Walking into the gym at Quesnel’s Correlieu Secondary School on Thursday morning (Dec. 6), the first thing students saw was a table set up asking them to make the pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence toward women and girls.
Then, they passed a memorial for the victims of the École Polytechnique de Montreal shooting, which took place on this day (Dec. 6) in 1989. Fourteen female students were killed in the targeted shooting.
Each victim had their name and school major listed with two roses in a vase in front of them. Then, the students were shown two signs, one, with data from StatsCan showing that 76 per cent of female homicides in Canada were committed by their intimate partner, while male homicides are largely committed by strangers or acquaintances.
The other sign depicted the number of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada as approximately 1,200 victims — a statistic from the RCMP — with a second statistic, from activists, First Nations and former Minister of Status of Women Patty Hajdu, estimating that number is closer to 4,000.
Behind the signs, the bleachers were full of shoes — 308 pairs, to be precise.
Each pair of shoes was matched with a name, one which correlated to a profile included in CBC’s database of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada.
The front row of the bleachers featured roses in front of names — for local victims (both missing and murdered) of violence against women, all but one who are not included in the database.
The memorial was pulled together by Carilee Drew, an English teacher at Correlieu, and a group of student volunteers.
“I think a lot of people don’t think that gender-based violence is a concern today, and I’m really trying to get across the point that it’s more of a concern now than ever,” says Drew.
She came up with the idea after seeing a similar memorial set up at the Vancouver Art Gallery a couple years ago — something she thought was “a really cool idea.”
Drew says her understanding of the memorial at the gallery was that it was almost like a work of art, something for people to stand and look at. But then she learned the CBC’s database and decided to organize her own, interactive shoe memorial.
Using their phones, students were able to actually search the database for each woman and read her story.
Students, staff, and members of the community all attended the memorial, which was largely run by student volunteers, since Drew had her own class to teach at the same time. The students led classes and guests throughout the gym, stopping to tell them about each section of the memorial.
Amber Lightfoot, a Grade 11 student at Correlieu, is one of the student volunteers who helped pull together the memorial.
“It’s really moving,” says Lightfoot. “It’s one thing reading about it, but then when you actually see a physical representation of how many missing and murdered women in the area there are, it’s very moving. It’s very emotional.”
Dec. 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action Against Violence Against Women in Canada, and part of the United Nations 16 Days of Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. The display is also in correlation with Correlieu’s Annual White Ribbon campaign, which asks the male students and teachers at the school to pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence toward women or girls.