For 12 years the Ermineskin Women’s Shelter Society (EWSS) has hosted its annual Walk Against Violence to raise awareness of violence against women.
This year the society brought together people from among the four Nations in Hobbema, explained Sandra G. Ermineskin. Organizers wanted to give the younger generation an opportunity to be heard. “This year it’s more for the youth, having the youth voice.”
The route took supporters of the walk from the women’s shelter to Bear Paw Park, with a horse carriage for the young and elders who participated. Once at the park, speakers took some time to explain the importance of a strong family unit. Board member Lillian Gladeau said the key is to start with the base for a strong family.
“In a home you have to have a foundation to support the home fire,” she offered. The society does not turn anyone away who needs assistance.
Coun. Vern Saddleback of the Samson Cree Nation offered his thoughts on family violence as he too witnessed family violence when he grew up. He feels lessons can be gained from the experience. “Growing up I want to be a better human being…we need to teach our children to be better than us.”
Another victim of violence, Charmaine Ashley Yellowbird, whose five-year- old son was killed by a stray bullet last year, spoke of her experience. Crime is something that could affect anyone when they least expect it.
“We can take a stand and let them know we will not tolerate violence,” said Yellowbird. Despite a traumatic experience she feels “there is hope for our communities.”
She believes the best way for healing and growth is for the community to take a strong stance against violence.
Board member Donna Potts-Johnson said domestic violence does not discriminate and it is important to understand the different types of domestic abuse; physical, verbal, sexual, psychological, and emotional.
She believes it stems from one main issue. “It is a power control problem.”
Among the more than 85 walkers was Craig Mercredi, the new RCMP family violence representative. He was proud of the community involvement.
“I’m very proud to walk with all of you,” he said.
There was an honour song when walkers first arrived at Bear Paw Park, followed by speeches and then a lunch.
More than 50 butterflies were released in a ceremony to remember past victims of domestic violence.