By Jewelles Smith
The international 16-day campaign to end gender violence kicked off on November 25; the day designated by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in 1999. In Canada, on the twelfth day of the campaign, we honour the memory of the 14 women murdered in the Montreal Massacre. This year, the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter will be holding a vigil at the Community Centre.
Twenty-three years ago, on December 6, 1989, it only took twenty minutes for Marc Lepine, using a semi-automatic rifle, to end the lives of thirteen female students and one female employee of the Engineering Department at l’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. He had separated female students from their male classmates and then shot them. Lepine took his own life, leaving behind a note that indicated he blamed feminists for the problems in his personal life. In 1991, the federal government proclaimed December 6 as “Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women”.
December 6 is a day to stand in solidarity with all women and remember the many women who experience violence in their life just because they are female. It is a time to remember the women who have been murdered for no reason other than the fact that they were female. Femicide is the deliberate act of killing women and girls. We, as a community and through our extended networks, need to stand up and make this horror stop.
Violence against women is a global problem, a problem that we are not immune to in Revelstoke. Our frontline workers: the staff at the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter, RCMP, paramedics, and community support teams daily work with women who experience partner violence in Revelstoke. The United Nations defines violence against women as:
Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life (United Nations. General Assembly. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. 20 December 1993. A/RES/48/104).
We need to recognize that all forms of violence against women and girls is unacceptable, however small, and then we need to create a community where it is absolutely unacceptable to behave this way. Violence against women crosses all classes, ages, ethnicities and circumstances. It occurs in every community around the world.
Honouring the memory of women murdered and abused by men by attending the vigil is a way that we can all show our support of women who have, are or in the future will experience violence. For those who are experiencing violence in their own lives, standing in solidarity creates a powerful statement to women and girls who are experiencing violence. You are not alone and this is not acceptable. Know that you are not alone in your struggles and that there are many caring and supportive professionals and volunteers that can help you get out of the situation you find yourself in.
On December 6, the names of the 14 murdered women at the massacre at École Polytechnique de Montréal are remembered and read aloud. So in closing, I would like to remember:
Bergeron, aged 21;
Hélène Colgan, 23;
Nathalie Croteau, 23;
Barbara Daigneault, 22;
Anne-Marie Edward, 21;
Maud Haviernick, 29;
Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31;
Maryse Leclair, 23;
Annie St.-Arneault, 23;
Michèle Richard, 21;
Maryse Laganière, 25;
Anne-Marie Lemay, 22;
Sonia Pelletier, 28; and
Annie Turcotte, aged 21.
The Revelstoke Women’s Shelter invites everyone to join us in a short candlelight vigil at 3:30 pm in the Macpherson Room at the Revelstoke Community Centre to commemorate the 14 women who were tragically killed on December 6, 1989, in the Montreal Massacre. If you or someone you care about is experiencing violence, you can call the Women’s Shelter hotline number at 250-3-837-1111.
Jewelles Smith, MA has developed her career as an expert in gender and disability human rights issues in Canada. She currently thrives in Revelstoke, BC, with her two sons.