Today is December 6th, which is recognized in Canada as the National Day of Remembrance and Action On Violence Against Women.
The reason this is marked on December 6th is because it is the anniversary of the Montréal Massacre in 1989, when 14 young women were killed at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal. Here’s a brief recap of these events for those who don’t know about them:
Marc Lépine, a 25-year old student, entered a classroom at the university and separated the male and female students. He claimed that he was “fighting feminism”, then shot all nine of the women in the room (6 were killed). After that, he moved on through the hallways, cafeteria, and into another classroom, specifically targeting women. In less than 20 minutes, he killed 14 women, injured 10 other women and 4 men, and then turned the gun on himself. He claimed political motives in his suicide note, blaming feminists for ruining his life and including a list of 19 Quebec women who he considered “feminists” and wanted to kill.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women falls in the middle of the worldwide 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, which runs from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day.
Violence against women and girls is still a very serious problem in Canada (and around the world). Here are some statistics for your information, from the Status of Women Canada website:
- Women and girls are more likely to experience certain types of serious violence and assault:
- on average, 178 females were killed every year between 1994 and 2008;
- in 2008, there were 146 female victims of homicide in Canada. Of these, 45 were victims of spousal homicide; and
- young women are particularly vulnerable. Between 1997 and 2006, young women (aged 15 to 24) were killed at a rate nearly three times higher than for all female victims of spousal homicide. During the same period, the rate of sexual assault for girls (under age 18) by family members was four times higher than for boys.
- Some groups of women in Canada are particularly vulnerable to violence:
- the spousal homicide rate for Aboriginal women is more than eight times that for non-Aboriginal women;
- immigrant women may be more vulnerable to family violence due to, among other things, economic dependence, language barriers, and lack of access to resources; and
- senior women are twice as likely as senior men to be victims of violent crime perpetrated by a family member.
There are two high-profile campaigns that run in Canada right now, with slightly different purposes:
The White Ribbon Campaign was started in 1991 by a handful of Canadian men who believed they had a responsibility to urge other men to speak out about violence against women. The campaign now runs in over 55 countries around the world. According to the website, wearing a white ribbon is a “symbol of men’s opposition to violence against women“, and is a “personal pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls. Wearing a white ribbon is a way of saying, ‘Our future has no violence against women‘.”
The Rose Campaign is organized by the YWCA Canada, and is a campaign to end violence against women and girls. It is named after the rose button created after the Montréal Massacre in 1989 and directly commemorates December 6th as Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action On Violence Against Women. Though it relates directly to this date, it also works year-round to reduce violence against women, increase public awareness, and prevent violence before it starts. According to their website, violence against women “is a $4 billion problem in Canada. Each year, violence and abuse drive over 100,000 women and children out of their homes and into shelters. They face an uncertain future with a high risk of homelessness and poverty.”
Take a look at this short public service video put out by the Rose Campaign:
Please take a few moments today to think about what you (and all of us) can do to combat violence against women. I’ll be talking about it with students throughout the day, as well as writing a review of a book later on today that focuses on “girl power” and a specific era in feminism’s history.