Annual Shoe Memorial remembers victims of violence against women

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Photo: Alyse Kotyk

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Exiting the SkyTrain in downtown Vancouver yesterday threw you into a frenzied Christmas world. The streets were lined with eager spectators for the annual Santa Claus parade and holiday festivities had already begun on one side of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Thousands of people were gathered to make ornaments, decorate gingerbread men, listen to live performances and wave to Santa has he paraded on by.

Yet on the other side of that same art gallery was a quieter, more humble gathering. December 6 marked the annual National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and a comparatively small group met to participate in the 13th annual Shoe Memorial.

The contrast was significant and represented just how overlooked issues of violence against women truly are.

Across Canada, organizers of Shoe Memorials aimed to change that and serve as a reminder of the thousands of women in Canada who have been victims of violence.

Hundreds of shoes lined the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery to represent the women who lost their lives to violence. After the event, the shoes were then given to women in need both directly and indirectly.

 Alyse Kotyk

"What can you say? Women are dying. We are losing women for no reason at all," said event founder Pat Kelln.

Kelln started the event 13 years ago when she was tired of hearing more about the perpetrators in the media than the women who were killed. The common goal of these shoe memorials across the country is to remember and honour the names of the victims. Their names are listed both on the Shoe Memorial website, and at the December 6 events.

In the past 25 years, 950 women have gone missing or have been murdered in B.C. alone. In addition, according to YWCA Canada, there are 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year. Yet out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, only 33 are reported to the police.

To address these significant numbers and cycles of violence, Kelln encouraged individuals at the event to consider how they can work towards ending violence against women. Suggestions included listening to women's stories, breaking the silence by speaking out against violence, promoting gender equality, recognizing and addressing negative media images, and mentoring young men.

The event was put on in partnership with We Can BC. Collaboration continued throughout the day with Reel Causes as they screened the critically acclaimed NFB documentary Status Quo? The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada.

To see the Shoe Memorial's compiled list names of the women who are missing or who have been murdered in Canada, visit their website


Alyse is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice, storytelling and tea. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen's University and believes in the ability to make positive changes through media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen's News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer.

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