A mass of people stretching over a block packed the streets of Victoria Thursday (May 11) as they joined hundreds of thousands nationwide calling for an end to violence against women and children.
The Indigenous-led Moose Hide Campaign held its annual march in the capital city as similar actions were taking place across Canada.
The movement aims to end gender-based violence and advance reconciliation as it encourages men and boys to be accountable and part of the solution.
At least half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16, a figure that served as a call to action for Moose Hide Campaign co-founder Sage Lacerte.
She said the two key interventions that reduce the rates of violence toward women and children – which particularly impacts Indigenous Peoples – are community connection and building awareness of the issue that Lacerte said is uncomfortable to talk about.
That awareness is being pursued through the goal of 10 million Canadians donning the square moose-hide pin. The campaign has so far gifted four million of the lapels, with a third-party finding each hide sparks at least five conversations.
“We’ve resulted in at least 20 million conversations surrounding gender-based violence,” Lacerte said.
Awareness relates to a drop in violence at K-12 to post-secondary schools plus other institutions both in and out of government which have been prone to violence in the past, she said. Seeing the large crowd of people show up gave Lacerte a tremendous amount of hope.
“It’s really beautiful to see folks showing such vulnerability, especially the men and boys this campaign caters to, and asks if they’d be willing to stand up and speak out in spaces they might not be willing to normally,” she said. “It gives me a lot of pride knowing the campaign is doing this work even though it’s not the easiest work.”
While addressing the crowd, Premier David Eby called the moose hide square a critically important symbol before noting women have led the work to end violence.
“It is partnership with them that makes this possible and our government will do that work,” he said, adding it’s his responsibility as Premier to end racism and violence against Indigenous women and girls, all women and vulnerable people.
Dominic Paul, a national ambassador for the campaign, has been encouraging men and boys to help redefine masculinity as those demographics have been the main perpetrators of harming women. He said the campaign, which reached more than 500,000 participants this year, looks to instill in the younger generation of boys that women deserve to feel safe.
Chief Robert Joseph, an ambassador for Reconciliation Canada, said the campaign has elevated humanity through the work it’s done across Canada.
“Here we are gathered and finding ways to mitigate harm for women and girls and those kinds of attitudes that brought that about,” he said. “I ask all of you to remain steadfast in your commitment to stop that violence.”
In a statement, the province said it’s developing an action plan to end gender-based violence, adding it will work to implement the calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Engaging all levels of government and reaching communities big and small has already helped the campaign affect systemic change, Lacerte said.
Those ordering the moose hide pins can leave a note and Lacerte said that’s allowed them to collect thousands of stories.
“They share these beautiful teachings about how heavily it’s impacted them as an individual but also on a community and systems level,” Lacerte said. “It really is so reflective in those stories, they’re so beautiful.”