23nd annual Take Back the Night march held in Sioux Lookout
Tim Brody - Editor
Approximately 50 people took to the street last Thursday evening (Sept. 19) in support of everyone’s right to be safe and live free from violence and abuse in Sioux Lookout.
Participants in Sioux Lookout’s 23nd annual Take Back the Night march marched through the downtown core carrying signs and calling out messages condemning violence.
Beginning at the Sioux Lookout OPP Detachment, the march concluded at the Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre.
Hosted by First Step Women’s Shelter, this year’s march was organized by Sioux Lookout’s Domestic Violence Action and Awareness Committee, which includes First Step Women’s Shelter (FSWS), Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle (SWAC), Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA), Ah-shawah-bin Support Services, Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, Equay-Wuk (Women’s Group), Northwestern Health Unit, ONWA Mental Health Program, SWAC Post and Prenatal Program, and St. Andrew’s United Church.
Following the march SWAC Breaking Free from Family Violence Program coordinator Kimberly Murphy spoke to participants about the history of Take Back the Night marches.
“Take Back the Night is an annual event held in communities and cities and public forums nationwide. The event includes rallies, marches and vigils, where survivors and supporters unite to protest against sexual violence. The first rally was held in 1975 in Philadelphia after a woman was murdered while walking home alone,” she commented. “Take Back the Night seeks to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence. We are here to create a safe community and respect relationships through awareness and initiatives. We will speak up in our community against all violence, and you should too. All you have to do is take back the night like we did this evening.”
She than shared, “This is from a survivor in our community, ‘I feel so much stronger than I have ever before. I’m putting the night behind me, so I can open a new door.’”
Cindy Phillips, Aboriginal Sexual Assault Worker at ONWA in Sioux Lookout said, “It’s really great to see men at these events. It just goes to show that we have that support in the community. Again, in light of everything that’s happened over the last month, I think it’s really great that Mayor Doug Lawrance comes out and shows his support. It really feels good that we have people out. It shows we’re making a difference, that people are listening… When you see people that come out in these numbers, it makes you feel good, like you’re making a difference in the community and people are listening.”
Phillips said that, sadly, she sees many women through her program, but said it felt good to be in a position to be able to help them.
“You can call, stop by, be referred, whatever it takes to get help. I’m located at the ONWA office across from the high school (former Queen Elizabeth District High School building) and ONWA has a toll-free number: 1-800-667-0816.”
FSWS, who hosted the event, according to their website, “Provides a safe and secure emergency shelter for physically, emotionally and/or sexually abused women and their children.”
They can be reached through their crisis lines at 807-737-1438 or 1-800-465-3623. They also have a crisis text line at 1-844-899-8444.
The shelter serves the Sioux Lookout area and First Nations communities
north of town.
“The shelter strives to offer culturally appropriate services with a particular focus on Indigenous women and children,” their website further informed.
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance was a participant in the march and shared at the Friendship Centre, “I try to get to the march every year. I see it happens every year. The voices are strong, the cause is just… I think it’s wonderful that you do it, but it’s sad that it has to be done, that it needs to be done.”
He went on to share, “As a community leader, as mayor, I think it’s important to come out and support events like this. There have been some events in recent months in the community that have been quite tragic; Sad to see that kind of violence and tragedy.”
Lawrance said he felt coming together as community members strengthens us all. He said there are many good things happening in the community, but added, “What we see on the streets in terms of social challenges, people who are in need of assistance, we’re hoping that the province can help.”
Lawrance said he has spoken with the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and invited him to visit the community.
“Last week, in my role as a director on the Kenora District Services Board, I had a meeting with the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner in Dryden regarding the Kenora homeless shelter. I implored her to come to Sioux Lookout and look at our situation. I asked her what was the mathematical equation that got her interested in Kenora, because we certainly have that equation in spades here and we need her to bring that to the attention of the provincial government,” Lawrance added.
Darlene Angeconeb, chair of the community’s police services board, has been working to establish a Bear Clan Patrol in Sioux Lookout.
Bear Clan Patrol Inc, based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, states on their website, “The Patrol is a community based solution to crime prevention, providing a sense of safety, solidarity and belonging to both its members and to the communities they serve.
“This is achieved in a non-violent, non-threatening, non-judgmental and supportive manner primarily through relationship building and reconciliation.
“The Patrol demonstrates a way of being that works in harmony with the broader community rather than in conflict with it and in a relationship that encourages rather than seeking to defeat leadership as it emerges at a local level.
“The Bear Clan draws its direction solely from our traditional philosophies
“The concept behind the Bear Clan Patrol is community people working with the community to provide personal security in the inner city in a non-threatening, non-violent, non-judgmental and supportive way.”
A meeting to help establish a Bear Clan Patrol in Sioux Lookout was held earlier this year, which was attended by representatives of the Municipality of Sioux Lookout, Sioux Lookout OPP, and social services agencies. All parties present said they supported the establishment of a patrol in the community.
The next Bear Clan Patrol meeting has been scheduled for
Oct. 1, from 6 – 9 p.m., at the Sunset Suites.
“Anyone is welcome, “ Angeconeb shared. “We are arranging for Naloxone training at the meeting. We will also discuss the start-up package that was sent out. We will also have to decide the areas for patrol and if anyone can offer a 'headquarters', donations, etc.”
Angeconeb said she is hoping a patrol can be established and up and running before winter sets in.