On December 6, 1989, a 25-year-old man named Marc Lépine burst into l’École Polytechnique de Montréal with an assault rifle and killed 14 women in cold blood.
Their deaths shocked a nation and, in 1991, sparked the Canadian Parliament to designate December 6 as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
Every year since then, December 6 has been a day to remember the victims of that heinous act and to reflect on the fact that even now, 29 years later, women and girls in Canada – of all social, economic, and cultural groups – continue to be subjected to violence at alarming rates.
- In the first six months of this year, at least 78 women in Canada were killed in acts of violence. (https://globalnews.ca/news/4323388/women-violence-deaths-canada-2018/)
- Somewhere between 1,000 and 4,000 Indigenous women are missing and murdered in this country. (https://web.archive.org/web/20160510113547/http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/mmaw-faapd-eng.htm)
- On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (and their 2,500 children) are forced to live in emergency shelters to escape violence. (http://one-spark.ca/violence-against-women)
- Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. (https://www.canadianwomen.org/the-facts/gender-based-violence/)
Given these statistics, December 6 needs to be more than just a day of remembrance and reflection. It must also be a day of action for people throughout Saskatchewan and across the country. Individuals, groups, and communities have a responsibility to raise awareness, to speak out, and to develop concrete plans to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
Here in Saskatchewan, we have a long, proud history of human rights, but more can be done. More must be done. Gender-based violence prevents full and equal participation in public life, it damages women’s mental and physical health, has a negative effect on the economy, and is detrimental to our society as a whole. It is imperative for all citizens to work together to make sure that the promise of equality, one day, becomes a reality for every women and every girl.