‘Ottawa’ ‘It’s About all of us’: Widow of Slain Mississippi Mills Councillor Gives a Voice to Survivors
Catherine Cameron held a red rose with both of her hands, gently kissed its pedals, and tossed it into the Mississippi River Wednesday evening as a crowd of people watched other flowers drift peacefully downstream in memory of victims of violence against women.
Cameron’s rose was dedicated to her late husband, Bernard, a city councillor for Mississippi Mills who died defending his 28-year-old daughter from her angry, gun-wielding ex-partner on Feb. 11. Sarah Cameron suffered life-threatening injuries but survived the attack.
“My husband tried, valiantly, to protect us and he was shot in the head. The offender had shot my daughter three times and then turned the gun on himself,” Cameron told a crowd of about 50 people gathered in Carleton Place for the town’s annual Take Back the Night vigil.
“So I come here tonight not only as a victim, because it’s not all about me, it’s definitely not about me, it’s about all of us.”
Cameron was brought to tears making her public introduction – her second since losing her husband and nearly losing her daughter just seven months ago. Through her tears she spoke of solidarity, eliminating rape culture, and a change of political will to end violence against women.
Wednesday’s vigil marked the 10th year Lanark County held its Take Back the Night, a now global public protest to raise awareness about violence against women and the daily fear some women live with.
The timing of the vigil – on the eve of the first anniversary of the killings of three women in Wilno – was not lost on the crowd. Participants laid flowers in the river for victims Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk, and Nathalie Warmerdam, and for other men and women whose lives have been touched by violence against women.
This year alone, the number of incidents targeting women in eastern rural Eastern Ontario so far is a cause for concern for women’s advocates, including the Lanark Country Interval House.
Five days after the Almonte murder-suicide, Ontario Provincial Police were called to another murder-suicide of an Odessa, Ont., couple, followed by an attempted murder after a domestic assault on April 1 in Lanark County. On April 16, the OPP charged a step-son in the killing of his stepmother in Shannonville, Ont.
Now a voice for the voiceless, Cameron said she is speaking up about things like resources for abuse victims and “the need for us to teach our young men and women how to build healthy relationships and how to make lifelong commitments in a supportive environment with one another.”
“Change means that lives will be saved. So we have to work together to change this,” she said.
She also drew on the need for politicians to change legislation to support victims of domestic violence, something the Lanark Country Interval House is calling for.
Executive director Erin Lee said bail review needs to be part of the solution and advocates for the provincial government to consider victim’s safety when considering the release of an accused back into the community.
“We know that often alleged perpetrators are released on bail and often during that period there is a high level of risk for women who are victims, who are trying to navigate and be safer in their community,” said Lee.
In response to the disturbing number of incidents throughout the region, community groups held four meetings in the spring and summer months to bring people together to curb violence and harassment toward women, Lee said.
The culminating meeting drew politicians, police, and survivors together in the same room to find solutions and answers to women who live in fear.
“We need to demand systemic change,” Lee said, including transportation and isolation in rural communities.
Abusers should also be given resources, too, she said.
“How do we help abusers who are making choices that compromise people’s safety? How do we support them to make that different and to have an opportunity to make different choices?”