More than 100 people took to the streets in downtown Fort St. John on Wednesday to take a stand to end violence against women and children.
The ceremony was part of the city's inaugural Moose Hide Walk, part of a national campaign that began along the Highway of Tears in 2011, and led by indigenous and non-indigenous men and boys.
"Women have born the brunt of advocacy to respond to domestic violence in the communities, and people don't know about this issue," said David Stevenson of the Moose Hide Campaign.
"So, what we want to do is challenge men and boys to start to get aware of the issue, and start to hold ourselves and each other accountable about this issue, and to stop it in this country, to stop domestic violence and gender-based violence in this country. We believe that's doable. It's about love, it's about respect."
The campaign is being supported locally by Shell Canada and the City of Fort St. John.
City councillors have proclaimed June 5 as Moose Hide Awareness Day to encourage residents to take a pledge to end the violence by wearing a piece of moose hide. More than two million square pieces of hide have been distributed across Canada since the campaign began, including to businesses and organizations around Fort St. John.
"When we all wear it, we make a huge impact," said Mindy Henyu, external relations advisor with Shell, and the key organizer of Wednesday's event.
Violence is a problem that can be solved, Henyu said.
"We're here because we care about our community, and we're here because we want to take a stand against violence in our community," said Henyu.
"We're also here because we each likely know a story about a woman or a child experiencing violence in some form, and we don't need to put up with that, do we?"
The event included drumming and dancing from the Doig River Drummers and the SD 60 Spirit of the Peace Drummers & Dancers.
Garry Oker, councillor with Doig River, said violence also must end against men, and against frontline workers helping those who have experienced violence.
"Our dreamers talk about the idea that we want people to live good, in a good way," Oker said. "We want everyone to live in a good way, to be the best that they can be, to add something to build the community, to bring something to the ceremony."
Mayor Lori Ackerman noted the city has spent $85,000 a year over the last two years to help police bring in extra staff to digitize boxes of old, cold case files, and open new leads in their investigations. So far, that work has seen an arrest and conviction in at least one old sexual assault case, Ackerman said, to the applause of the crowd gathered.
The Moose Hide Campaign recognizes all forms of violence are unacceptable regardless of gender, Ackerman said.
"We really encourage you to get a moose hide and take the pledge," Ackerman said.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org.