A very good article about the 20th anniversary of the murders of 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montreal. Written by Evelyn Myrie for The Hamilton Spectator (curiously, it was not available on www.thespec.com) and forwarded to me by the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton and Area).
These homicdes altered the gun control debate, making it clear to women that our safety was worth the expense of the gun registry. The same debate is taking place again, with MP after MP giving in to the gun lobby, which promotes the use of guns for hunting, and wants us to forget that their sales impact our safety.
88% of women killed by gunshot are killed using shotguns or rifles- the "hunting" weapons that the gun lobby wants exempted from the gun registry.
Visit www.rosecampaign.ca to send a rose to MPs who voted against long gun registration.
Mourn on Sunday, then resume the fight
By Evelyn Myrie
The Hamilton Spectator
Thursday, December 3, 2009
This Sunday, memorials will be set up in communities across Canada in memory of the 14 young women who were killed and 13 injured by a gunman who "hated feminists."
This Sunday will mark 20 years since a man with a semi-automatic rifle entered an engineering class at L'Ecole Polytechnique, separated the women from the men, and then murdered 14 women. He also had a "hit list" of an additional 19 high-profile women he identified as feminists, including Quebec's first female firefighter and the first female police captain.
On Dec. 6, 1989, our country lost 14 young women -- sisters, daughters, friends. We will remember these young women in services and vigils across this land this week:
Geneviève Bergeron, 21
Hélène Colgan, 23
Nathalie Croteau, 23
Barbara Daigneault, 22
Anne-Marie Edward, 21
Maud Haviernick, 29
Barbara Maria Klucznik
Maryse Leclair, 23
Annie St-Arneault, 23
Michèle Richard, 21
Maryse Laganière, 25
Anne-Marie Lemay, 22
Sonia Pelletier, 28
Annie Turcotte, 21
Mourning is an important step in the healing process. Taking time to reflect and remember these innocent young women is necessary and important. But it's not enough.
I'm inspired by the phrase, "First we mourn and then we act." Taking action is not always easy. Sometimes it means ruffling feathers or "speaking truth to power," and challenging systems. But it is necessary if we are to change the discourse that still keeps women at the social, economic and political periphery of our society.
Getting involved as an agent of change is not easy. But it is necessary. It sometimes means you will not be on some guest list. But that should not matter. The work for equality and social justice requires strength of character and perseverance.
The backlash against those who engage in women's equality work is keeping many women more silent than a decade ago when one could readily hear women's voices on issues of the day. Stigmatizing those who work for women's equality is the order of the day.
A good friend of mine told me she does her work more quietly now, because she is afraid her speaking out could make her a liability to her workplace. "I need to have a pension," she said. This friend spent decades fighting for women's equality, but felt the creeping "chilly climate" was too much to bear.
Twenty years ago, the Montreal Massacre became a galvanizing moment to fight violence against women across Canada. Twenty years later, violence against women remains a major problem in our society. On Dec. 6, do take time to mourn, but on Dec. 7, develop your action plan.
Let's use the day of mourning as a catalyst for renewed commitment and action to end women's unequal position in our society. Violence against women continues to be a serious problem across this country and in our local community as shelters are filled with women and children fleeing violence in their homes.
Addressing violence against women requires a comprehensive strategy that takes into account women's unequal position in our society. Women face higher levels of poverty, their wages are less than their male counterparts. Pay equity and access to child care are still unresolved issues facing Canadian women.
In Hamilton, there are still a few groups working to address women's equality issues.
Long-standing institutions such as the Hamilton YWCA have articulated the need to address issues such as poverty and fair wages. St. Joseph's Women's Centre also continues to add women's voices to community conversations. Women's shelters in Hamilton are also looking for support through fundraising and advocacy work.
When the community gathers to remember the Montreal Massacre this Sunday, let us be inspired to take action, to be a part of the solution, after we mourn.
This Sunday in Hamilton, starting at 1 p.m. there will be a National Day of Remembrance Memorial held at the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre at 51 Stuart St., with guest speaker Priscilla de Villiers who will talk about the controversy relating to gun control. Other speakers include Rosita Hall, former director of Second Stage Housing (now
closed) and Linda Ense of the Native Women's Centre.
First we mourn, then we act.
Freelance columnist Evelyn Myrie lives in Hamilton and is a former head of Hamilton's status of women subcommittee.