrander-Morin said performing during this particular ceremony was very important for the 35 girls who sang, even though they are too young to remember the day of the massacre.

"They knew a lot about this service, what it was all about and they felt it was very meaningful and very important."