Sima Sahar Zerehi – It’s a domestic problem, it happens in our neighbourhoods and streets, a city issue, a national story. Some try to pass it off as a problem imported to Canada, but we all know it’s homegrown, an infectious weed spreading from lawn to lawn, terrorizing our families as it digs its roots deep into the foundation of our homes.
Just this week a Canadian senator Patrick Brazeau was suspended from his post after being linked to highly publicized charged of assault and sexual assault. As the story dominated headlines it became clear that Brazeau had a sordid history of workplace sexual harassment known to the government before his appointment to the Senate.
In Toronto, a Mayor who’s tainted with numerous allegations of assault occupies our highest office. Ford’s links to domestic violence were not unknown to Torontonians prior to his election. In 2008 when he was a city councilor, he was charged with assault and uttering death threats against his wife Renata, an incident widely reported by Toronto media. A few months later the charges were dropped but the 911 calls to Ford’s Etobicoke residence regarding domestic issues have continued during his reign as mayor.
We don’t need to look to cases in India or Iran to find that when it comes to violence against women, we still have a long way to go.
This is not an issue reserved for the newcomer, the uneducated, the poor; it’s an issue that plagues all Canadians even the wives of mayors and senators.
On February 14th as most people shuffle though stores in search of heart-shaped chocolate boxes and red and pink flowers, women across the world will be dancing and celebrating as part of One Billion Rising, a global movement of 197 countries in solidarity with women who have survived violence.
Events are being organized across the globe to celebrate the strength of survivors and show the unity amongst the communities of men and women who are willing to rise up and call attention to domestic violence and its impacts.
“When one billion dance on the planet on the same day it will – both figuratively and literally – shake the world.,” said Tanisha Taitt, Canadian Region Coordinator for One Billion Rising.
In Toronto organizers have mounted two events, a rally at noon at Nathan Phillips Square featuring Toronto City Councillors: Kristyn Wong-Tam, Mike Layton and author and social justice activist Michele Landsberg. Although the organizers are being tight-lipped about the details, the rally will include a surprise action promised to delight the attendees.
A dance party is also organized in the evening on Valentine’s Day at the Opera House. In addition to local politicians the event will feature renowned Toronto jazz singer, Tabby Johnson and local celebrity Maura Grierson, host of The Breakfast Table on Virgin Radio, and Battle of the Blades.
Mehrak Mehrvar, the Chair of the One Billion Rising Toronto organizing committee notes, “One Billion Rising Toronto will be joyful, expressive, loud, spontaneous, fun, inclusive, accessible and community-driven.”
Speaking about the statistics released by the United Nations that 1 in 3 women worldwide will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, Mehrak states. “This cannot continue. When we come together to show our solidarity, we send a clear message, from both women and men, that violence against women will not be tolerated in Toronto or anywhere else in the world. We are rising because we firmly believe that small acts, multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
For more information on One Billion Rising:
“Break The Chain”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl2AO-7Vlzk
Toronto Event details:
One Billion Rising Toronto Dance Party, The Opera House (735 Queen St E Toronto, ON M4M 1H2), 7:00pm-Midnight. Tickets are $10 and can be bought on line at: http://www.ticketbreak.com/event_details/5725 and/or at the door
One Billion Rising Toronto Public Rally, Nathan Phillips Square at City Hall, 12:00pm- 2:00pm. Admission is free.