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Pandemic exacerbating issues at core of Moose Hide Campaign to end violence

VICTORIA — A lot has changed since Raven Lacerte and her father Paul Lacerte hatched a plan while moose hunting to help quell a tide of violence that they'd witnessed in their community.

VICTORIA — A lot has changed since Raven Lacerte and her father Paul Lacerte hatched a plan while moose hunting to help quell a tide of violence that they'd witnessed in their community. 

The Moose Hide Campaign to end violence against women and children has grown from a grassroots movement to reaching millions of people in more than 2,000 communities across Canada. But with the pandemic creating more isolation, the Lacertes say the problem they are trying to address remains, making the campaign just as relevant on its 10th anniversary.

"To get to that scale and to realize it's still such a pervasive issue in this country and that the pandemic is exacerbating the issue means we have to consider this as just one small step," Paul Lacerte said.

The idea for the campaign came to Paul and Raven while they were hunting in their traditional territory in 2011 near the Highway of Tears, where dozens of women, most of them Indigenous, have gone missing or been found murdered. 

"We're Carrier people, so the Highway of Tears runs right through our community," Raven said. "We've felt some of those losses and seen some of the cycles of violence that happen within our communities."

Paul had recently returned from a conference on violence against women and children in Vancouver where he found himself one of only four men among hundreds of women in attendance. 

"It really represented a microcosm for me of the broader ecosystem where it's women who have borne the burden of abuse, mostly at the hands of men. And also generations of women who have borne the burden of advocacy and mobilization to make the change," he said. 

Wanting his daughters to live lives free of violence, he recognized a need for Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys to be engaged in any movement for change.

While hunting, he and Raven, then 16, discussed how they could start a movement that wasn't about shaming people but about lifting them up and encouraging them to choose healthy lives. 

Raven and her sisters cut the first 25,000 squares of hide from the moose they harvested that day. 

She said she's sees the animal as a source of ongoing medicine. 

"We kind of looked down at this beautiful moose that had given its life to us on this beautiful territory, Carrier land, and we thought maybe if we use that moose hide it could be a way for men and boys and all Canadians to wear it as their everyday commitment and everyday reminder to not do violence," Raven said in an interview.

The campaign has reached schools and workplaces across the country, challenging participants to consider their role in gender-based violence and consider making commitments to stem the trend. 

On its anniversary Thursday, the Lacertes say they hope to distribute 10 million moose hide squares and see one million people join in a day of fasting for the cause. 

The father-daughter team is also constantly adapting. Anyone who wears a moose hide pin is encouraged to welcome conversation about what it means and invite them into a safe space for conversation about gender-based violence. 

But with such a weighty issue, they realize that some people have been ill-equipped to take the conversation beyond the basics. 

In some cases, the person who asks about the square may recognize the hide-wearer as a "safe person" and start sharing, for example, that they recently left a long-term abusive relationship.

"Then immediately the person wearing the moose hide square is out of their depth. So we recognize the need for capacity building to have these conversations, particularly for men. How to signal confidentiality or listen compassionately or exit safely or make a referral," Paul said. 

"We really recognize there is a need to do capacity building for this conversation to get to the scale that we are hoping for and that we as a society need."

They have also shifted many resources online during the pandemic. While Thursday marks Moose Hide Campaign Day, the Lacertes say the problem can't be fixed in one go. 

"This isn't a one-day thing, we want people to do it every day," Raven said. 

"Or at least until there's no more violence against women in Canada," Paul added. 

-- By Amy Smart in Vancouver. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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