This year’s Candlelight Vigil has moved from downtown Langley City (above) to the Bedford Landing in Fort Langley. (Langley Advance files)

Langley event moves to quash violence against women

A new venue and combined ceremony push to eradicate abuse of women in Langley.

It was Nov. 25, 1960 when three Mirabal sister were brutally assassinated.

In 1999, the UN general assembly declared Nov. 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Now, on Nov. 25, Langley will have its own special ceremony to bring awareness to violence against women -abroad and closer to home.

Program chair of Soroptimist International of the Langleys, Shirley Stewart, noted this year’s annual candlelight vigil, hosted together with Ishtar Transition Housing Society, will also include a new red sand ceremony.

The event takes place, for the first time, at the Bedford Landing Plaza in Fort Langley on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 5 p.m., rain or shine. In past, the candlelight vigil was held in downtown Langley City.

This is the 12th year Soroptimist International of the Langleys and Ishtar have invited the community to support women through the candlelight vigil. The red sand ceremony is a new addition.

“The sand is red and it’s poured in the cracks of the sidewalk. It’s like a trail, a path,” Stewart said. “It’s actually very, very moving.”

Each attendee at the event will receive a tealight candle and some red sand to take part in the ceremony, which Stewart says brings the community together. She hopes to have enough sand for all participants who attend.

“There’s an organization that does the red sand. They sent us the sand and it’s all pre-bagged for us,” she explained.

Langley, like other communities, faces violence against women and Stewart sees events like the candlelight vigil and new red sand ceremony as a way to help victims.

“I think it’s always been important [to hold the event], and I think that we’re really starting to break down the barriers. Victims have felt shame or have felt fear and we’re finally breaking that down,” she noted.

“Whether that’s domestic violence, or the #metoo campaign, or any violence against women, we’re starting to realize that it’s okay to break down those barriers and it’s okay to tell somebody… and if we can do that with our little candlelight vigil I think that’s really important.”

Because the Soroptimist organization and Ishtar represent both the Township of Langley and Langley City, Stewart feels it’s natural to move the ceremony to different neighbourhoods within the region.

With the change in location to Fort Langley – at the plaza, between Lelem Cafe and the Fort Pub alongside the Fraser River – Stewart hopes more attendees will walk to the area to take part.

“There’s something very healing about water,” she said. “And Fort Langley is such a walkable area. I’m hoping this year we’ll have more [people out] because we’re changing up the location and format a little.”

“I think for the most part, we live in a very embracing community and to be able to let victims, either in our community or further away, know that there are people who care, it accomplishes a lot if we can get that message out,” Stewart added.

The event is free for all ages and this year builds on the Red Sand project started by artist and activist Molly Gochman in Art Basel, Miami in December 2014 to raise awareness of human trafficking.

READ MORE: #MeToo doesn’t go far enough: Langley transition shelter

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