What is the Canadian National Silent Witness Initiative?
The Silent Witness Project is a travelling exhibit of life-size red wooden silhouettes. Each represents a woman who was murdered by a husband, common-law partner, boyfriend or intimate acquaintance. Because these women no longer have a voice, the silhouettes are called the Silent Witnesses.
Each figure bears the name of a woman who once lived and worked among us. Through research and information sharing we eventually hope to craft a silhouette to honour every woman in Canada who has died tragically as the result of domestic violence.
To work together to end domestic homicides and family violence throughout Canada.
Objectives of the Initiative
To remember… by honouring women who were murdered by a spouse, partner or acquaintance.
To create awareness… by sharing information in our communities, provinces and territories, about the nature and extent of family violence.
To promote action… by profiling local resources that support women coping with violence in their lives and encouraging community and government action to end all forms of violence in our society.
History and Background
The Silent Witness Project began as an American initiative to honour women killed by their partners in acts of domestic violence. You can find out more about the history on the American National Website www.silentwitness.net. In 1990, an ad hoc group of women artists and writers, upset about the growing number of women in Minnesota being murdered by their partners, joined with women from other organizations to form The Arts Action Against Domestic Violence. They felt an urgency to do something to recognize the lives of the 26 women who had died in their state in 1990 as a result of domestic violence. They decided to create 26 free standing, life sized red wooden figures, each one bearing the name of a woman who once lived, worked in the community and whose life ended violently at the hands of her partner. A 27th figure was added to represent women whose murders went uncounted or unsolved. These wooden figures are called Silent Witnesses. The Silent Witness Exhibit was officially launched on February 18, 1991, when more than 500 women marched single file, carrying the Witnesses from a church across the street to the Minnesota State Capitol Building. Eventually, it became a National American Silent Witness Initiative with all 50 states, and numerous (30) countries participating in the project. Our goal is to turn the Silent Witness Project into a National Canadian Initiative.
The First Silent Witness Project in Canada
In 2000, the Charlotte County Family Violence Committee in New Brunswick collaborated with the Maine Silent Witness Project to offer a community education initiative for Family Violence Prevention Month (November). The Witnesses were brought to Charlotte County from Portland, Maine, and exhibited throughout Charlotte County, as well as, in Saint John and Moncton. The goal was to promote awareness of domestic violence.
This effort was so successful that the Charlotte County Family Violence Committee (CCFVC) decided to bring the Silent Witness Initiative to New Brunswick. The project was underway and in October 2001 the first two Witnesses were created in Charlotte County, bearing “Remember Me – Silent Witness” on the gold shield on the chest. They
were displayed at a number of family violence conferences. To promote and facilitate a province-wide Silent Witness project, the Charlotte County committee developed a collaborative partnership with the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research, the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Foundation and the Provincial Caring Partnerships Committee (PCPC). The project was officially launched at a reception at Old Government House in Fredericton, November 7, 2002. The first in Canada, the Organizing Committee now works to promote this project across Canada.
Our Vision – A Canadian National Silent Witness Initiative
- Collective responses across Canada for commemorating women killed in acts of family violence;
- Widespread awareness of family violence issues, locally, regionally and nationally;
- Action and advocacy strategies at all levels and across sectors to address violence inpersonal relationships;
- A National Canadian Silent Witness Song (I’ll Stand in the Rain), along with pins, bookmarks, t-shirts, and buttons;
- A Canadian Silent Witness Web Site;
- Connection to Silent Witness Projects in the USA and around the world;
- Reduction in the number of domestic homicides and eventually the elimination of family violence altogether;
- National Silent Witness March on Parliament Hill.
Together, we can make this a reality!