This Saturday, December 6th is the 25th anniversary of the massacre at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, when 14 women were murdered because they were pursuing careers their killer believed was for men only.
On that day, like many other days before and since, women died because someone was threatened that they chose to live a free and full life.
In 1991, Parliament declared December 6 to be Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action to End Violence against Women. It is a day to honour those 14 women and to renew our commitment to end gender-based violence.
For those too young to remember that day (myself included), here is a recap. A man entered Ecole Polytechnique with the express purpose of seeking revenge on women in general and feminists in particular, because he believed they were ruining his life. He specifically targeted women in the engineering department because he thought they
undermined men by choosing male-dominated careers. Systematically separating women from men, he killed 14 women, wounded ten other women and four men before committing suicide. One of the survivors of the massacre reported that he said he was “fighting feminism” and did not care whether the women considered themselves to be feminists or not. This was the largest massacre in Canada in over 100 years, and remains the largest since.
While this event is unique in its magnitude, what is not unique is that women were killed just because they were women. Twenty-five years later, gender-based violence in Canada is still shockingly common. Most women are not harmed by strangers but by people they know.
On average, a woman is murdered in Canada every six days by a current or former partner. In fact, half of all women murdered in this country die because of domestic violence. According to Statistics Canada, over 460,000 women are sexually assaulted in a single year.The risk of sexual assault is highest for girls aged 13 to 15. Half of all women in Canada report at least one incident of physical or sexual violence in their lives since the age of 16. Two-thirds of Canadians say they personally know a woman who has been physically or sexually assaulted. (For sources, read our Fact Sheet on Violence Against Women.)
On Saturday December 6, I will be remembering the 14 women killed in Montreal. I will also be remembering a much more recent tragedy: the triple murder of Zahra Mohamoud Abdille and her sons Faris and Zain, who were killed this week in Toronto after trying to escape domestic violence. I will honour them and all of the women and girls who are working to rebuild their lives after surviving violence.
Chances are there are many women in your life who have experienced physical or sexual violence. December 6 is your opportunity to join women and men across Canada who are honouring their lives, supporting their healing, and taking action to stop the violence, for good.
On this National Day of Remembrance and Action to End Violence against Women, here are some actions you can take:
Support the growing calls for Canada to adopt a National Action Plan on Violence against Women, that is pushing for collective and consistent approaches to policies, legislation, responses and prevention work to address Violence against Women
Get involved in actions and calls for an inquiry into the estimated 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women in this country. Indigenous women are 3.5 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women.
Take care of the women and girls around you. Talk to your kids about what healthy relationships look like. If you know someone who is living with violence, be supportive and non-judgemental, you can find tips here https://canadianwomen.org/avon
- Support violence prevention programs across Canada by donating to the Canadian Women’s Foundation
My vision is to create a world where women can go to school, walk the streets, love and live without violence.
If we keep building on the work we’ve done over the past 25 years, together we can create a safer, healthier future for everyone.
In remembrance of:
Geneviève Bergeron, civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan, mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau, mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault, mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward, chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick, materials engineering student
Maryse Laganière, budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
Maryse Leclair, materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay, mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier, mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard, materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault, mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte, materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, nursing student