Marchers call for end to violence

Local women, men, and children took a stand against violence Monday evening in a “Take Back the Night” march across the international bridge here.
Dubbed “Hands Across the Bridge,” the rally—which demanded an end to all forms of violence against women and children—was organized to bring marchers from both sides of the river together in the centre of the bridge.
But when the nearly 50 marchers from Fort Frances made their way from the Ontario Travel Information centre to the bridge, no Americans arrived to meet them.
“I had a very difficult time getting anybody going on that. I don’t know why,” said Jan Cooper, executive director of the Sunrise Centre Against Sexual Abuse in International Falls.
“I guess they just don’t do the marches over here.”
Instead, Cooper herself drove across to participate in the rally on the Canadian side.
“It was nice, really nice. It was such a beautiful evening,” she noted.
Lined up along the Canadian side of the bridge, the marchers lit their candles and cupped their hands around the flames to protect them from the wind.
Then after listening to a prayer by elder Bessie Mainville, each one sprinkled a small amount of tobacco over the bridge onto a sacred rock below.
“We say a prayer for all those who are victims of abuse. We pray that abuse ends,” Mainville said.
Josephine Potson noted the Anishinaabe used to hold ceremonies on this spot, and that there once had been a stone lodge there. “When you make an offering here, you are recognized favourably when you go across,” she said.
Peggy Loyie, the aboriginal health and wellness co-ordinator for the United Native Friendship Centre here, also said a few words about the importance of the “Take Back the Night” march.
“This is a collaboration between communities who are ready to take a stand against violence and to make the night safe for everyone,” she said, noting the night also is a metaphor.
“The night can last all day, everyday, for some people. Some never see the daylight,” she explained.
Loyie also shared some startling statistics with the marchers.
“Every six minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted in Canada. Two to three women are killed by their partners or ex-partners every week,” she said. “And it is estimated that up to 80 percent of aboriginal women are victims of spousal abuse.”
Afterwards, the group went to the UNFC office on Mowat Avenue for refreshments.
Cooper said she was disappointed by the lack of response from people in International Falls, but that there was always next year.
“We need to state that our safety is important. That’s as real today as it was 50 years ago,” she noted. “We’ll keep trying. I’m not going to give up that easily.”
The march was organized jointly by the UNFC, the Atikokan Native Friendship Centre, and the Atikokan Crisis Centre.