© Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Walk of Hope organizer Conrad Burns is seen with Prince Albert Community Clinic Co-operative Health Centre family wellness worker Rhoda Peekeekoot at the front of this year’s walk to Saskatoon.
Despite a staggering statistic that a quarter of Canadian women face physical abuse in their lifetime, there are few services available in Prince Albert.
There’s the Prince Albert Safe Shelter For Women, whose daily capacity of 24 is consistently reached.
There are three direct counselling programs for female abuse survivors (Indian Métis Friendship Centre of Prince Albert, the Prince Albert Community Clinic Co-operative Health Centre and the Prince Albert Grand Council).
There is nothing for men or children aside from court-mandated counsellors for men or private psychiatrists.
One day, there will be more services available to female abuse survivors, Sandy Pitzel said at Friday’s community rally sendoff at city hall to the Walk of Hope.
The Prince Albert Community Clinic Co-operative Health Centre Communities Against Family Violence co-ordinator said that one day -- similar to what Alcoholics Anonymous has done for alcoholics -- abuse survivors will have more supports in place.
“It takes a lot of courage to reach out and make those changes and look for help when all that stigma is still out there,” she said.
“I hope that one day that I as well as other women can stand up and say, ‘I am a survivor. I was in a relationship for 11 years,’ and people could be applauding me and applauding other women.”
Without supports in place for men and children, abuse becomes multi-generational, Prince Albert Community Clinic Co-Operative Health Centre ISKWEW (Women Helping Women) co-ordinator Angie Bear said.
Violence isn’t something people are born with, she explained -- it’s learned and as such can be un-learned.
The Walk of Hope was organized by Conrad Burns, a mentor of Carlton Comprehensive Public High School students who last hosted the walk in 2012.
Leaving Prince Albert on Friday morning, Burns said that he hoped to reach Duck Lake by the evening, where the small group (Burns and two or three supporters) would spend the night.
The second day would bring them to Rosthern and the third night will be spent in Wansukewin. A second rally at Saskatoon City Hall will conclude the effort.
It takes a lot of courage to reach out and make those changes and look for help when all that stigma is still out there. Sandy Pitzel
Burns said that he hopes to see the walk become annual and to build momentum from this year forward.
Through the arduous walk, Burns said that he will draw inspiration from the “beautiful women” in his life.
“It scares me to think that they could have been hurt -- that they have been hurt.”
Using traditions as a guide
Rhoda Peekeekoot, a “proud Cree woman,” shared some of her insights regarding traditional First Nations teachings at Friday’s Walk of Hope.
Drawing from both her personal experience growing up and traditional knowledge passed on to her, Peekeekoot said that an answer to preventing spousal abuse lies in traditional First Nations teachings.
There was a time that when a man reached adulthood he’d go on a vision quest, she relayed.
During this quest he’d go out for a few days to “become a man,” whatever that meant to him, and was taught by elders along the way who would give him guidance on things such as respecting women.
People were taught to respect women, “Because that’s where we came from.”
A woman’s moon time was sacred, and to call one’s mother by her given name would be akin to swearing at her, in that it exemplified a lack of respect.
Growing up, Peekeekoot was raised with a somewhat modernized version of these teachings, and was told by her mother at a young age that her body had an alarm system.
“You don’t listen to anyone else ,” she explained. “You listen to your body because that’s a signal to remove yourself -- to get out of that situation.”
Although she doesn’t expect people to start going on vision quests en masse, the lessons gained from such experiences need to be passed on, she said.
“We can follow the system; and that’s respect. Respect for ourselves and respect for women.”