Today we remember Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, and Annie Turcotte, who were gunned down on this day 25 years ago in Montreal, simply because they were women participating in a man’s world by studying engineering.
We also remember the many, many women in our own communities and around the world who have lost their lives to gender-based violence, as well as those who have faced it and survived, and those who continue to face it every day.
They are all around you.
We need to make a particular effort to remember the women whose voices and experiences of violence are too often silenced, hidden, ignored – trans women, women of colour, elders, women with disabilities, and Indigenous women.
I want to believe that we are at a watershed moment for addressing violence against women in Canada this year, post #YesAllWomen and #BeenRapedNeverReported, but I can’t help but feel what Denise Balkisoon said in her article at the Globe and Mail: “Why is now the moment?” We have seen too many of these moments go by – she mentions missing and murdered women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the brutal 2009 murder of Donna Jones by her husband, and there are so many more. In my home province of B.C., more than 20 people have died in domestic-violence related murders and suicides this year alone. Another 11 people were seriously injured (Source, .pdf).
This can be a watershed moment for violence against women, but we can’t sit back and think it will just sweep us along with its natural momentum. Let’s think of ourselves as singular drops of water pushing the dam to break. It will take solidarity and determination. We must each work harder than we’ve ever worked before to keep this issue top of the agenda; to support survivors; to educate children; to press our governments to make necessary, long overdue policy changes; and to win over more hearts and minds to help us.
I’m going to close off with some recommended reading and viewing for December 6, as well as some actions to take and campaigns to support to get you kick-started. But please also add your ideas below in the comments: what can you do to end violence against women?
“Twenty-five years later, as I re-evaluate my stories and with the benefit of analysis of the coverage that massacre spawned, I see how journalists— male and female producers, news directors, reporters, anchors — subtly changed the meaning of the tragedy to one that the public would get behind, silencing so-called ‘angry feminists.'”
“Last month, the only reason why the Conservative attempt to further loosen gun control laws was shelved was a poorly timed attack on Parliament Hill where a gunman shot his way past security. Security has already been tightened such that visitors are no longer allowed on Wednesday, when caucuses meet. Because the value placed on politicians’ lives is higher than of women who might meet the end of a gun some day.”
“I am thinking about the long legacies of women scholars before me, and the legacy I share with colleagues of my own generation. I would be lying if I said I was not worried. I would be lying if I said that I believed we lived in a world where female scholars can speak, study, dress, and occupy space in the academy as freely as we should be able to. Because we know. We know that the aggressions we face are all too real.”
“‘He was our first terrorist and nobody was treating it that way,’ says [Francine] Pelletier. ‘Those (engineering) students dared to take the place of men. They represented our future and he was targeting our future — how we imagined ourselves to be.'”
Photo of Montreal Massacre monument in Victoria Park, London, ON, public domain.