Violence against women and children was never part of traditional First Nations culture and it is time for aboriginal men to reclaim their path as spiritual warriors, an annual gathering was told in Victoria Friday.
The Moose Hide Campaign, organized by the B.C Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, culminated with a gathering of First Nations men on the legislature steps where participants pledged to speak out against all forms of violence.
Pointing to the small patch of moose hide on his lapel, Songhees artist Butch Dick said, “We are wearing this little patch to say, we, as men, will spread the word among our communities that violence against women and children must stop.”
First Nations men and non-aboriginal supporters across the country, including some police departments in Ontario, wear the patches of moose, deer or bear hide to signify their commitment to honour, respect and protect women and children in their lives.
Although aboriginal women are not the only ones to suffer domestic violence, they do face disproportionately greater violence, said Aboriginal Relations Minister Ida Chong.
“This is an issue that affects all of us, each and every day of our lives,” she said.
Aboriginal communities and families need to heal, said organizer Paul Lacerte, after speakers at the conference talked about feelings of dislocation caused by residential schools, poverty and addictions.
“When I wear this [patch] it’s a commitment that I will never use my fists against women and children in my life,” he said.
“If we see and hear violence is taking place, we have made a commitment to speak up.”
That includes speaking up about missing and murdered aboriginal women across Canada, said Scott Fraser, Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA and aboriginal relations critic for the NDP.
“It’s a provincial problem. It’s a national problem and there needs to be an inquiry. That has been resisted by government and I don’t know why,” he said.
The conference was witnessed by women, several of whom spoke about growing up in violent homes.
Dealing with violence is not just about stopping the beatings, it is about showing children how partners can respect each other and how men can show affection and kindness, said Karen Joseph.
“We all need to be OK with love and not let fear lead us to this place,” she said.