Fort St. John women didn’t let a couple of hecklers stop them from taking back the night last Thursday.
About 50 people were marching through the streets of Fort St. John, stopping to hear a speech from local Aboriginal women’s activist Connie Greyeyes. During the speech, three male patrons of a nearby bar jeered and swore at the marchers, but they were quickly silenced after they were approached by two uniformed RCMP officers.
“I think (these types of attitudes) are everywhere,” said Ellen Farrow, the Project Peace coordinator for the Fort St. John’s Women’s Resource Centre who helped organize the march. “The gentlemen making the comments may have been intoxicated ... I don’t even know what they were thinking.”
Starting from the North Peace Cultural Centre, the crowd marched around 100 Avenue chanting and attempting to raise awareness of violence against women. Farrow said she was pleased with the turnout.
“We’ve lost some wonderful ladies and people in our community,” she said. “This was my very first ‘Take Back the Night’ March, and I was very impressed with the turnout ... I just love the energy of the people who came and the passion towards stopping violence towards women and girls in Fort St. John.”
The Fort St. John event was one of hundreds held annually around the world, dating back to major cities in the U.S. in the 1970s. Dawson Creek had its annual march late last month.
Going along for the march were young people from the Fort St. John Native Friendship Centre. Kirsten Tetreault, a youth support worker with the Centre, said that she brought the people from the centre’s youth group, Awesome Teens, because “we took them last year and they really liked it ... they made us so proud.”
Many of them carried signs that were made at the youth group earlier that evening.
“They like to be a part of community events and make a stand,” she added. “Violence is in our homes, it’s in our streets, it’s on our schools ... it’s important for them to recognize that it’s not right now.”
According to people like Greyeyes, violence in the community is often ignored.
“We look more at our phones and we don’t even care about people anymore,” she said. “I can’t believe this horrible stuff that happens here in Fort St. John.”
Farrow also said most of that violence isn’t reported, and wouldn’t be, because it can take forms that aren’t clearly recognizable until too late.
“A lot of violence, date violence, violence against women involved in prostitution, that surrounds our night life,” she said. “Marches bring attention to people who have survived this abuse.”
Sherry Marshall, the chair of the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, urged march attendees to speak out and fight violence against women.
“(By staying silent), we are really no better because it doesn’t stop anything. The violence will continue,” she said. “Please as a community, let’s find our voice. I ’m not asking you to step into a fight; I’m asking you to pick up the phone. Let’s be the voice that says enough.”