Candles lit in memoriam and for hope

Lisa Goudy
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Riverview holds empowerment workshops for young women

Not a word was uttered as the candles were lit.

The gymnasium at Riverview Collegiate watched on Friday as Mayor Deb Higgins and W.J. Jones and Son continued care co-ordinator Della Ferguson each lit a candle, one for all young women affected by violence in Saskatchewan and one for hope. They were lit at the second annual Grandmother Moon Symposium on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women for young women in Grades 7 to 12 in the Prairie South School Division (PSSD).

Fourteen candles were lit in memory of the young female engineering students who were killed on Dec. 6, 1989 in the Ecole Polytechnique massacre. The event at Riverview featured a candlelit memorial in the morning and different workshops about empowerment in the afternoon.

“The significance for me is that these women, the essence of their lives was light and that essence lives on. (It’s) for us to remember they were 14 lights that still shine and that we remember there’s hope,” said Ferguson. “(There is) hope for tomorrow that we can move forward and learn from history.”

Ferguson also lit a candle for the gunman, Marc Lepine.

“I lit an additional one to try and shine a light on the fear that is darkening people’s existences and try and hope for healing for those who are hiding their light from fear,” she said.

She added she hopes the women left the day having a “sense of who they are and to enhance that fully.”

“I hope that they see the light within themselves and that they feel a sense of solidarity of being together with other women,” said Ferguson. “It’s a day to remember, to look back, but it’s also a day to look ahead and it’s to say, ‘What will we do about this to ensure that we don’t repeat history?’”

Lois Thomson, Riverview school community council chair who helped organize the event, said the workshops focused on harassment, making choices around peer pressure and looking at identity and identity representation.

“What we’ve done here at Riverview is decided that we would take a look at empowerment through education because the young women were going to school,” said Thomson.” It’s about having a day for girls to learn and to talk and to be together.”

She said the day allowed women to talk about important issues.

“Dec. 6, it’s one of those monumental ‘Where were you when this happened?’ So it’s such a turning point for women because it got us to focus in on what the issues around violence are,” said Thomson. “This gives everyone an opportunity to come together and move forward.”

Riverview Principal Don Meyer said all women from Grade 7 to 12 in the PSSD were invited, but the weather caused all PSSD buses to be cancelled so many students couldn’t make it.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for our girls to have the light and the focus on them,” said Meyer.

“The biggest thing is that it’s a chance for our girls to meet other students from other schools and more specifically, a chance for young women to get together and talk about the issues that they face,” added Riverview teacher James Irving. “That could be everything from bullying to violence.”

Higgins said the most important part of the day was action as well as remembrance.

“It really puts a stronger emphasis, I think, on the day of action and to have young women be able to realize their potential and that this is one step along the path that they will choose for their lives,” she said. “Each and every one of us contributes to the future and these young people, I think for sure, it’s a message that they need to hear loud and clear: that they’re important to not only their families and friends, but they’re important to the community and they’re a big part of our community.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Prairie South School Division, Ecole Polytechnique, Riverview school

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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