A sea of purple could be seen on the streets of Waterloo Saturday as more than 200 people took part in the Voices Empower: Walk to Break the Silence.
The event was led by Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region (WCSWR).
Activists, victims and family members spoke out – pushing for an end to domestic violence and femicide.
“Sadly in Canada, every six days a woman is killed by their intimate partner,” explained Jen Hutton, the CEO of WCSWR.
The powerful initiative aims to raise awareness of domestic violence and shed a light on the urgent need for societal change.
“I feel like, at the end of the day, this is something that should continue to happen, walks like this to raise awareness,” said one participant.
November is also Woman Abuse Prevention Month in Ontario.
“We are seeing femicide rates increase, we are seeing the demand for our services increase,” Hutton said. “We are raising awareness, and [at the same time] there seems to be an increased awareness of this issue.”
Participants at the Break the Silence Walk in Uptown Waterloo on Nov. 18, 2023. (Hannah Schmidt/CTV Kitchener)
The event hits close to home for people like Chris Costa who has firsthand experience with domestic violence.
“I grew up in a home that was challenged that way,” he explained. “This is an opportunity to help those that are currently in this position [to] navigate healing.”
Costa said this event is more than just a walk, it’s a collective cry for change and justice.
“I don’t think the public realizes how much of this type of thing goes on, like it’s our neighbours, it’s people that you wouldn’t expect that aren’t speaking because you know there’s an element of vulnerability.”
The Region of Waterloo recently declared intimate partner violence an epidemic.
As a result, the need to raise awareness and funds to prevent these incidents is more pressing than ever.
“It’s important that we talk about it,” Hutton added. “We are seeing people use the term femicide because it is a gender-based issue so we need to use that term.”
WCSWR said fundraising will remain open until the end of November to ensure they hit their goal of $50,000. The money will go towards helping women and children in the community.
The Break the Silence Walk in Uptown Waterloo on Nov. 18, 2023. (Hannah Schmidt/CTV Kitchener)
POLITICAL LEADERS REACT
There have been over 50 femicides in Ontario this year alone, according to the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses.
“The fact that we have to fundraise to keep women safe in the province of Ontario is really quite a shame but we’re going to show up, we’re going to continue to show up at Queen’s Park and we’re really pleased to be a part of this strong group of women,” said Catherine Fife, Waterloo MPP for the Ontario New Democratic Party.
Marit Stiles, the Leader of the Official Opposition of Ontario, said while there have been steps forward in addressing femicide and domestic violence in the province, plenty of work still needs to be done.
“We are not in a situation where the government in this province is adequately funding shelter servicers or any of the supports that women in our communities need,” she explained. “It’s an important thing to call it what it is: an epidemic, and that’s why we are pushing really hard for the provincial government to do the same.”
Aislinn Clancy, the Kitchener-Centre MPP candidate for the Green Party of Ontario, said the overwhelming support Saturday shows the importance of community involvement in tackling femicide and domestic violence at a provincial level.
“These services are essential,” she said. “They help us protect young people from being exposed to trauma, they help us protect the next generation from repeating violence.”
“We know that intimate partner violence is a pandemic in our province and we need to ensure that we step up and provide the resources to support survivors and their children especially,” added Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner.
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