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Candlelight vigil honours victims of violence

A candlelight vigil for victims of domestic violence drew a crowd of about 30 to Main Street last Wednesday night.
Woodlands Cree elder Alfred Beaver burned sweetgrass for participants of the candlelight vigil, including Westlock mayor Bruce Lennon (right) and Westlock County reeve
Woodlands Cree elder Alfred Beaver burned sweetgrass for participants of the candlelight vigil, including Westlock mayor Bruce Lennon (right) and Westlock County reeve Charles Navratil (second from right).

A candlelight vigil for victims of domestic violence drew a crowd of about 30 to Main Street last Wednesday night.

Participants marched through downtown, stopping to read the tragic stories of some of the people — women, men and children — whose lives were cut short as a result of domestic violence.

The second annual vigil was organized by the Hope Resource Centre, a group in town that provides advice and referrals to victims of domestic violence and other types of abuse. The vigil was intended not just to remember the victims, but also to raise awareness of the fact people are still dealing with these types of abusive situations.

Westlock County reeve Charles Navratil and Westlock mayor Bruce Lennon both attended the march, with Lennon reading a proclamation declaring November to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Westlock.

Alfred Beaver, a Woodlands Cree elder from the Athabasca area, kicked off the march by leading a smudging ritual.

The smudging ritual is meant to purify the mind, body and soul, and involves burning sweet grass and taking in the smoke.

“It is in the spirit of oneself that we do this as an aboriginal people,” he said, adding the ritual is done as a means of communicating with the Creator.

He then led the procession with his drum, another potent symbol in aboriginal culture. He explained to the crowd the meaning and importance of the drum, as well, which helped set a somber tone for the evening.

For some in the crowd, the event was a bit of an eye-opener as to the fact the problem of domestic violence exists in rural Alberta.

“I’ve never experience domestic violence before, but reading these stories really opened my eyes,” Kelly Locke said. “Even in Westlock, it seems like such a wholesome town. To know something like this goes on is a shock.”

Geoff Talbot said he came to the vigil to support the Hope Resource Centre and also to show support for domestic violence victims.

“I can’t relate directly to domestic violence, but I know what it’s like to be bullied, and I think it’s kind of the same thing,” he said.

He added he hopes to see the attendance numbers continue to increase, because the issue is such an important one.

“I really think it will catch on,” he said. “It’s a good way to get the word out.”

Beaver told the crowd about how he has personally been affected by domestic violence — an issue that affects a disproportionate amount of the aboriginal population. He explained how he has had friends and loved ones go missing, emphasizing the importance of raising awareness of this issue.

“I have relatives who went missing,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”

The march ended at the Westlock United Church, where hot chocolate and snacks were provided and Marissa Rae provided some musical entertainment.

For more info about the Hope Resource Centre, visit their page on Facebook or contact the centre at 780-349-6111.