NORTH VANCOUVER - First Nations elder Audrey Rivers-Tiyaltelote welcomed everyone to the International Women's Day event on Squamish territory at the Chief Joe Mathias Centre on Friday, March 6.
She opened by honouring the three generations of the past, present and future. The Squamish elder spoke about the hundreds of missing and murdered women in B.C.
She talked about the contribution all women make. "I give high honours to our women who are our life givers. Many women here today are mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, daughters. I lift my hands up to the women, for all the good work that women do. I wish to pray for our future, our children. I pray that they will have a safe and happy environment. Thank you to the Great Spirit for this day and thank the Creator for this gathering."
Cindy McQueen, president of CUPE Metro District Council (and CUPE 389) explained that the Council celebrates IWD by recognizing community services for women and the women who provide and use those services. She welcomed everyone and introduced representatives from the North Shore attending the event.
"With everything they do, these women do it with a focus on promoting, inspiring and empowering all women," said McQueen. "These women, along with each and every one of you, contribute."
McQueen praised women standing up for government action on the missing women; fighting for properly-funded social services; and being mothers who empower their daughters to go forward and take on challenges.
"We salute every single one of you for all the contributions you make and we're excited about those you'll continue to make. Whether you hold someone's hand or recognize what someone needs, you inspire and encourage them – and that empowers us all."
Kat Davidson, a student, activist, mother and CUPE member from Local 409 was the keynote speaker. Her work as an academic and activist is centred on violence against women and she hears and reads daily how Canada is an unsafe and frightening place for women. Davidson noted that it's sometimes hard to believe we have made gains and that circumstances can change. Despite this, many continue to work towards and fight for change in our communities.
"We do this as a community of women who know what is at stake, and we often do this work out of the public eye," said Davidson.
"Sometimes everyday activism can be hard to see because it looks just like living your life. The courage and perseverance by women across Canada is creating change and inspiring more women and men to get engaged in shaping their communities."
Davidson noted that despite decreased spending on women's organizations by the federal government, we see the hard work of feminist organizations beginning to pay off. She said we are indebted to women involved in early union organizing who fought for better pay and working conditions as well as suffrage.
"By gathering here today, creating community, strengthening our ties and relaxing in a safe space, we continue to follow the women who have come before us and renew ourselves in the continued fight for our rights as Canadian women."
Participants networked, made necklaces and dream catchers, and were entertained by members of the jazz group, Company B which led in the singing of the IWD 'anthem' Bread and Roses. Everyone enjoyed a delicious free lunch before they went home with lunch bags prepared by CUPE Metro District Labour Council.
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To view photos of the event, visit the gallery.
Download a copy of the Women's Committee IWD 2015 poster.