This Friday (Dec. 6) marks the 30th anniversary of the mass shooting at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal.
In 1989, 14 women were killed, cutting short their promising lives, leaving their families grieving their loss – simply because they were women.
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, and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz were killed that day because they were targeted due to their gender.
For three decades, as Canadians we have marked this anniversary as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
But while many things have changed in that time, the truth is that women, girls and LGTBQ+ individuals across Canada continue to be subjected to violence on a daily basis.
Gender-based violence affects everyone regardless of who you are. Every single person in Canada should be concerned about this issue and engaged in conversations on how to take action against it.
Violence affects those who are targeted directly, and the rest of society overall. Women, girls and the LGTBQ+ community experience violence at a disproportionate rate than others. And even more so for Indigenous women, girls and LGTBQ+ people.
In fact, the violence against Indigenous women and girls is so far reaching and pervasive the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls reached the conclusion earlier this year that it amounts to genocide.
So it is 2019, in Canada, where we boast of being a G7 country with a high quality of life, democratic institutions and charter of rights and freedoms. Yet every single day in this country the pervasive system of violence against Indigenous women and girls – this genocide – continues. This must not be allowed to continue.
But how do we, as individuals, do something to affect change and take action against gender-based violence?
The first step is to listen and learn from the experiences of those experiencing gender-based violence. That means believing survivors when they share how they have been affected by violence.
The second step is to speak out – call out gender-based violence when you encounter it in your life. All of us can do better at intervening and finding safe ways to help when we encounter gender-based violence as well.
According to statistics from the Status of Women Canada, over half of Canadian women have been the victim of at least one act of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
Gender-based violence is entirely preventable and all of us know someone whose life has been permanently altered as a result.
A third way to see results on this issue is to support those organizations working in our communities to end violence.
In the Bow Valley, a region home to 30,000 plus residents that welcomes more than four million visitors a year, there is only one emergency shelter bed available for those in crisis.
The YWCA Banff is working steadfastly to create a community hub and women’s emergency shelter in Canmore to increase the resources available for those who need a safe space as a result of intimate partner violence. The Y has been supported by the Bow Valley community in its pursuit of this project and that is one way we can all be allies.
Because our actions matter when it comes to this issue. Whether these actions are to support groups like the Y, listening to and survivors, or speaking up when we encounter this type of violence. Together we can prevent and address this issue – it’s about time.