Earlier this week, the province’s annual Purple Ribbon Campaign Against Violence was launched for the 22nd consecutive year.
“A purple ribbon is just the symbol of the stand that we take but it is an outward way for us to say I don’t want this to happen again and I want to start a conversation about it,” said Jane Ledwell, executive director of the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women, the group co-ordinating the campaign.
Nov. 25 marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the start of the campaign, which culminates with Dec. 6 memorial services throughout the province to mark the anniversary what’s commonly referred to as the Montreal Massacre.
It was on Dec. 6, 1989, that 25-year-old Marc Lépine went into Montreal’s École Polytechnique with a rifle, separated men from women and opened fire, killing 14 women and wounding 13 others before turning the gun on himself.
Since, memorial services have been held across Canada marking the anniversary of the massacre and highlighting the need to end violence against women.
It was just weeks prior to last year’s memorial that 36-year-old Maurean MacDonnell of Kinkora was killed at the hands of Rick MacLean before he took his own life, an act of violence that rocked the small community.
“It was very hard and painful for the community to have to look at a face and see the real loss again,” said Ledwell, referring to MacDonnell’s tragic death. “Every time there’s a murder it’s easy to count and easy to pay attention but we don’t know the precise number of women and others who are experiencing violence on any given day and those who aren’t asking for help.”
MacDonnell, Carrie Crossman, Shirley Anne Dougay, Della Waddell, Debbie Holmes, Elaine Myers, Mary Waite, Kimberly Byrne and Crystal Bearisto — all murdered at the hands of men they knew — will be remembered at Island ceremonies marking the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
The Purple Ribbon Campaign isn’t just about remembering those who lost their lives in violent acts, said Ledwell, but an opportunity to get people talking about domestic violence and ways to prevent violence.
“This year the theme has been using violence is a choice and we can make better choices,” she said. “We’ve invited Islanders to participate and give us their suggestions on what to do as better choices when they are faced with a decision about how to act in a situation that might make them feel angry or frustrated.”
A teachers’ guide on domestic violence has been issues to those who teach Grade 7 social studies and Grade 9 health and a multi-lingual poster has been circulated containing this year’s campaign message — “Violence is a Choice. Choose Better.”
But, added Ledwell, the campaign’s focus isn’t just on violence against women.
“We tend to promote it during times that look at violence against women,” she added. “It is a campaign against violence of all kinds and by all kinds of people.”
For more information on the Purple Ribbon Campaign and services offered, go to www.gov.pe.ca/acsw, or visit P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services Inc. at www.fvps.ca. Services are offered in Summerside, West Prince, Charlottetown and Eastern P.E.I.
Dec. 6 ceremonies are being held at the following locations:
- At Summerside Baptist Church at 12:15 p.m.
- At Memorial Hall at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown at noon and featuring guest speaker, legal aid lawyer Trish Cheverie
- At O’Leary United Church at noon