Retired BC Lion JR LaRose will be in Campbell River on International Women’s Day

Breaking the silence on violence

Be More Than a Bystander program coming to Campbell River on International Women’s Day

Almost everyone has a woman in their life they care about.

A mother, a daughter, a wife, a girlfriend, a sister – someone.

What will it take to make the world a better place for them, and what can you do to help make that happen?

Be More Than a Bystander, an initiative created by the partnership of the Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) and the BC Lions football club, is coming to town for a unique one-night-only event on March 8 at Thunderbird Hall to help you answer that question.

Gloria Jackson, coordinator of community based victim services with the Campbell River Family Services Society (CRFS), is helping to organize the event alongside various community partners and says it’s time for our community to have a serious look in the mirror and change what we don’t like.

“It’s not a nice topic to talk about. I get that. But it’s the silence that perpetuates it. Domestic violence, sexual assault, even bullying, it’s just something that people don’t want to talk about. And it’s the silence that keeps it going. Once we break the silence on this kind of stuff, that’s when it will start to change,” Jackson says.

“The time has come for us to stop allowing this to happen within our community, and it’s going to take a lot of people standing up and saying, ‘this is not okay, and I’m going to do something about it.’”

Sometimes there’s a misconception amongst the public about who these types of events are for, Jackson says.

“People look at it and go, ‘Well, I’m not affected by domestic violence,’ or say ‘it’s not a part of my life or of my world,’” but that couldn’t be further from the truth, she says. We all live in this world together – we all make up this community – and it’s up to everyone to make this world and this community what we want it to be.

“It’s about answering the question, ‘how we make our community a safer and better place to live?’”

That’s where JR LaRose and the Be More Than a Bystander program comes in.

Be More Than a Bystander is in its fifth year and looks to break the silence – just as Jackson says – surrounding violence against women and girls by providing tools, language and practical ideas about how to be just as the name suggests, more than a bystander.

And LaRose, who is coming to speak at the Campbell River event, is an especially poignant spokesperson for the Be More Than a Bystander program.

His mother was Cree from the One Arrow First Nation, and died young – at just 57 years of age. He never knew his father, who was deported back to Nigeria before he was born. He grew up on a reservation in Alberta with his mother – a residential school survivor who struggled with addictions her entire life – and he suffered in a world of poverty, sexual abuse and violence before he found football as a teenager as an escape.

He recently retired from the sport that gave his life meaning when seemingly nothing else could. During his time with the Lions – he spent five years with the team – he received the team’s Jaime Taras award of Community Service four straight years and was also nominated four times for the CFL’s Tom Pate Award, which honours one player in the league each year who demonstrates outstanding leadership, contribution to his team and contribution to his community.

Now he continues his mission to spread hope – sharing the story of his determination to not let his own past rob him of a future – and inspire others to make a difference in their world and to give others a better future, as well.

Usually, the Be More Than a Bystander program likes to pair up its community presentations with events at local schools when they come to town. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case for Campbell River’s event.

“I’m not sure if they had exams going on or something in the schools on the dates that were being offered, but they just couldn’t do the dates,” Jackson says, but she’s approaching classes and teachers, sports programs and others in the school system to encourage attendance at the evening event.

“We’re really excited that EVA BC and JR LaRose decided that they would go ahead with the evening presentation anyway,” Jackson says.

“Because we had applied so long ago and talked about it for so long, they said they’d like to at least do the evening presentation and see how it goes.”

And it’s fitting that it will be happening March 8, as that is also International Women’s Day, which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and encourages progress in creating gender parity.

The event is free, but people are asked to register in advance. Refreshments will be provided, and organizers need to know how much to bring.

Pre-registrants are also entered into the draw for a signed BC Lions jersey.

Register by emailing ccws@endingviolence.org.

Jackson is happy to answer any questions about the event by email at gloria.jackson@crfs.ca or by phone at 250-287-2421.