Toronto – December 6, 2018 – On December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, communities across the country gather to commemorate and reflect upon the tragic loss of 14 women students at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique who were brutally murdered in 1989, simply because they were female. Sadly, almost 30 years later, young women aged 15-34 remain at the highest risk of being the targets of violence.
While there is no easy fix to the elimination of gender-based violence, it is important to acknowledge this sad part of our history, and to further our work in advancing a woman’s right to live free from violence. One action is to participate in December 6 vigils taking place in communities across the country. Throughout the year, action must also include pressuring governments to do what they can to counter gender-based violence. Currently, the federal government does not have a National Action Plan on violence against women – even though a federal strategy to end violence was announced in 2017. So, actions to counter violence remain fragmented across the provinces, without a cohesive and unified national approach to systemically address the root causes of violence.
With regards to women’s shelters, a 2018 study by Women’s Shelters Canada showed that across the country, many shelters are overwhelmed, with women and their children often turned away because of lack of capacity. Additionally, many families who are living in the shelter system may have to stay for up to a year or more, because of the lack of affordable, transitional housing in the community.
Clearly, three decades after the Ecole Polytechnique tragedy, there is still much to be done – including the delivery of both a National Action Plan on violence against women, as well as a National Housing Plan – both long-overdue initiatives to reduce and remediate gender-based violence and its consequences. On December 6, let us also renew our own pledge to take action throughout the year to make our communities and workplaces safe and free from gender-based violence.
Paul R. Meinema