British Columbia

North Vancouver to get totem pole recognizing violence against women

Ground-blessing ceremony took place on National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Jon Hernandez - CBC News

December 07, 2017

The ground-blessing ceremony took place 28 years after the École Polytechnique shooting, on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

An eight metre-tall totem pole will soon stand in North Vancouver, recognizing countless missing and murdered Indigenous women.

On Wednesday, elders from the Squamish First Nation blessed the ground where it will stand — exactly 28 years since the tragic shooting at École Polytechnique in Montreal.

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Elder Eugene Harry says the pole is also a tribute to those 14 lives lost on one of the darkest days in Canadian history.

"Today is to honour the earth, honour the missing women, honour father sky — and mostly put everyone's mind at ease that women aren't forgotten," said Harry following the blessing.

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Ceremony remembers Montreal shooting victims, missing and murdered Indigenous women  1:25

Michelle Dodds with the North Shore Women's Centre says the pole is also meant to acknowledge the many women who continue to suffer in silence.

"Violence is still really prevalent, and as we speak we recognize that there are people who are not here because it's not safe for them to be here," said Dodds.

RCMP participate in ceremony

The pole will stand just metres outside North Vancouver's RCMP detatchment. Officers also participated in the ground-blessing ceremony.

Squamish elder Eugene Harry led the ground-blessing ceremony on Wednesday, which featured the official ground breaking for a new totem pole. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Superintendent Chris Kennedy says the totem pole symbolizes the police force's responsibility to maintaining safe communities across the country.

"We've made significant strides in our approaches to domestic violence," said Kennedy. "Hopefully this ceremony — and the totem pole that will be laid — is a representation of that bond and relationship between what our responsibilities and professional duties are."

"Any one domestic is one too many."

RCMP participated in the ground blessing. The new totem pole will be erected just metres outside the North Vancouver RCMP detachment. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto hopes the pole will become a significant cultural space in the city — a place where people can reflect on where society needs to improve.

"We do have to treat women and girls much better than we do now," said Mussatto, noting the tragic history of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

"The way men treat women is abysmal — and we have to change that."

An awakening ceremony will take place in the same plaza, once the totem pole is complete. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The totem pole will be carved by Squamish artist Jody Broomfield. It's expected to be complete by summer, 2018.

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