A Silence Silenced

FlowerPattern08aMy family came to Canada from Eastern Europe at the turn of the 19th century and settled on the prairies where I was raised. In the 1970′s and 1980′s I lived in a small community in rural British Columbia. I was part of many circles there which intersected socially and politically. These circles included women of all backgrounds – those whose families had lived in the valley for generations and those who had arrived only recently to make the valley their home. There were people whose roots were Canadian, American, European, British, East Indian, Chinese to name a few. But my circles did not include any of the Aboriginal women who had been the original inhabitants of the valley and were a strong tribe who still made this their home.

At this time many of us became aware that the issue of violence against women and children was prevalent in the valley. We talked, we met, we had coffee, we sat in each other’s kitchens, told our stories and discussed what we could do to help those who were falling victim to this menace. Remember…it was a small town. And an amazing thing happened! The phones in our kitchens started to ring. Women who needed help were reaching out across previously uncrossed boundaries, making contact, telling us their stories, asking for help. And another amazing thing – many of these women were from the Aboriginal community.

This was an opportunity for all to share and all to learn so much about each other’s cultures. Clearly anything we did could not go ahead without women from both the Aboriginal and the non-Aboriginal communities being part of the team and building something together. And so women from all the cultures began to talk, to meet, to have coffee, to sit in each other’s kitchens. And we told our stories. And we listened to the stories of other women. And everyone learned a huge amount about “the other”.

And gradually we built a Centre that was available 24 hours a day to women and children who needed help. To staff this Centre, teams of two women were always on call and available in emergencies. Each of these teams were made up of an Aboriginal and a non-Aboriginal woman. We realized it could not succeed in any other way. Our cultures had to work together to make our small town a safer place for all.

- Vicki in BC