Amid inspiring, surprising, and even shocking stories, International Women’s Day celebrations in Duncan continued on March 9, following the One Billion Rising event the day before.
At Charles Hoey Park, where Saturday’s events were held, there was a strong emphasis on First Nations Women this year.
Debra Toporowski, a councillor from both Cowichan Tribes and the Municipality of North Cowichan, welcomed everyone and then shared for the first time publicly a story about discovering a certificate dating from 1966 at her mother’s house.
It announced that her mother now had the right to vote in Canada and was no longer “an Indian” as far as the government of Canada was concerned. Because she had married a non-Native, she had to sacrifice her status in order to be able to vote.
A clearly emotional Toporowski said she had felt sickened when she had first read it, and was glad that subsequent government action in the 1980s restored her mother’s birthright.
Cowichan Tribes Elder Dora Wilson welcomed everyone to the event, and shared some wise words with the crowd, including the need to share what you know and to take care of yourself.
“Pat yourself on the back once in a while to give yourself that encouragement that you deserve,” she said.
Three Kwakiutl girls from Port Hardy, Kiara, Natalia, and Talia Child, took the stage wearing traditional regalia, and explained that being young First Nations women carries the responsibility of providing a good example. They also talked about how excited they had been to visit the United Nations recently as part of The Year of Aboriginal Languages celebrations.
Former Women’s Institute Farm Woman of the Year Katy Erlich urged the crowd to try to help more women get into agriculture, and Cherene Palmer from the Nanaimo-Duncan & District Labour Council said that there is still more education needed so women can take their proper place in Canada’s workforce.