Far too often, tragedy has to strike for the public to understand the severity of an issue. This was the exact case on Dec. 6 — now known as National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. On Dec. 6, 1989, 14 women went to class at École Polytechenique in Montreal like any other day, pursuing a better future for themselves through education. That future was stolen from them.
It was argued immediately after the shooting that these women were simply victims of a mad man and that they were not specifically targeted. For some, the reality of the shooters motive was simply too much too bear. The massacre has resulted in political action and advocacy surrounding the issue of violence against women — an issue that is still all too prevalent today. Of all violent crime in Canada, more than one quarter resulted from family violence. Almost 70 per cent of family violence victims were women and girls. Indigenous women in particular are exposed to higher rates of violent victimization. Women were victims of intimate partner homicide at a rate four times greater than men. Dec. 6 represents a time of remembrance and action of those who are subjected to violence and dismissed because of their womanhood.
As years have passed, future generations may not know about the events that transpired on Dec. 6. How these hateful actions spurred the need to support women’s equality and a call for the end of violence against women. 14 young women were killed — their lives cut short and a nation was left to question, “Why?” Research tells us that structural violence is the systematic way in which women are seen and treated as inferior to men. This oppression is deeply rooted in our history, politics, economics and our social world.
Change is often met with resistance and challenging the status quo can result in hate, and hate at the worst of times can result in violence. We can also look to theories of power and control to explain violence perpetrated against women. At the time of the Ecole Polytechnique shooting and especially today, women are entering male dominated fields and frequently pursuing a full life outside of the home. That pursuit competes with the traditional notion of women’s position in society. In the push for equality women are struggling to live in a society free of violence; as outlined by the World Health Organization, violence against women and particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence are major public health problems and violations of women’s human’s rights. Violence can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health. This comes at a cost and can negatively impact a woman’s ability to live a full and meaningful life. Increasing women’s economic and social empowerment is in our society’s best interest. The WHO indicates that 1 in 3 women have experienced either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, we can and must do better.
On Dec. 6 of this year we ask that you remember these women. We ask that you take action; be that by informing someone else on the importance of Dec. 6 of by advocating on behalf of women everywhere to live in a society free of violence and hate.
This year at UNB, the women in Engineering Society will be holding a memorial service on campus at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 in HC-13. All are welcome.
— Vanessa MacDonald, Maggie Newcomb and Larissa Rose (STU BSW students completing a placement with the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre)