Toronto – December 2, 2013 – Each year on December 6 — the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women — we commemorate the loss of the 14 women who were murdered on December 6, 1989 at Montreal's École Polytechnique simply because they were women.
In this shocking tragedy the assailant was a stranger, but for tens of thousands of women in Canada, gender-based violence is a personal reality that is all too familiar. More than half of all females in Canada will experience violence at some point in their lifetime — typically at the hand of someone they know. Approximately 70 women a year are murdered by their partners or ex-partners, and annually tens of thousands of women report they are targets of a domestic assault.
Often these women (and their children) are trapped in violent households because of shortage of emergency shelters, or alternative affordable housing. Calls on the Harper government to make more money available to fund shelters have gone unanswered. In fact, the Harper government has gone in the opposite direction, by cutting funding to women's advocacy groups along with vocational training programs to help victimized women find employment. It is a heartless response that chooses to ignore that tens of thousands of women have no place to escape from gender-based violence.
What can we do as a community? Keeping the pressure on the government to face up to the crisis of gender-based violence is certainly important. As Canada's leading and most progressive union, we must also remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure that there is zero tolerance for any physical or psychological harassment in the workplace. As individuals, we also have the opportunity to acknowledge and confront the attitudes that contribute to violence against women.
December 6 is a day of remembrance, but it is also a day that must lead to action — at the political, community, and personal level.
Paul Meinema, President
UFCW Canada National Council