A solemn ceremony in Winnipeg on Monday called for an end to violence against women, while also remembering one of the darkest and most tragic days in Canadian history.
It was 32 years ago, on Dec. 6. 1989, that a gunman opened fire at École Polytechnique de Montréal, purposely only targeting women and killing 14 in an attack that has become known as the Montreal Massacre.
All victims of the massacre were women and the gunmen said during the attack that he was carrying it out because he was “fighting feminism.”
Every year in Canada Dec. 6 is now commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women.
At the Manitoba Legislature on Monday morning Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson joined Minister responsible for the Status of Women Cathy Cox and other officials and advocates to honour the 14 women who were killed in 1989, while also speaking about what needs to be done to continue to combat the issue of violence against women and girls.
Pictures of all 14 women who were killed were displayed at the ceremony and there was a powerful and chilling moment when a timeline of the massacre was read out loud.
Stefanson, who was sworn in as Manitoba’s first female premier back in November, spoke at Monday’s ceremony and said she is committed to combating violence against women here in Manitoba, because she said she knows that it continues to be a serious issue.
“As the first woman premier of Manitoba I am both humbled and honoured to hold that title and the office, but I am also reminded of the significant work that remains to ensure we have an inclusive society where all women can build a safe, healthy, and prosperous future,” Stefanson said.
Stefanson added that in order to combat the issue of violence against women, more people must first understand the scope of that issue.
“More than 70% of victims of domestic homicide are women, it is important that we recognize this, because recognizing it is the first step in addressing it and putting an end to it,” Stefanson said.
“We recognize that changes must be made collectively, in our language and in our actions to support victims as well as the survivors of violence. Words have power, each of us has a responsibility that what we do, say, and write is not adding to the myths about assault.”
During Monday’s ceremony Diane Redsky, the Executive Director of the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, spoke about how gender-based violence disproportionately affects Indigenous women and girls in Manitoba and across Canada.
“This is particularly important for Indigenous women and girls, who continue to experience the highest rates of violence and are harmed by systems that continue to contribute to, and be responsible for, creating vulnerability for Indigenous women and girls,” Redsky said.
Humaira Jaleel, the executive director of the Healthy Muslim Families organization also spoke on Monday and said that gender-based violence is also an ongoing issue for many newcomers to this country.
“As the pandemic hit, violence against women became its own pandemic,” Jaleel said. “The victims of that pandemic were unequivocally women and newcomers and racialized women suffered much.
“This was not a surprise and ending violence against women will require even more leadership, more action and more investments and funding.”
Jaleel also had a message on Monday for anyone dealing with a violent or dangerous situation that doesn’t know where to turn to get help.
“You are brave, resilient, and have the power to define your own path, know that you have friends and allies who will support you,” Jaleel said.
“You don’t have to do this alone.”
Another ceremony commemorating the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women took place outside the Manitoba Legislature later on Monday, as the Institute for International Women’s Rights held a Rally for Remembrance on the steps of the Leg.
The rally, which was held to commemorate Dec. 6, and to raise awareness about gender-based violence saw several speakers including NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine, and rally organizer Alaya McIvor address the crowd.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Anyone dealing with domestic abuse or who knows someone dealing with abuse in Manitoba has a number of options to seek help including:
– Toll-Free Province-Wide Domestic Abuse Crisis Line (24 hours) – 1-877-977-0007
– Victim Services – 204-945-6851
– Klinic Crisis Line – 204-786-8686
– Klinic Sexual Assault Line – 204-786-8631
– Mobile Crisis Services – 204-940-1781 (General) or 204-949-4777 (Youth)
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun