From the Vancouver Observer, December 2, 2009, Why December 6th Still Matters
Posted by cgccanada on December 3, 2009
I was just four years old on December 6th, 1989 when 14 women were gunned down at L’École Polytechnique de Montreal. They were targeted because they were women who dared to pursue the “male” occupation of engineering. In 1991 then Member of Parliament for New Westminster-Burnaby Dawn Black introduced the Private Member’s Bill that led to Canada’s recognizing December 6th as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. I don’t remember the shootings so I can understand why some people my age tend to ignore December 6th and the observances that go with it. Even among people who remember the Montreal Massacre there can be a feeling that we don’t need to worry so much about taking action, that somehow the passage of 20 years has seen enough advances in equality to make violence a thing of the past. I don’t remember December 6th, 1989, but I think about my friends now, too many of whom have experienced harassment, verbal and emotional abuse, and rape. I think about the 12 women shot at a Pittsburgh gym just a few months ago by a man whose blog promoted hatred towards the women who wouldn’t date him, and how hard feminists have been fighting to have the incident seen as an act of misogynist violence. 20 years after the Montreal Massacre women on campuses in Canada still face the threat of violence, although sometimes in more subtle forms. And the families of the women, mainly Aboriginal, who’ve disappeared on BC’s “Highway of Tears” since 1969 are still waiting for answers about their daughters. I think about our governments. As we go into December 6th, our federal government is trying to scrap the long gun registry even as 88% of women killed by spouses in Canada are shot with these weapons. And while our provincial government has temporarily restored funding to domestic violence programs, it’s anticipated they’ll again be on the chopping block next year. Rosemary Brown, the first black woman elected to a parliamentary body in Canada, once said: “Fighting for equality is like washing the dishes. You’ve got to keep on it every single day.” December 6th is a time to remember but also a time to take action, to roll up your sleeves and take a stand against violence against women. 20 years have passed, but the fight is just as crucial now. We need to support our battered women’s shelters and women’s centres, who help empower women and assist them to leave violent situations. We need to support a robust justice system and strong preventative efforts to deal with violence against women. And we need to speak out and demand action from our governments. It was public outcry a few months ago that caused the provincial government to reverse announced funding cuts for innovative programs like the New Westminster Domestic Violence Response Team. If we work together to call for action we can make a difference. So even if you can’t make it to one of the December 6th vigils and meetings around Vancouver, take a moment of silence somewhere in your day to remember the 14 women killed in Montreal and all other women who have experienced or died as a result of gender-based violence. And consider what you can do to help break the silence.
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