News Local

Taking time to remember

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

Mia Allard, 5, of Pembroke, an Our Lady of Lourdes student, places a rose in preparation of the candlelight vigil to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, held Wednesday evening at Wesley United Church Fellowship Hall.

Mia Allard, 5, of Pembroke, an Our Lady of Lourdes student, places a rose in preparation of the candlelight vigil to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, held Wednesday evening at Wesley United Church Fellowship Hall.

Nearly 30 years after the events at Ecole Polytechnique, Canadians still gathered to remember.

 

On Dec. 6, 1989 in Montreal, a man stormed the college and, armed with a high powered rifle, singled out women to kill. Before shooting himself, the individual murdered 14 young women and wounded 10 others, in an incident which has come to symbolize the scourge of gender-based violence in society.

Wednesday evening, close to 50 individuals of all ages gathered at Wesley United Church Fellowship Hall, Pembroke for a candlelight vigil to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

This was also the day the murderer of Renfrew County residents Anastasia Kuzyk, Carol Culleton and Nathalie Warmerdam was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes.

Guest speaker Lynne Felhaber, who had served as the children’s lawyer at Family and Children’s Services of Renfrew County, said people should honour the memories of these three women by taking action, and starting the discussion on what can be done to address the matter of gender-based violence.

“We can and should be self-critical in our performance in dealing with violence against women,” she said, noting they should be identifying gaps in the law, or pointing out laws that are not followed or enforced, as a step it rectifying the problem.

Felhaber said they should also remember that children are also victims of domestic violence. She said representing the best interests of children in domestic violence cases was always difficult and complex, and often challenged her own ideas of morality and justice.

She said studies have shown children exposed to domestic violence are at a heightened risk of becoming abusers themselves, or becoming part of abusive relationships.

“We must remember that these victims are among the most vulnerable individuals in Canadian society,” Felhaber said. “Today and every day, we must remember the victims of domestic violence and to act to end it.”

The ceremony concluded with roses being placed and candles lit for the 14 women who fell that night in 1989. Each name was read out loud as roses were placed in their memory: Genevieve Bergeron, 21; Helene Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Maryse Laganiere, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 27; Sonia Pelletier, 23; Michele Richard, 21; Annie St-Arneault, 23; Annie Turcotte, 21 and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, 31.

A white rose was placed to honor the Ontario women who were killed by their partners. According to recent statistics, 31 women have been murdered this year in Ontario by their partners or men close to them.

A pink rose was placed to honour women and children who are still living with violence.

The Boys and Girls Club of Pembroke also participated for a third year by presenting a purple wreath that the youth created.

The annual event was hosted by the 2017 Bernadette McCann House Vigil Cimmittee, with Kevin's Flowers of Petawawa donating all of the roses. A similar ceremony, conducted by the Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County, was held at the Renfrew County Women's Monument in Petawawa earlier Wednesday morning. The monument contains the names of 23 area women killed by domestic violence.

SUhler@postmedia.com