Thursday, December 6, 2012

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada

December 6 will always be a difficult day for many people in Montreal, Quebec. It was the day, 23 years ago, when 14 young women - students - were murdered in a Montreal university because they were women. This horrific day gave rise to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, the first of 16 days of activism against gender violence and December 6 is marked in Canada to remember those 14 women.

I remember this day well, December 6, 1989. My own daughter was a week shy of being 10 months old. I was holding my infant daughter while other mothers and fathers were learning of the deaths of their daughters. It was a dark, snowy, cold night in Montreal. I can still see the television reports. I can bring forth the images of the reporters standing outside the university, shocked at what had just happened. The images of ambulances and police flashed on the screen, and I sat in my small living room, in the safety of my suburban home, holding my daughter in my arms.

Twenty-three years later, women are still being injured and murdered. Malala Yousafzai, a teen whose "crime" was to want girls to be educated, was shot in the head by men who feel threatened by a woman's desire to learn and be better. A few days ago, Kassandra Perkins was shot, several times, by her NFL boyfriend, the father of their child. Girls and women are assaulted and raped all over the world. In some countries, rape is a weapon of war.

It's been proven, time and time again, that communities thrive when their women are educated. The standard of living improves, citizens live longer and healthier lives, and societies develop and move forward.

Most men are good people. In my opinion, most men are horrified at the thought of violence against any other person, man or woman. But this horror hasn't stopped the violence. It hasn't stopped the murders, the rapes, the assaults. It hasn't stopped some societies from performing genital mutilation on girls and forced marriages. It hasn't stopped some men from intimidating and abusing women psychologically, emotionally, and physically.

You may have noticed that I don't write the names of the people who committed the crimes I mentioned. They do not deserve to be mentioned, but the names of women who have been injured or killed because they are women - they do deserve to have their names heard. If you have a name to add, you are welcome leave it in the comments section.

And now, for the 14 women who died 23 years ago today, you are remembered:

Geneviève Bergeron
Hélène Colgan
Nathalie Croteau
Barbara Daigneault
Anne-Marie Edward
Maud Haviernick
Maryse Laganière
Maryse Leclair
Anne-Marie Lemay
Sonia Pelletier
Michèle Richard
Annie St-Arneault
Annie Turcotte
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz