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Pembertonian Maude Cyr runs to raise awareness of domestic violence

Cyr will cover more than 110 kilometres up the Sea to Sky Trail on June 24
Maude Cyr of Pemberton loves running for sport, for leisure and to raise awareness of domestic violence for the Howe Sound Women’s Centre.

At first glance, living in the Sea to Sky corridor is a dream. What could be better than a bountiful expanse of natural splendour, from majestic mountains to cerulean lakes to trails that wind through ancient forests? There’s a reason why many flock to this area from all over the globe.

Yet our neck of the woods, just like any other, has its perennial problems. Many struggle to find affordable housing, while others fight to free themselves from the grip of substance addiction. There is also the oft-unseen but ever-present spectre of domestic violence.

The Howe Sound Women’s Centre (HSWC) estimates that more than 3,800 people visit its Drop-In Centres in Whistler and Squamish each year. The abuse of women, children and handicapped individuals behind closed doors remains a sad reality.

Pemberton resident Maude Cyr wants people to realize this truth and, more importantly, that something can be done about it. That’s why, on June 24, she will be running the Sea to Sky Trail on behalf of the HSWC from Squamish up to Pemberton, covering more than 110 kilometres in a single day to raise funds. It’s a trek she’s already made twice before, though she biked the distance in 2022 due to an injury.

Breaking the cycle

It’s fitting that a woman like Cyr is so passionate about raising awareness. She has spent nearly a decade and a half working for the French-speaking School District No. 93 (or CSF). In fact, it was a schoolyard discussion with a colleague that touched off her mission to advocate against domestic violence.

“When the bell rang for the summer holidays, another [education assistant] told me that: ‘most of these kids are super happy to go back home, but there’s a very big amount of kids here that are not happy. They’re afraid to go home because they’re unsafe at home,’” Cyr remembered.

“And I was like: oh my God, it shouldn’t be that way.”

The longtime educator began seeking ways to make a difference. In 2020, she made her first fundraising run up the Sea to Sky Trail in partnership with the HSWC. Lingering COVID symptoms kept her out of action the following year, but she didn’t remain idle.

On her own time, Cyr discovered a program called Kids in the Know offered by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P). The program’s curriculum offers age-appropriate content from kindergarten to Grade 12, and is meant to equip students with an awareness of potential dangers in their world.

Cyr lobbied CSF decision-makers to get on board—and they did. Beginning in 2021, the district began purchasing Kids in the Know materials and making them available to teachers in British Columbia’s Francophone schools.

While Cyr knows that domestic violence isn’t always perpetrated by men, she recognizes that women and children are often susceptible to abuse. She says that various factors, from mental illness to generational trauma, can lead some adults to mistreat others in their lives rather than using their power to support and educate.

While much of this abuse ultimately turns physical, it can also take emotional, psychological or even economic forms—in other words, manipulating vulnerable individuals while destroying their self-esteem and capacity for independence.

“This is something that just doesn’t make any sense to me,” Cyr admitted. “Children are not asking for this. They just came into the world and are hoping someone will protect them. I would love to, if I can, stop the generational cycle, because if a child is being abused, unfortunately it’s likely that they will abuse [others] later on.”

Healing through locomotion

There are many ways to raise awareness of domestic violence. Most do not involve blowing out your lungs and legs on a 100-plus kilometre run. So why did Cyr choose the athletic approach?

As a naturally active person, the education assistant grew up snowboarding and playing multiple sports in her hometown of Rimouski, Que. Running in particular, though, helped her overcome the doldrums of postpartum depression—which she grappled with after the birth of her first child. Based on a doctor’s recommendation, Cyr began jogging down the trails of Pemberton and was hooked.

Running has since led her into the world of ultramarathons.

Much like fellow Sea to Sky endurance ace Vicki Romanin, Cyr loves being in nature, and running for a long time in nature is “the best” for her. She first got into ultra racing about five years ago and tackles a few competitions every year—including her favourite, April’s 50-kilometre Diez Vista near Port Moody. Not one to lack for motivation, Cyr credits her coach for helping her pace herself, while snowshoeing and skiing in winter months help her keep fit.

Cyr had a support crew during her 2020 run and a truck full of food and water. This time, she’s upping the ante by being largely self-sufficient. Water will come from various creeks across her path, made potable by her filter-equipped bottle, while she plans to carry electrolytes and some light food items. Others are welcome to join the run, but the Pembertonian will rely on herself to see it through.

Those who wish to donate to Cyr’s cause and the HSWC can do so online at

Individuals needing assistance can call the Whistler Drop-In Centre’s 24-hour crisis line at 604-892-5711. The Drop-In Centre is welcoming to people of all backgrounds and orientations.