Speech from Dec 6th Vigil, 2021
By Karen Houle
32 years ago 14 women were violently killed, by a man – because they were women
32 years ago, most didn’t talk much about gendered violence, and this act shocked people so much that Parliament enacted this as National Day of Remembrance and action on VAW
BUT – Would we be here today if these had been Indigenous Women?
Women who worked on the Streets or had mental health or addiction struggles.
These women were targeted because they dared to get an education in what was seen then as a ‘Man’s Job’, these women dared to reach beyond what society said they could do.
They didn’t limit themselves – and this angered someone who felt like a victim to their opportunity, to their desire to be equal, to contribute and to better our world.
This is privilege. This is power over.
Indigenous Women, Children and Two Spirit people go missing are targeted every day in this country.
RCMP violently chainsaw tiny homes, drawing assault weapons as land defenders are inside.
An entire Muslim family in London Ontario is run down in an act of racism and Islamophobia, several people of colour this summer were killed during wellness checks by police here in Ontario, and many of the young people that I work with – don’t feel safe to be who they are in their own homes.
Violence is normalized in Western Culture – it is something that I know has imbued my life before I was born, and it permeates every single day of my life, and still I strive to be kind.
It imbues us all. It is everywhere. It’s the society we live in. The media we watch, the news that we consume, and what is done to the biomes within us and around us.
The society we live in, was formed from dominance, from power over. Meaning some of us must be dominated over, made powerless. Violence is an essential component of that. Teaching violence and how to win, beat, compete is framed into everything we do in this society. It’s taught to us as children. It is violence perpetrated in a daily stream of our reality when we engage in this world. How we cheer for our sports teams, how we rate movies, or people or food, how we vie for jobs and resources, or how we determine who is able to access anything of value. Still, despite all the messaging we receive, many of us try to be kind.
We aren’t given a choice to not partake in this system of violence.
Colonial powers used violence when they stormed in and brought their grief and anger of what was happening in Europe here as well as their nationalistic battles. They starved folxs into submission, and placed the people of this land into prisons of reserves and residential schools They took away all rights, they even cheated their own system to steal everything, trying to eliminate Indigenous cultures. Our gifts, our roles our responsibilities, and everything else that wasn’t their way of thinking. Still our cultures and values are here, and call on us to walk in a good way, and to lead with kindness.
Here in Owen Sound, people often pass others who are homeless on the street without a thought, some people here heckle others on the street, for being different or a person with breasts, we rush by another person and accidentally hit them and don’t think to acknowledge that.
Our city council debates land acknowledgement practices and what the expense of it is, while they create a 25-year city plan that talks about land USE like the land is a thing to be exploited without thinking about sustainability now or the 7 generations to come.
We allow for the tear down of homeless encampments on land that is wanted for development ushering in investors to encourage people with wealth to come and live. Meanwhile, there is nowhere for regular folxs to live. Just more burden for folxs who are underpaid, underhoused, underappreciated and do most of the labour. Over-worked social service workers lists get longer and more and more they get burnt out from a system that wants to put badly mixed compound paste on a structural system that has no care about the foundation nor the walls that are crumbling. Still folxs try, and are kind.
We must honour the worth of all of creation, of each other, and focus on lifting up our voices over their noise and distractions; over systems that disempower, and institutionalize.
Against stereotyping and othering, binary ways of thinking, and the normalization of violence and power over.
We must strive to walk in good ways and honour the spirits of those that have been lost by all of us. Their potential. Their Love. We must work against violence and the structures that force us to not see the potential in every single one of us. We must work together to create a world where we can all be safe, and our spirits can do their work and fulfil the roles and responsibilities that we are here for. This we know as kindness.
Now on the anniversary of their deaths we call out each woman’s name that died that day 32 years ago at Ecole Polytechnic. It is for them, and all the others we have lost, that we stand here and remember and vow to act.
Now after taking time to remember we need to talk about how to act.
What can I do?
ON a larger level – Vote for positive change
For basic income, mixed affordable housing
More safety net, more services for all of us,
Teach about consent and boundaries and healthy relationships
Be critical, question.
It’s not us versus them, man against woman – its those binaries that hurt us all.
Its in this systemic fabric of inequities, that fuels desperation and a lack of hope that leads people to violence,
Ask folxs what their pronouns are and use them – don’t assume – gender, sexuality, identity or intentions
Listen and believe survivors – learn the signs – HELP
Be present. Be kind. Hold doors open.
Give, be grateful.
Interrupt sexist, racist, transphobic, homophobic and discriminatory language.
Be open. Hold each other accountable.
ACT – with kindness.
Thanks/Miigwetch for your presence today.