Violence against women is unabated in Canada. That was the overarching message on the 29th anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in Montreal.
“We name these 14 women and grieve for them, so that we will remember that gender-based violence is not something happening in the abstract,” said Kirsten Hogan, chair of Engineers Yukon, at a Whitehorse event dedicated to remembering the victims of the 1989 mass murder.
“It is happening here in our homes, in our schools, in our workplaces. Lives are lost, and the ones left behind are forever changed.”
Hogan’s voice wavered during her speech as she grappled to fight back tears and keep her composure.
“We can gather here today to grieve together and heal together,” she said.
Hogan read the names of each slain woman out loud, giving 14 white roses to female members of the Yukon’s engineering community.
Forty-two red roses were provided to the audience in a testament to the number of missing or murdered Indigenous women in the Yukon.
But the fight to eliminate misogyny is far from over, a point each speaker referred to in varying degrees.
“Sadly, in the three decades since the Montreal massacre, we’ve come to realize that (Marc) Lépine’s twisted thinking was not unique,” said Pamela Cross, a feminist lawyer from Ontario. “We now understand that there is a straight and strong line between violence against women and mass killings.”
While there have been some successes — how criminal law responds to sexual assault, for instance — “too much remains the same or is getting worse,” Cross continued.
“Sexual assault remains the most underreported crime in the country,” she said, noting that there are roughly 460,000 sexual assaults every year in Canada, according to the YWCA.
For every 1,000 of those incidents, Cross continued, 33 are reported to the police; of the latter number, 29 result in charges, six are prosecuted, three result in convictions.
“We move from 1,000 to three very, very quickly,” she said.
This year, there have been 132 women and girls killed in Canada in 11 months, Cross said.
“More women have been killed in Canada in acts of femicide this year than ever before,” she said.
“Until we end and address misogyny, our responses to violence against women will amount to little more than putting Band-Aids on wounds requiring major surgery,” Cross added.
There was a male speaker at the event — Steve Caram, a board member of White Ribbon Yukon, a male-driven organization to end violence against women and girls.
Caram conceded to living in “a bubble” previously, that he wouldn’t pay attention to the news because it was “depressing, sombre.”
“I didn’t want to have that darkness inside me,” he said, noting that this bubble of his was a “fun, safe, wonderful place.”
“As I stand here before you as a white male in Canada, I never realized all the doorways that are open to me, by default,” Caram said.
He eventually acknowledged the struggles of others and checked his privilege, he said.
“This is why we gather here today, not only to reflect, but to become aware, collectively, to understand, to, most importantly, take action,” Caram said. “And that’s something I’ve realized is worth attending, worth showing up for, to figure out how we can all take action to prevent such violence from happening again in our community and in our society.”
Contact Julien Gignac at email@example.com