“As long as there is a woman, as long as there is a child, you will go down. I promise,” declares a Syrian woman surrounded by men in a video filmed during a recent demonstration in Syria.
More than ever the voices of women are needed as demagogues take power throughout the world, including in the U.S. and Ontario. Their misogynist political agenda views women as a threat and they use violence to silence womens’ voices. It is in this context that women, and a few good men, gathered September 14-16 at the Fern Resort in Ramara for the Region 3 Equity Conference. The theme of the Conference was “Rising from the ashes of violence: a conversation with women for women.”
The Conference opened on Friday evening with a welcome and keynote from Region 3 Regional Vice-President Sara Labelle who recognized that it is time for women to step up and take their rightful place as leaders in their communities. Saturday workshops confronted domestic violence and the sex trafficking of women and girls, noting that Indigenous women and girls are among the most vulnerable to exploitation. On Sunday morning, Conference participants faced the reality of missing and murdered Indigenous women. They ended the conference at the edge of Lake Couchiching with a water ceremony led by members of Chippewas of Rama First Nation. The ceremony recognized the role of women as keepers of water, the source of life, and honoured the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women.
Region 3 RVP Sara Labelle was pleased to welcome everyone to the Conference. “The voices and lives of all women were recognized and honoured this weekend and we will not stop until they are recognized and honoured at all levels of leadership.”
Labelle thanked Region 3 equity representatives for their work on the conference, in particular facilitators Cristine Rego, Local 352 Indigenous member and Bonnie Eddy, Provincial Women’s Committee Region 3 representative. Ron LePage, who built bridges to the local Indigenous community, was also on the planning committee. Staff support for the conference was provided by the OPSEU Equity Unit.
President Warren (Smokey) Thomas congratulated the participants for a successful conference and thanked EBMs Tracy Vyfschaft and Janel Perron for their support and participation.