a long way to go

Thirty years ago this week, Eva and I stood before three priests and an assembled gathering of family and close friends at the Newman Chaplaincy of…

Thirty years ago this week, Eva and I stood before three priests and an assembled gathering of family and close friends at the Newman Chaplaincy of McGill University to exchange our marriage vows.

The ornate room, bay windows and fireplace of the old mansion on upper Peel Street in Montreal remain clear in my memory.

This is possibly because of the many times I participated in church services or other gatherings there.

This must be the reason because other details of our wedding day are a personal blur.

Our, as-of-yet unsorted wedding pictures may hold some clues to help reconstruct the day. Anecdotal tales of the important afternoon hold the best indication of my state of mind.

Apparently at the time in the wedding Mass to exchange greetings with those present, I shook hands with Eva’s godmother and kissed her godfather.

Later when we hosted a larger evening potluck and dance with our university friends, the pressure eased. We could finally relax and even enjoy the festivities on that warm, clear Montreal night. The beer and watermelon might have helped.

Anniversaries are important for a number of reasons.

They remind us of significant events.

By their observance we are offered an annual chance to reflect on just how far we have come in living up to our wedding vows or for other key social or political anniversaries, the vision proclaimed.

Anniversaries underline the community nature of events. The people initially gather there not only as witnesses, but as a visible support community for the new couple or the new idea.

Their presence implies a helping hand when needed and a prod to persevere when difficulties set in.

Eva and I took a short detour off of the busy I-90 tollway in upstate New York last week. Less than 10 kilometres south of our exit we hit the Cayuga and Seneca Canal linking the Finger Lakes with the same names. It is a spur off the famous Erie Canal.

Turning east a couple of kilometres, we found ourselves in the small town of Seneca Falls.

Whitehorse and Seneca Falls share a common fate.

Locks built there in 1915 took care of the falls remembered in their name just like the Yukon River dam erased most of the rapids that once inspired our civic moniker.

Seneca Falls has another claim to fame. One hundred and fifty nine years ago today delegates were in the second and last day of the first convention for women’s rights in the United States. Three hundred women and men like Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott, met at the Wesleyan Methodist Church there.

They would sign the landmark “Declaration of Sentiments.” Modeled on the United States Declaration of Independence it simply and starkly proclaimed the then revolutionary notion that “all men and women are created equal.”

It later continued: “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.”

A long list of grievances from denial of the vote and property rights, to limited poorly paid work opportunities ends with: “He has endeavoured, in every way that he could to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.”

A 40-metre marble wall has the whole text inscribed on it. They knew that the task they had set themselves would be difficult.

The declaration ends with: “In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object.”

 The names of all the signers followed marking their assent to the visionary document.

This monument forms one side of a small plaza just below street level. A sheen of water constantly flows over it.

Standing a dozen metres back and above it an open-air structure protects the fragments of preserved walls and the couple of remaining roof beams from the old church.

Celebrations today will mark this anniversary in Seneca Falls.

We remember and celebrate our personal, community and societal anniversaries because they help us go forward.

The struggles of the past, individual or communal, formed and inform us. We can always do with an annual jolt of inspiration and celebration.

There is still a long way to go.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson the dog sits next to the Chariot Patrick Jackson has loaded and rigged up to walk the Dempster Highway from where it begins, off the North Klondike Highway, to the Arctic Circle. (Submitted)
Walking the Dempster

Patrick Jackson gets set for 405-kilometre journey

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read