It's been a very tough year for Saskatchewan already

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Photo Credit: Martin St-Amant – Wikipedia – CC-BY-SA-3.0

The day has finally arrived! After more than a year of anticipation, Becky (love of my life) and I head off to Peru for an experience that is sure to change our lives. We’ll arrive in Cusco tomorrow morning, and once we’re there, a seven-day experience of a lifetime will begin. Together with a group of 60 friends, we’ll trek through the Andes to Machu Picchu, the 15th century “Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru, above the Urubamba River valley. Built in the 15th century and later abandoned, it’s renowned for its sophisticated dry-stone walls that fuse huge blocks without the use of mortar, intriguing buildings that play on astronomical alignments, and panoramic views. Its exact former use remains a mystery.”

As we make our way through the Andes, on foot, we will be living without the modern conveniences that we have come to expect, and in fact, take for granted. No beds, no bathrooms, no showers, no phones, no Netflix, no email, no facebook, email, etc. Just a group of friends, with a common mission, enjoying some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, in our own human stinkiness. Haha. Relax, we have a ton of baby wipes, and as an old friend used to say, there are very few personal hygiene problems that can’t be solved with baby wipes. I expect that’s a stretch but we’ll be okay.

It’s my hope, and the hope of those that we’ll travel with that this trip will be life changing, not only for us, but for others in our community. This is no ordinary trek. It’s a trek with a mission. Together, we are on a mission to raise much needed money for women’s shelters that operate across Canada. As of this morning, our efforts have raised over $450,000 for these shelters, surpassing our original goal but putting us within reach of the half million-dollar mark, which would be just an unimaginable achievement.

Perhaps you’d like to help? I’d appreciate just a few minutes of your time to tell you a bit more about what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it.

I realize that you’re probably a person who is conscious of the great needs that exist in our communities, and I’m sure that you have your causes that you support. I respect you for that entirely, so let me say this; if you can’t join me in this fight with a financial contribution you can help make a difference in other ways. Read on, please. I can’t let this moment pass without sharing with you the grave importance of the mission that we are on, this fight that we are in.

You see, in spite of the fact that we like to see ourselves as living in a pretty civilized society, all of the hard evidence suggests (No, it actually proves) that we as a society continue to undervalue women. A recent story in the Huffington Post reveals, more or less what we all know. A woman in Canada can expect to be paid less than a man for the same work. Sadly, women are still well under-represented in positions of authority. Check out the 41st Parliament of Canada where you’ll see almost three men for every woman who holds a seat.

But, this mission isn’t about pay equity…or politics. It’s about something even more important than that. It’s about life, security, and safety.

This mission is about the fact that Canadian women are still being beaten and killed by their domestic partners at an alarming rate.

That’s a fact! In a typical year, more than 60 Canadian women will be killed by the person who they share a home with, the person who is supposed to care for them and love them.

This is a problem that is worse in Saskatchewan than it is in any Canadian province. This year is no exception. It’s already been a very tough year for Saskatchewan.

Consider for a moment, Latasha Gossling, the Tisdale woman who died in April, along with her three beautiful children, at the hands of a man who she had been in a relationship with for three years.

Then there was Celeste Yawney, a 33-year old Regina woman who had dedicated her life to the protection of women in her community, killed in May. An “ex-boyfriend” has been charged with her brutal murder.

Most recently, 47-year old Lisa Strang had her life taken in her McLean area home just weeks ago, her husband charged with her murder.

Most people, I believe, have no idea how terribly common this is. In a story published on Global News, Amy Stenrud of the Regina YWCA had this to say about domestic violence in Saskatchewan.

“You never expect it to happen to someone you care about, however the stats tell us something else. Saskatchewan has the highest rate of all the provinces, the only rate higher is in the territories, of intimate partner violence.”

It’s all too common. In fact, 67 percent of all Canadians personally know of a woman who has been either sexually or physically abused. Did you know that one in three young women report having experienced “dating violence”?

These women are our mothers! They are our sisters! They are our daughters, for crying out loud!

The very sad reality is that every single night in Canada more than 3,000 women and children seek help at a shelter when they finally gather the courage to say, “enough” and that’s not easy, because the perpetrators of this type of violence wear their victims down emotionally to the point where you’re actually scared to tell the people you love what’s going on.

The first line of defence in this important fight is to ensure that they have help when they finally reach the “enough” moment, but it’s not always easy. Last year, in Saskatoon, the YWCA Crisis Shelter provided help to 950 women in our community. According to their website, they “had to turn away more than they could serve.”

This is not right…not here…not in Canada.

These women are our mothers! They are our sisters! They are our daughters!

No woman should have to feel unsafe in her own home, and when she does, we need to support her, and that starts with providing a safe place where she can go for help.

So, I’m going to ask you to do three things, four if you’re a man.

  • If you can, go to TeamFisherTrekForShelter.ca and make a donation, please. Whatever you can afford will go to good use right here in Saskatoon at the YWCA Crisis Shelter and Saskatoon Interval House.
  • Keep your ears open for off hand jokes that involve violence against women and speak up when you hear them. There’s nothing funny about slapping a woman. Nothing!
  • Watch for signs of abuse in your own circles and encourage woman who are suffering to seek help at a shelter. Let them know that there is hope, that there are people who want to help.
  • If you’re a man, treat the women in your life with the respect that they deserve, every day. If you lose your cool and adopt a threatening tone in an attempt to scare, you’ve already gone too far. Stop it!

Until we reach a point where women are safe from violence in their own homes, we’ll have huge problems as a society. We have got to put and end to it. We can. We will.

Becky and I would like to express our thanks to the many people who have already chosen to support our fundraiser, financially or otherwise. For the record, each participant on this trek looked after his or her own travel expenses, so your contribution is not underwriting a vacation. In fact, every dollar you donate will make it to a local shelter where it will go to work helping abused women and their kids.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and learn about what we’re doing.

Let’s put an end to domestic violence and make home a safe place for everyone.

We’re off to catch a plane.

Norm Fisher

P.S. The Royal LePage Shelter Foundation is a registered charitable foundation. The administrative costs of the foundation are underwritten by Royal LePage so every dollar raised goes directly to helping the more than 30,000 women and children who are served each year by the shelters and the support programs we fund. Since its inception, the Shelter Foundation has raised more than $20 million and currently supports 200 local women’s shelters and national partners