Algonquin College first school in Ottawa named as Moose Hide Campaign ambassador

Campaign created to engage men and boys in ending violence affecting women

Algonquin College is the first school in Ottawa to be an ambassador for the Moose Hide Campaign for creating safer campus communities.

The Moose Hide Campaign began over 10 years ago in British Columbia when Raven Lacerte and her father Paul Lacerte were hunting moose as part of their Indigenous culture along Highway 16 in the northern part of the province, otherwise known as the Highway of Tears, named after the women (mostly Indigenous) who have gone missing or have been found murdered along the 724-kilometre roadway.

When they caught their first moose, the idea to repurpose the hide into a social innovation has seen over 4 million moose hide patches distributed with a campaign created to engage men and boys in ending the violence affecting women and has grown Canada-wide to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women and girls.

In a press release from Algonquin College, president and CEO Claude Brulé said the college “remains committed to creating awareness of gender-based violence” after this recognition.

Omar Karim, the national director of post-secondary engagement and initiatives at the Moose Hide Campaign, said while there are no rules to becoming an ambassador, you need to spend effort and time as an organization spreading awareness and participating in or hosting events to educate people.

“We try to just keep it very open and dynamic,” said Karim. “Numbers are great, but really it’s about the relationships and really the awareness and educating as many people on campus about why violence is not okay and what can we be doing and it’s empowering institutions to be creative and innovative, to create their own initiatives that become a legacy in their own campus and then Moose Hide Campaign is here as our post-secondary team to support those legacy initiatives.”

He said the idea is not to call men out but to call them in, to change the behaviour in creating safer and healthier relationships.

“I find it humbling and I find it enriching in terms of the role that we have to play in working collaboration as an allyship in ensuring that we can hold other men accountable and support people through that process and educate people to that process that, you know, violence is not okay and so whether you know, it’s violence in general, is not okay,” said Karim.

“It feels great, honestly,” said Summer Wabasse, an Anishinaabe event co-ordinator at the Mamidosewin Centre.

“I know that I can feel proud of the work that I do here for all of our students, and as an Indigenous woman myself, it makes me feel so safe and just proud that we have a campus that cares so much about this type of thing,” she said.

“I think there are some people who, unfortunately, they are coming to these events and they themselves are family members, have experienced gender-based violence or like they might have a family member that’s part of the missing and murdered Indigenous women,” said Wabasse.

“And then there are some people who come here and they’re like, I didn’t even know that this was a thing.”

Statistics Canada reported 71 per cent of students in 2019, both male and female, have experienced or witnessed unwanted sexual behaviors during their time at a post-secondary school, with 1 in 10 women experiencing sexual assault in the same time frame.

At Algonquin, data collected from the college from 2018-2022 had 114 reported cases of sexual assault.

Across Canada, one in two women have experienced one or more incidents of sexual or physical violence since the age of 16, with a woman murdered every 2.5 days. From those numbers, Indigenous women were six times more likely to be affected than non-Indigenous women, according to the campaign’s website.

The college has worked with the campaign since 2017 to show how these numbers are more than just facts in a database.

“In order to become an ambassador campus, you have to participate in activities and events that work with Moose Hide or are contributing to ending gender-based violence,” said Sarah Crawford, the manager of sexual violence prevention and harm reduction for Algonquin. “So, it’s really just a recognition of the fact that we’ve done all of this work.”

She added there are events planned to continue education about gender-based violence and how it is an issue everywhere in the world and as students exist in this world, violence against women needs to be talked about.

“Education is good. I have a lot of hopes for, you know, the next generation. Every time we talk to students, they seem to be more aware of stuff. And so, I feel positive,” said Crawford.

“It’s an important issue,” said Randy Kakegamic about the Moose Hide Campaign.

“I think the whole issue stems from colonization, it all got mixed up from residential schools.”

Residential schools, which operated between 1874 and 1998, were created when the Canadian government took indigenous children from their families and culture and placed them in schools to educate, convert and assimilate them into Canadian society. An estimated 150,000 children attended these schools, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.

When Kakegamic’s parents were taken to residential schools as children, the knowledge his grandparents knew and should have taught them was never passed down, and parts of the culture were lost.

“It’s a break in our values, our teaching,” he said.

Kakegamic acknowledged he had been part of the problem in the past, even up to jail time. He has now been sober for the past seven years and is working on getting a pardon and spends his spare time educating others by speaking to groups, singing and dancing.

“I’m taking the right path,” said Kakagamic. His goal in teaching younger men who are heading down the same path as he did is to know that “you don’t need to go down the way I did, there is a better way.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Moose Hide Campaign or how you can help end violence against women, you can order and wear a Moose Hide pin to get involved and support this campaign or register for National Moose Hide Day on May 16.

If you are someone you know who has been affected by violence or needs help, the Moose Hide Campaign’s help button on their website has resources and links, or you reach out to Algonquin’s security office at 613-727-4723, ext. 5010.

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