TRURO, N.S. – She was confined, bound and beaten – all hallmarks of non-state torture.
Liz MacKay of Truro recalled a violent relationship nearly 15 years ago, when she survived repeated sexual assaults, that served as “payment” for her abuser’s debts.
“At the point in time that I was living in my domestic situation, there was no speaking out about it,” said MacKay. “It was quiet, you kept it to yourself. You hid it away. Basic human rights were violated.”
MacKay was among about 40 people who gathered at the Marigold Cultural Centre Dec. 6. There, they learned about local activists Linda MacDonald and Jeanne Sarson’s campaign to pressure the Canadian government to recognize such human rights violations as part of the Criminal Code.
Participants lit candles and held a minute’s silence for the 14 women killed at the École Polytechnique in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989. Since 1991, the massacre’s anniversary is marked as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Other countries also mark this day.
Non-state torture involves violations of human trafficking, sexual assault, domestic violence, false imprisonment, denial of food and the kind of bodily torture that MacKay suffered. So far, Canada only recognizes acts of torture carried out by governments.
Today, MacKay is recovering from her experience with the help of a strong support network but described her journey as “…ups and downs. Always ups and downs.”
While Sarson and MacDonald have testified before the United Nations three times this year, both activists said their campaign against non-state torture started in earnest after they learned of a local woman who was trafficked.
“She was literally trafficked so that people could torture her,” said MacDonald. “They knew that she was a torture survivor and she was groomed from the time she was a baby, so it started in infancy. This is the harsh reality of what we’re talking about.”
For Kevin Poirier, who works at the École acadienne de Truro, Dec. 6 was a chance to reflect on both the Montreal massacre and the ongoing campaign by Sarson and MacDonald for Canada to recognize non-state torture. The day also has a fresh significance for Poirier, now that he is a new father to a little girl.
“I’ve worked with kids and females for nearly 15 years so I’ve had to help clients with issues – they’ve suffered violence or sexual assault – so it’s pretty close to my heart,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of strong females in my life – my daughter, my mother, my everybody. I’ve had a lot of mentors in my life that were females. This day is very important. I don’t want anything to happen to the females in my life that remotely happened to the women in Montreal.”
This year’s commemoration was organized by The Lotus Centre, Third Place Transition House, Colchester Sexual Assault Centre and the Mi’kmaw Family Healing Centre.
For more information on Sarson and MacDonald’s work, visit http://nonstatetorture.org.
People who have suffered any kind of domestic or sexual violence can call The Lotus Centre at 902-895-4295 for help and advice or visit http://thelotuscentre.net.
In an emergency, they are advised to call 911 for immediate assistance.