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Moose hide campaign helps men fight violence towards aboriginal women

02/12/2015 05:00 EST | Updated 04/13/2015 05:59 EDT
Hundreds of men will be wearing a square of moose hide pinned to their chests on Thursday in Victoria, as part of the Moose Hide Campaign, a commitment to ending violence towards aboriginal women and children.

"It's a grassroots movement by men across this country who I think have reached a level of patience towards the issue of violence, particularly against indigenous women and children, but of course against all women in our country," said founder Paul Lacerte.

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The organization hosts an awareness event once a year — called Gathering of Men — which brings together both aboriginal and non-aboriginal men to discuss violence against aboriginal women, why it happens and how to end it.

Why moose hide?

Lacerte, a member of the Cariboo Clan and the Carrier Nation, founded the campaign four years ago. The idea came to him while hunting with his daughter Raven.

The pair were looking for moose along the Highway of Tears, a notorious stretch of highway in Northern B.C. where 18 women have gone missing, or were found murdered.

Lacerte says they were both touched by the violence that had happened around them. While cleaning a moose later that day, they decided to use its hide for a cause.

"We tanned the moose hide and we cut it up into little squares and we pinned it on our shirts, and we started giving those squares to other men," said Lacerte.

That moose hide provided 1,000 squares. Now four years later, the campaign has gone national and handed out 250,000 squares — a quarter of a million commitments to end violence.

"In a country of 30 million people, if there are a million men wearing this moose hide and having those conversations on a daily basis, we think we can change the fabric of our society."

Lacerte says the campaign has become so popular, it's now employing aboriginal women to prepare and distribute the squares.

Holding each other accountable

"We need to take this upon ourselves as men to a commit to healing ourselves," said Lacerte.

"But also standing up and speaking out and very much occupying the space and saying this is not OK, we are going to support each other as men, but we're also going to hold each other accountable for our actions."

At the Gathering of Men, participants talk about the issues, participate in healing circles, and offer each other support. Lacerte says a lot of violence happens behind closed doors, perpetrated by aboriginal men.

The gathering runs from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. PT on Thursday at the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria.

After things wrap up, the men will march to the B.C. Legislature for a public rally and join MLAs who will also be wearing squares of moose hide.

The Moose Hide Campaign is also holding a National One Day Fast for the first time, in partnership with the Walking With Our Sisters project, a large commemorative art installation in memory of Canada's missing and murdered women.

Fasting is a common practice in aboriginal cultures and demonstrates a deep commitment to a cause or to loved ones.

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