It was a powerful evening, full of pain, full of hope.
Close to 40 people gathered at the Salmon Arm campus of Okanagan College Thursday evening, Dec. 6, to mark the day 29 years ago that Marc Lepine took his hatred for ‘feminists’ to École Polytechnique in Montreal and murdered 14 young women there.
Before a candlelight vigil at the college, two documentaries were shown: Polytechnique and the Highway of Tears.
With the faces and lives of the murdered women fresh in the hearts of those present, speakers at the college told their stories.
Master of ceremonies Jenny Carter spoke of creating a society where no woman will ever be afraid again. She noted that the focus of the evening can bring up deep feelings and emphasized: “Tears are honoured in this place.”
In an emotional speech, Kristine Wickner told of the types of abuse she had suffered as a young adult but had not claimed them as such. She explained how younger woman will remain stoic, downplaying what they’ve experienced so they’re not labelled as “entitled” or “complainers.”
Laureen Felix spoke of a friend’s tragic history of abuse beginning as a child, a history that she never revealed, thinking no one would believe her. Meanwhile, she was called a ‘whore’ and blamed for her past. Tears welling, Laureen said she had no idea this was going on and spoke of the power of speaking out and not keeping abuse secret.
Another woman spoke of severe abuse both as a child and as an adult, which she is finally healing from, thanks, she said, to the women’s shelter in Salmon Arm as well as many years working with the Stopping the Violence program.
Following the speeches, those in attendance, mostly women and a few men, held candles as they walked down to the pond at the college. They stood at water’s edge, candles reflected in the water as they listened to hand drumming by Edna and Laureen Felix, and paid homage to all the women targeted by violence.
The college hosted the evening in collaboration with the SAFE Society, Okanagan College Students’ Union and Okanagan College Aboriginal Services.