BY BILL PHILLIPS
UNBC’s Inspiring Women Among Us event wound up Wednesday with a memorial of the Montreal Massacre and Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
About 75 people gathered in the Wintergarden for the event.
“A lone gunman began his attack by entering a university classroom where he separated the male and female students,” said Hira Rashid, master of ceremonies for the memorial. “After claiming he was fighting feminism and calling women ‘a bunch of feminists,’ he shot all nine women in the room killing six of them.”
When the gunman was finished, 14 women were dead and 10 other women and four men were injured. He then took his own life.
That was, of course, the massacre on December 6, 1989 at L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, the deadliest mass shooting in Canada’s history.
“Since the attack, some people simply believe the gunman was a madman or they lay blame on violence in the media, or the effects of poverty,” she said. “But many Canadians, including many feminist groups, have stated they believe the massacre was an anti-feminist attack and that is representative of wider societal violence against women.”
She said that is why the memorial of the Montreal Massacre is also a day of remembrance and action on violence against women.
UNBC professor Si Transken spoke of how she was abused by her father and it took years for she and her family to get him charged and convicted.
“My mother stayed in an abusive relationship, I think because she felt she had nowhere else to go,” she said. “I think that’s very common.”
Transken also pointed out to the seemingly daily revelations high profile men being accused of sexual improprieties, crediting the women who are speaking up. She systemic changes need to be made such as more judges, more police, and more legal aid for women who have been sexual assaulted.
UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks was also on hand said the day offers an opportunity to think about the women for whom violence is a daily reality.
“It allows us all to remember those who have died as a result of gender-based violence,” he said. “December 6, 1989, is a shocking and tragic day in Canadian history … They died that day for no other reason than that they were women.”
He cited Stats Canada saying that women are 11 times more likely than men to be the target of sexual violence; young women aged 15 to 34 years old have the highest risk of experiencing violence; in 2014 young women were nearly twice as likely to experience violence than young men.
“Sexual violence on university campuses, or anywhere, is simply not acceptable,” he said.
Weeks also pointed out that the university adopted a new sexual violence and misconduct policy.
Mayor Lyn Hall said that having two daughters drove the issue home for him.
“As a father of daughters, it brings a different sense of realization (of the issue of violence against women),” he said.
Hall said the day, however, was a time to reflect on what happened in Montreal and he referred to the message on white ribbons given to all the men in attendance which is to demonstrate their support of non-violence to women. Women were given purple ribbons, with purple symbolic of colour of bruises.
“It’s important that men recognize and commemorate December 6, not just today, but every day of the year,” he said. “… The Montreal Massacre changed our country forever and that’s apparent that, 28 years later, we’ve made some progress and we continue every day, as a city, to look at what we can do make sure those kinds of events are remembered and never happen again.”