© SUEANN MUSICK – THE NEWS
Lindy Quann lights a candle during Pictou Academy’s Day of Remembrance ceremony Friday. Isaac Young, a fellow student at the school, also took part in the ceremony which marked the 24th anniversary of the Montreal massacare.
PICTOU – Arlene MacDonald took the stage of Pictou Academy Friday and turned her attention to the young men in the crowd.
As executive director of the Pictou County Women’s Centre, she was an obvious choice as a guest speaker for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women, but her words appealed to the teenage boys in the crowd who have the power to change the world
“I want to take a moment to talk to the men all sitting here in this audience because I think it starts with you,” she said. “You may not be somebody who abuses their partner or the women in your life, I would guess if you saw a man pushing a woman right in front of you, you would probably step into that, but do you not laugh about the jokes friends make about the women they know? There are all kinds of funny women jokes that women don’t find very funny. When a guy is talking about the ‘ball and chain’ or ‘the girlfriend,’ do you stop him and say ‘you know what, that’s really offensive. I don’t want to listen to that.’”
MacDonald told the grades 9 to 12 students that change doesn’t have to come all at once.
“Small little steps like that is how we are going to change society and we make it unacceptable in our speech to talk about women in a negative way and our actions to treat women negatively, we stop buying and seeking out images that portray women as objects and negative images we will see some change,” she said. “As men in the audience you think about what your role is and stop it from going forward.”
MacDonald was one of many guest speakers who addressed the students and staff during the Academy’s annual service that marks Day of Remembrance held in honour of the women who died in the Montreal massacre 24 years ago.
She said the day was opportunity for everyone to remember this “horrible thing” that happened in Canada more than two decades ago and to acknowledge that such violence is still happening in 2013.
“We still have incidents and we are well aware of ones that hit pretty close to home… Amber Kirwan, Rehtaeh Parsons,” she said. “It gives us an opportunity to think about why in a country like Canada, a developed country where you would think we would know better, that it still happens today and what we can do as a society and individually and change it.”
She said the rates of violence have not decreased in the past 24 years since the massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique so people must continue to take steps to make a difference.
The Montreal massacre, occurred on Dec. 6, 1989, when Marc Lépine, armed with a legally obtained Mini-14 rifle and a hunting knife, shot 28 people before killing himself. He began his attack by entering a classroom at the university, where he separated the male and female students. He claimed he was "fighting feminism" and called the women "a bunch of feminists."
Aurdra Raulyns, ambassador for Silent Witness Nova Scotia, echoed MacDonald’s comments by pointing out that people need to stand up against violence and not tolerate it any longer.
“Gentlemen, it is you that can make the difference,” she said. “If it is not you, who will?”
Raulyns told the students that she was a victim of domestic abuse and that people suffering from intimate partner abuse need the support of their family and friends, or sometimes even a stranger, to help them change their lives and become victors, not victims.
The ceremony also included a musical presentation by Dr. Henry Bishop as well as the lighting of candles by three Pictou Academy students.
“The world we have today is full hate and violence and we can change that. Why can’t we stop bullying, violence and hate? This is a season to love and be happy for each other,” said Bishop. “That idea is going to change all of us.”