December 6th became a National day of remembrance after adoption by the Canadian government in 1991 through a private bill introduced by Dawn Black, MP New Westminster-Burnaby, British Columbia. December 6th is the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique (Montreal) massacre, in which an armed student murdered fourteen women and injured ten others (including 4 men) in the name of “fighting feminism”.
The victims of the 1989 massacre were Geneviève Bergeron, 21; Hélène Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Klucznik, 31; Maryse Laganière, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 22; Sonia Pelletier, 23; Michèle Richard, 21; Anne St-Arneault, 23; and Annie Turcotte, 21. Each woman should be pause for reflection. These were (mostly) female engineering students taken from their families and friends and the nation in a brutal and senseless attack which cut short the lives of women who were destined to become role models for other young women and influencers in society.
Canadians are encouraged to wear a white or purple ribbon and observe a moment of silence on this day. Federal buildings will fly flags at half mast. However, it is most important that all Canadians use this day to discuss gender based violence (GBV), still an all too common occurrence in Canada. The Canadian Women’s Foundation reports that a woman in Canada is murdered every 6 days (on average) by an intimate partner. Two thirds of Canadians know a woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse. Indigenous women are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women. Over 6,000 women and children sleep in shelters on any given night because it isn’t safe at home. Government statistics reveal that the economic costs of intimate partner violence against Canadian women are valued at $4.8 billion annually and the economic costs of sexual assault/other sexual offences against Canadian women are estimated to be $3.6 billion annually.
COVID-19 restrictions have exacerbated the problem.
There is no excuse for GBV – it isn’t an illness, a cultural norm or a preference. There is no place for patriarchy in Canadian society. GBV is violence for control. It is violence to perpetuate the inequality of men and women (as well as those with non binary gender expression). The Council of Europe defines it as one of the most pronounced expressions of the unequal power relations between women and men.
Join the fight against GBV. Learn about it. Write about it. Talk about it. Advocate against it. Change the perceived norms. Change the laws. Be a voice for the voiceless. After all, we are women helping women.