Memorial vigil a time to reflect
By Jeff Green
The organizer of Memorial’s Dec. 6 Vigil said such sombre events will continue until gender violence is eradicated. But Lori Yetman admitted that is not likely to happen any time soon.
Ms Yetman, Memorial’s sexual harassment adviser, said tragedies like the Montreal Massacre occurred because there was a level of “cultural support” in society to allow a man to take the lives of 14 women.
She said people need to challenge themselves to put an end to gender violence and inequality.
“What needs to change is a lot of individual reflection,” said Ms Yetman. “What kind of belief systems do we have that may contribute to this problem? If we hear a sexist joke are we laughing? Are we participating in it or challenging it? Do we take the time to address the little acts of discrimination that occur throughout the day because we’re just too busy or we just want to let it go? We all fail to do it, I’m guilty of it.”
About 185 people from Memorial, as well as a large number of people from the general public, participated in this year’s Dec. 6 Vigil, held on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. That day coincides with the tragic anniversary of the 1989 Montreal Massacre when 14 women were killed at l’École Polytechnique.
“Such ceremonies will continue to happen until we can say we have achieved gender equality and we have achieved a society where gender violence is no longer a problem,” Ms Yetman said after this year’s vigil. “But that’s not going any time soon, I don’t think. Not in my lifetime.”
A number of student groups took a lead role in this year’s ceremony, including School of Music flutist Johanna Jabora-Scott, who performed during a candlelight procession. The Marine Institute Student Union; MUNSU; the Graduate Student Union; Engineering Society “A”; LBGT-MUN; One in Four and Memorial’s Sexual Harassment Office were also involved in the procession, as well as the Women’s Resource Centre.
Ms Yetman said members of the general public were also present during the ceremony, as well as officials from provincial government and this province’s largest labour union.
Ms Yetman stressed the important message which accentuates the vigil. “It’s the one day of the year when the problem with violence against women receives official acknowledgement at a national level,” she said. “The man that murdered those women in 1989, he embraced all the problematic attitudes that exist in our society about women that are still very much present. I see these attitudes in small doses now in individual people everyday because of my job and these sexist attitudes can, of course, lead to really problematic behaviours. It would not have had happened if these attitudes didn’t exist in our society and they still exist in some cases.”