A group of people gathered in what was called a “100 Men March for Community Care and Safety” outside of the Salt Spring Public Library on Friday evening.
Though the title of the march suggested it was for men, everyone was invited to take part. Approximately 50 people of all genders attended the event organized by David Norget, a clinical counsellor who works with the Salt Spring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse group.
Norget said that the rally was held in part because of an alleged sexual assault of a young woman on Salt Spring during the Canada Day long weekend.
“I’m very aware of it as an issue in this community, and in particular women and people who aren’t men are the most vulnerable and I don’t like it. It makes me sad. It makes me angry,” Norget said. “There are great things in this community, and I believe deeply in acknowledging what’s working. I also deeply believe in acknowledging what’s not working and being really honest about it.”
And so, the seeds of the march were organized.
“I’m doing [this] as a community member who cares, who has lived here for a long time, since ‘89. I queried a group of men who I know and trust and just asked two questions: ‘This is what I’m thinking of, are you in?’ and ‘How can you support me?’ and all of them responded affirmatively and even though some aren’t here, they’re assisting,” Norget said.
At 7 p.m. a small but growing group of people stood in front of the library. The crowd shared their thoughts on violence perpetuated by today’s cis men (cis meaning people who identify their gender with their birth sex).
Robert Birch, who worked with SWOVA for 10 years, was at the event and shared a similar message.
“There’s a social virus that’s being passed on from one generation to the next and the only way to interrupt that virus is to build up our community immune system to say, ‘What are we actually resisting here?’” he said. “That resistance is everything that starts from bullying, name calling, to acts of physical and sexual violence and until we resist that, collectively, and stand up and mature as a population, that’s not going to come to an end.”
Birch contextualized the experience as going beyond the gathering.
“This is a lifelong commitment to saying that when we make this community safer for women and children, we’re making it safer for everybody. And change doesn’t happen unless we’re all willing to be vulnerable together,” he said. “Tonight is the beginning of probably many different processes.”
For more on this story, see the Aug. 2, 2017 issue of the Driftwood newspaper or subscribe online.