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Summerside service marks day of prevention of violence against women

Nancy Beth Guptill, left,  and Gloria Schurman light a candle in memory of one of the 14 victims of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre.
Nancy Beth Guptill, left, and Gloria Schurman light a candle in memory of one of the 14 victims of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre. - Colin MacLean

One by one their names were read aloud and a candle was lit in their honour.

There were 14 women murdered in the École Polytechnique massacre in 1989 and 10 P.E.I. women killed by intimate partners or close acquaintances.

A somber ceremony marked Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Summerside.

Hosted by the Summerside Baptist Church, the candles were lit, there was a prayer, a song and a short speech.

Mercifully, there were no new local names to add to the list of victims this year, said Andy Lou Somers, with East Prince Women’s Information Centre and one of the memorial’s organizers.

Somers also said she is encouraged by the dialogue ongoing in society because of the Hollywood scandals and other high-profile cases; many of which were set off by the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations.

“It actually seems to me the start of a culture change, that women aren’t going to be as afraid to come forward. If they’re in the workplace and if they are being harassed or any type of violence, that they will feel more confident to come forward – because all those women are being heard now and things are being done about it,” she said. 

Somers is also encouraged by groups like Man Up here on P.E.I, she said.

“I think it’s really a positive thing what the Man Up group is doing.”

Founded by a group of Charlottetown men who wanted to contribute to making society a safer place for women, Man Up has slowly but steadily grown its membership to about 30 and has started to host events to help the cause.

Man Up member Cody Clinton was invited to be the guest speaker at Wednesday’s memorial service.

He spoke about the group and how important the issue of women’s safety is.

He also said the group is open to helping set up a satellite group in Summerside or another community.

“The most important message that we want to convey as men is that violence against women, of any kind, is not right. We want to start that conversation, we want to start changing that culture and we want more men involved in that conversation and to take an active role,” said Clinton.

Colin.MacLean@JournalPioneer.com

@JournalPMacLean

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