Tuesday December 7, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated 11 am]
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
[About the Montreal Massacre and The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women | Livestream link to 5 pm Candlelight Vigil, Dec 6, 2021]
It has been over 30 years since the murder of 14 young women at École Polytechnique in Montreal (December 6, 1989). This act of violent misogyny shook our country and led Parliament to designate December 6 as The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
Yesterday evening in the Hall of Honour at the BC Parliament Buildings, a short but dignified vigil was held, led by Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity Grace Lore (MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill), together with MLAs Mitzi Dean (Minister of Children and Family Development), Katrina Chen (Minister of State for Child Care) and Brenda Bailey (Parliamentary Secretary for Technology and Innovation). Invited guests included Larissa Hutchinson who was in Montreal on the night of the Montreal Massacre. The livestreamed event began at 5 pm.
In less than half an hour, these women’s statements — and watching them light candles ceremoniously and then stand in silence for what seemed like long minutes, in remembrance — was part of encouraging more people to become aware of the impacts of gender-based violence and the riveting lasting effects of experiencing physically violent misogyny.
Speeches by Katrina Chen and Brenda Bailey were particularly impassioned, as they themselves have been the direct target of sexual violence.
“Speak out. Silence never helps,” said Chen. “The safety and well-being of all of us depends on everyone working together, to raise awareness, to take action, every way we can,” she said at the podium. That includes investing in critical services, said Chen.
“We can’t really understand the massacre without that context,” of having been there and the activities of the time. “Through the eyes of a 22-year-old feminist in Montreal (at the time),” said Bailey, she described the experience of that night on December 6, 1989. She was in Montreal that night though not directly at École Polytechnique. She and others on another campus “cried and held each other”. Women in the feminist movement “were feeling our oats” at that time in the late 1980s, she said with verve. She was part of establishing one of the first women’s sexual assault centers.
Today Minister Dean — who was BC’s first Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity (2017-2020) — called the December 6 vigil “very moving” and that “having women (speak) who had been there was very powerful”.
Dean emphasizes that “once someone has lived through that, they understand the depth of it”.
Mitzi Dean also told Island Social Trends that society’s understanding of misogyny has a long way to go. “We’re still not there yet, we still have a long way to go to get a common understanding of misogyny,” she said.
Dean compared that to society also starting to come to grips with awareness and impacts of racism. “We’re working with communities. It continues to be experienced,” says Dean, saying that people need to become aware of the harm it does.
Women have been the hardest hit economically during the COVID pandemic, which needs to be fully addressed in economic recovery.
Dean emphasizes the need for an “equity lens” as people’s economic opportunities recover following the initial job-impacting realities of pandemic measures in 2020. The pandemic continues as a health emergency but the economy is beginning to rebuild.
Housing and child care:
“Every year on December 6, we grieve the lost of the 14 women who were murdered in Montreal in 1989 because of misogyny and prejudice. Everyone deserves to live a life free of violence, regardless of their gender, and that’s why we are taking action to support women’s safety and independence, for example, expanding sexual assault response service and building safe transition houses,” said Mitzi Dean today.
Minister Dean outlined how the BC government is investing in expanding sexual assault services, since she got more of that rolling starting in 2017. “Hundreds of millions in increasing the number of transition houses” has been invested, she said.
Second-stage housing is part of the action plan, so that women aren’t caught in a bottleneck when exiting past the transition house into more independent living, with safety plans still in place.
Dean says having universal access to affordable child care also supports women’s safe integration into active society.
Those who are remembered:
On December 6, 2021 Canadians remember these women who were murdered only because of their gender:
- Geneviève Bergeron
- Hélène Colgan
- Nathalie Croteau
- Barbara Daigneault
- Anne-Marie Edward
- Maud Haviernick
- Maryse Laganière
- Maryse Leclair
- Anne-Marie Lemay
- Sonia Pelletier
- Michèle Richard
- Annie St-Arneault
- Annie Turcotte
- Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz
16 Days of Activism:
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is about remembering those who have experienced gender-based violence and those who we have lost to it. It is also a time to take action.
Achieving a Canada free from gender-based violence requires everyone to educate themselves and their families and communities on gender-based violence, and to center the voices of survivors in actions while speaking up against harmful behaviours.
Last night Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity Grace Lore encouraged people to stand united against violence on campuses, in communities, in workplaces and in people’s own homes.
In a joint statement with Lore yesterday, Premier John Horgan said: “The harm caused by gender-based violence — whether committed decades ago or today — is clear.”
December 6 falls within the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. People are encouraged to add their voice to the conversation between November 25 and December 10, and share the ways you are being part of the solution to end gender-based violence [hashtag #16Days].
Role of news media:
The news media has a role to play in covering femicide and misogyny, with accuracy and in providing awareness and education generally.
Media coverage can actively shape the construction of attitudes and beliefs that can help prevention efforts.
Highlighting social and community solutions is part of how media can play a positive role.
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has operated her own news publications on the west shore since 2008. Before that she created the Writing for Business and Journalism curriculum for the Western Academy of Photography in the 1990s and then the MapleLine Journalism Program (for youth) in 2010. Mary has been active in promoting the rights of women since her university days, where she started an on-campus women’s organization and studied sociology alongside science and community education. Ms Brooke holds a B.Sc. and a Certificate in Public Relations. She is the proud mother of four grown children.
Working against gender-based violence highlighted on Dec 6 anniversary (December 6, 2020)
Parliamentary secretary’s statement on Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20, 2021)
Editorial: Women’s Day marches awkwardly forward (March 8, 2021)