Paul Lacerte (right) joins a drum circle at the B.C. legislature Thursday to mark the fourth annual Gathering of Men to speak out against violence directed at aboriginal women and children.

Moose hide symbolizes anti-violence message

Fourth annual Gathering of Men calls for individual responsibility to stop violence against aboriginal women and children

VICTORIA – Aboriginal men gathered at the B.C. legislature this week to urge personal responsibility to reduce violence agains aboriginal women and children.

The fourth annual Gathering of Men culminated with a ceremony on the legislature steps, where MLAs joined participants to acknowledge that violence against women and children is not traditional or acceptable.

MLAs joined the ceremony and affixed moose hide patches to their lapels to mark the day. Paul Lacerte, founder of the campaign and executive director of the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, said the goal is to distribute one million moose hide patches to spread the message that aboriginal women are more than three times more likely to experience violence than non-aboriginal women.

“Women are bearing the burden of abuse, but they also have to bear the burden of advocacy to affect change, and this is a man’s problem as much as it is a woman’s problem,” Lacerte said. “Violence towards women and children has never been a part of our culture.”

Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad said the campaign is unique and has the government’s support.

“Part of what perpetuates that violence is a culture of silence that suggests acceptance,” he said.