Change is happening

Be a Better Man challenges men to take action to end gender-based violence

by Reem Girgrah

This year’s 16 Days of Action to End Gender-Based Violence was packed with some powerful events. The kick off at Epic Pizza featured the local talents of Emily Ross and the Ukes of Hazard. Following the kick off there were a series of film screenings, a lunch-and-learn event about Yukon Women in the Sex Trade, the consent crew at Yukon College, workshops held by Bringing Youth Towards Equality (BYTE), and the December 6th vigil to honour the victims of the 1989 Montreal Massacre and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Yukon. 

There were a number of events that definitely need to be highlighted, especially if they were missed. 
The first was the return of the Be More than a Bystander program, with retired 2011 CFL Grey Cup Champion J.R. LaRose speaking to youth in Whitehorse, Watson Lake and Haines Junction.

“I have had a lot of memorable experiences,” Larose said in an interview with Sarah Murphy. “The biggest thing is to try and give hope. I remember being that kid and feeling alone. It takes a lot of strength and courage to do that.”

His advice for anyone who wants to make an impact? 
“That every single person can have an impact in creating that safe respectful environment… we all have the ability to speak up… it’s as simple as intervening, stepping in when our friends are making the sexist jokes and taking a stance for something because, at the end of the day, if no one is willing to do it the stats continue to get worse and this job is meant to create that type of change by standing with women and not against them. We need people who are willing to go against the grain.”

The Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, Les EssentiElles, and the Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society coordinated a letter-signing campaign to apply bylaws that could improve women’s safety in local taxi cabs. The campaign was spurred by the most recent allegations of sexualized assault by a local taxi driver. The group presented the letters and 10 recommendations to Whitehorse City Council on December 4.

The third event that stood out was the White Ribbon Yukon screening of the film A Better Man at the Old Fire Hall. 
Attiya Khan, who is co-director of the film, interviews her ex-boyfriend who physically and emotionally abused her during their two years together when she was 17 years old. She says on the website for the film, that “A Better Man documents a personal experiment for me and my abusive ex-partner — a step towards understanding and accountability. By getting closer to the truth of what survivors experience, and of why men choose to use violence, we can help stop the abuse. I hope that sharing my personal search for justice and healing will contribute to the struggle to end domestic violence.”

Once the film was finished a number of folks stayed behind to debrief and discuss what could be done in our community to encourage more action on behalf of men to end gender-based violence. Resources and more information about the film can be found at

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women was observed on December 6 at noon. Community members gathered at the Legislative Building to honour the 14 lives of young women taken in 1989 at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal.

December 6 is a day on which communities can reflect on women and girls for whom violence is a daily reality, consider concrete actions to eliminate violence and to remember those who have died as a result of gender-based violence. In the Yukon, the increasing number of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in our territory is unacceptable. Today that number sits at 41.

Finally, on December 7 the Girls and Trans Rainbow Youth Group at the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre screened the documentary film Becoming More Visible at Epic Pizza. In the Yukon, we have seen positive moves forward and advocacy for the basic human rights and dignity of our trans and gender non-conforming community members over the past year.

The screening of this film by the group was definitely timely, especially with the recent apology from the federal government. Becoming More Visible shows the challenges and joys transgender people experience in becoming their true selves. The Washington Post published an opinion piece by Jack Drescher, who is a New York-based psychiatrist and psychoanalyst specializing in gender identity and sexuality, stating the statistic that 41 per cent of transgender people attempt suicide. (May 13, 2016)

By showing Becoming More Visible there was the underlying hope to normalize what it means to be transgender, reducing the violence, stigma and concerning statistics. Resources and more information about this film can be found at

With the 16 Days of Action to End Gender-Based Violence wrapped up, let’s encourage dialogue and healing, honour resistance to violence, and work together to create social change to make our community a safe(r) place for our women, girls, trans, and gender non-conforming community members every day.

Reem Girgrah is the Court Watch Volunteer Coordinator at the Yukon Status of Women Council. Originally from Ottawa/unceded Algonquin territory, if she isn’t advocating for human rights you can find her stand up paddling.

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