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On Monday, December 6, Salt Spring islanders are invited to gather online at 5 pm in memorial and solidarity of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada.  Like last year, the memorial – hosted by The Circle Salt Spring Education Society and Islanders Working Against Violence (IWAV) – will be a Zoom event that will be live-streamed online via IWAV’s Facebook page: @islandersworkingagainstviolence

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada was established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada to commemorate the 14 young women who were murdered by a gunman on December 6, 1989, at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal as a deliberate act of violence against women.

IWAV provides anti-violence services to women and children in the Southern Gulf Islands. In 2020-21, IWAV took 428 crisis calls and served over 151 women and 32 children fleeing violence and abuse. These services include a 24hr crisis line, outreach and advocacy, sexual assault response, counselling, and transitional housing.

The COVID pandemic still has a significant impact on women experiencing intimate partner violence and sexual assaults. IWAV has seen an increase in service demands, escalation of violence, and increased vulnerability of women and children who experience violence and abuse.

“For some people, being stuck at home, financial strain, boredom, and fewer connections was the perfect storm for a sharp increase in mental health issues and the violence that often results,” says Heather Picotte, Transition House Manager for IWAV. “And although we saw globally, increased rates of domestic violence increased during the pandemic, ironically and sadly we had fewer stays in transition houses. Individuals experiencing violence have had more difficulty reaching out for support or making exit plans because they‘ve had little privacy to do so.”

The Circle Salt Spring Education Society delivers innovative, evidence-based educational programs for children, youth and adults in order to promote communities free of violence, bullying, discrimination, assault and abuse. “On this the 33rd Anniversary of the horrible events at l’École Polytechnique, we pause to take stock of what we have and have not accomplished in the empowerment of women,” says Dr. Eric Ellis, the Chair of The Circle. “You only have to pick up a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch television to be reminded of what we have not accomplished. But it is programs like the Circle Salt Spring Education Society are developing and offering to Salt Spring children that are helping our children today make a difference to women in the future.”

December 6 is a time to reflect on gender-based violence in our society. It’s equally an opportunity to reflect on the light of the candles that will be lit and to join in community to renew our strength, honour the lives of women, and hope for more inclusive and peaceful communities.