As if to underline, in red, the magnitude of the issue, the annual Dec. 6 United Against Violence Against Women vigil was held on the day the RCMP revealed the remains of Ashley Simpson had been found near Salmon Arm. Her former boyfriend was charged with murder.
Ashley went missing from her home in Yankee Flats on the outskirts of Silver Creek on April 27, 2016.
At the emotional evening on Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus, the candlelight vigil was held to remember the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique Massacre in Quebec of 14 women, as well as murdered and missing women from the Okanagan-Shuswap and beyond.
MC for the evening, Rev. Jenny Carter, pointed out the evening was more than just about remembering, but also a time to gather as witnesses.
“Tonight we stand witness to the violence done to women. Tonight we gather and we name the places where violence has caused such hurt, such pain and such destruction. With one heart, we remember and we witness that if violence against women is to end, then we do need to gather and share our stories, we need to gather and share our concern, we need to gather and share our love as we reach out to one another…”
Carter said in addition to gathering to remember and witness the women massacred 32 years ago, it was to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, to call for justice and to remember the women in the region who are missing and presumed murdered.
“Of course our minds go to Ashley Simpson on this day.”
Splatsin band councillor Edna Felix welcomed people to the Secwépemc territory. She, Laureen Felix and Charlene William sang and drummed during the evening. Edna explained the significance of the unique skirt she was wearing, which includes figures representing missing and murdered women as well as children lost to residential schools. Edna said she also attended to remember men, as she knows men who have suffered domestic violence.
Laureen spoke of the importance of women telling their stories, both to raise awareness and to let others who may be suffering know they’re not alone. She also explained the significance of the Women’s Warrior Song.
Jaylene Bourdon of the SAFE Society read the moving story of Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the 1989 massacre who emerged strong and determined, urging young women not to be stopped. In a recent media interview, Provost voiced her concern about recent killings, saying in times of crisis, such as now, women and children are the first to pay.
Monica Kriese provided information on the SAFE Society, including its 24/7 availability to women at 250-832-9616.
Two women shared their stories of abuse, both speaking of horrific and enduring pain, one of witnessing her father kill her mother.
The evening concluded with people making their way with candles through snow-covered beauty, accompanied by sounds of hand-drumming and songs, to the pond at Okanagan College. There, red carnations were left at the pond, as each woman killed in Montreal was named, as well as Ashley Simpson who was killed, and Caitlin Potts, Deanna Wertz and Nicole Bell who are missing from the North Okanagan-Shuswap.
Told later of the remembrance of his daughter Ashley at the Salmon Arm vigil, John Simpson asked that all those present be given the family’s heartfelt gratitude.
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