A group of about 30 people on a march to publicize their message of anti-violence in Eeyou Istchee arrived at the Annual General Assembly in Wemindji August 8 in an effort raise awareness of the growing problem. Organized by the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association (CWEIA), the participants walked 96 km over four days to reach Wemindji in time for the community AGA.
Crees from various organizations and backgrounds spoke from the heart to assembly delegates about how they would like to see these issues addressed.
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CWEIA president Virginia Wabano had originally been asked to speak at the event, but due to a tragic loss in her own family, she was unable to attend. Instead, Linda Lillian Shecapio read out Wabano’s address.
She began by talking about how deeply violence has affected Cree women who have suffered and died in violent incidents.
“We know of many mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, friends and most of all life-givers that we lost as a result of violence. We see the grief and sufferings of children, families and communities because of violence. Violence is a sensitive issue, but a reality in society,” Shecapio read.
“Violence continues in our homes and in our communities in Eeyou Istchee. Its victims include women, children, youth, Elders and persons with disabilities and others who are victims of violence because of race, culture, sexual orientation, or economic status. All of these defenseless people experienced physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, spiritual and cultural violence, as well as verbal and financial abuse and neglect. However, sad to say, exact data regarding the frequency of violence is difficult to obtain, as approximately only 10% of violence or abuse is ever reported,” she continued.
While many organizations within the Cree Nation have mandates to reduce violence against women and other victims, Wabano’s speech also addressed a new program that the CWEIA will be working on in conjunction with the Cree Men of Eeyou Istchee Association.
Status Women of Canada granted CWEIA $195,000 earlier this year to carry out a 24-month project to address the institutional barriers and other factors that limit community efforts to prevent and reduce violence against women and girls in Eeyou Istchee.
This project will be implemented in the communities of Mistissini, Chisasibi and Whapmagoostui and will engage men and boys, women, girls and other partnering agencies such as the Cree Men of Eeyou Istchee.
According to Wabano’s address, this project is supposed to bring together various community stakeholders to develop strategies to address violence against women and girls. The lessons learned in this process will then be shared with other Cree communities in the region.
Speaking on behalf of the Cree Nation Youth Council, Jeremiah Mistacheesick talked about how violence affects all Crees.
“At times we do not realize the violence we see and endure on a daily basis. Physical aggression or assault such as hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, slapping, throwing objects, emotional, intimidation and neglect are all forms of violence. Violence starts and begins from an individual and then as it progresses, it forms and passes on from one person to another and then another. Eventually it wounds us all,” concluded Mistacheesick.
Prayers were offered and a donation box was passed around to raise money for the walkers against violence. The event concluded with a moment of silence for those who have suffered.