Ottawa activists turn the city purple to end violence against women

A long purple ribbon hangs in the front window of an Elgin Street coffee shop – a simple, yet powerful symbol of support for the cause to end violence against women.

Today is “wear purple day”, a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about gender-based violence. It’s the cornerstone of the month-long Shine the Light initiative: a cause taken up by various women’s rights groups around the country, to educate people on the complex nature of violence towards women.


Information from the Canadian Women’s Foundation

Erin Leigh, a representative from the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, said that encouraging everyone to wear purple is a way to bring the issue into the public eye. She said it was a happy coincidence that today is also the ceremony for the recipients of the Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case – a designation that honours women who have made significant strides towards gender equality.

One of those recipients, Dr. Lucia Lorenzi, said that while awareness campaigns are important, ultimately, “we need to shift from a culture of awareness to one of accountability.” Lorenzi, now an independent consultant and researcher, said that concrete action is needed to legitimize social media campaigns like #wearpurpleday.

Lorenzi said the biggest challenge for gender equality in Canada today, is twofold: complacency, and lack of direct action on a federal level. “Gender violence… cannot be solved by tax dollars alone, but we know that services to help women are chronically underfunded, and this is a massive problem,” she said.

In terms of getting the message across, Leigh said the Ottawa Police, who are partners with her organization, have been instrumental in helping spread their message over social media. They also secured a series of public service announcements to be aired over the radio throughout the month of November.

Sergeant Colin Stokes from the Ottawa Police said they were eager to get on board with the campaign. He said the Police Chief, Charles

| Photo - Liam Harrap

Parliament will be lit up in purple on the evenings of  Nov. 15 to mark “wear purple day” | Photo – Liam Harrap

Bordeleau, has prioritized helping victims of gender-based violence since the beginning of his term. Stokes said police have worked with academics and community activists, and received recommendations on how to bolster their services. Among those many suggestions is to “explore opportunities for joint advocacy,” helping facilitate their role in today’s campaign.

Both #wearpurpleday and #ShineTheLight are currently trending on Twitter. In the House of Commons today, many members wore purple in support of the campaign. Rona Ambrose, leader of the Opposition, and Patty Hadju, Minister of the Status of Women, noted support of the cause.

| Photo - Shauna McGinn

A sign hangs on the door into Scrim’s Florist to show support for the campaign | Photo – Shauna McGinn

Although the hashtags may dissipate by tomorrow, the rest of November is dedicated to furthering the Shine the Light message. Leigh said her group’s overall goal is to help people understand that it is not just the responsibility of the woman to end violence, but that of the whole community.

Author: Shauna McGinn

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