The 14 Young Women Massacred at the Polytechnique in Montreal Remembered Across Canada on December 6 as Women Redicate Themselves to the Struggle for Justice and Equality

Monday, July 26 2010

Geneviève Bergeron. Hélène Colgan. Nathalie Croteau. Barbara Daigneault. Anne-Marie Edward. Maud Haviernick. Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz. Maryse Laganière. Maryse Leclair. Anne-Marie Lemay. Sonia Pelletier. Michèle Richard. Annie St-Arneault. Annie Turcotte.

Fourteen women killed because they were women. Thirteen engineering students who never got to graduate, and one secretary who, apparently, was pregnant. After asking all men to leave, Marc Lépine walked into the classroom and started firing his semi-automatic weapon on the women while screaming "I hate feminists!". What was their offence? Being selected by the institution instead of men to have their chance at a career with prospects...

The local feminist movement would go through a period of fragility and hesitation. In the world and especially in Quebec, there was a surge of antifeminism that can still be felt today. Many young women do not want to be associated with feminism, although they all take advantage in its entitlements, particularly in the field of education and even more so in the traditionally male-dominated fields, such as technology.

Ceremonies and marches were held across Canada on the 15th anniversary of the tragedy of the Polytechnique and to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

In Montréal, a ceremony took place at Place du 6 décembre 1989 at the corner of Queen-Mary and Decelles. The Fondation du 6 décembre asked the public to send  texts containing thoughts and reflections concerning this tragedy to be printed in a future publication. Fourteen of the texts were read at Memorial Park. A candlelight march then proceeded from Place du 6 décembre to Saint-Joseph's Oratory, where a concert by the Modulation Choir took place.

In Toronto, commemoration events were held at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, York University and by many other women's centres and feminist organizations.

In Ottawa, a vigil was held at the Women's Monument to honour and grieve all women who have died as a result of male violence, followed by a fundraiser for Harmony House, while in Brant, Ontario, the Sexual Assault Centre organized a workshop on sexual harassment in the workplace, followed by a vigil and potluck.

Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter hosted a day-long series of workshops, interactive games, plays and speaches by women, including the Honourable Iona Campagnolo, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.

Other cememonies, marches, seminars and meetings were held in cities large and small to remember, to mourn, and to redicate ourselves to the struggle for justice for all women in Canada and the world.

As part of this struggle, the Canadian Labour Congress has launched a campaign that looks at 15 ways to end violence against women. To be safe at home and at work, to feel free from threat in the world, women need social, political and economic equality:

  1. Women need safe and affordable housing.
  2. Women need reliable economic safety nets like Employment Insurance.
  3. Women need to know that welfare rates will keep them above the poverty line.
  4. Women need universal access to quality, dependable childcare.
  5. Women need the opportunity for an education that is affordable.
  6. Women need better wages and pay equity.
  7. Women need security in their old age that a solid public pension brings.
  8. Women need support and shelter from violence.
  9. Women need better protection from sexual violence under the law.
  10. Women need a justice system that protects them from abuse.
  11. Women need shelters that can accommodate their disabilities.
  12. Women need organizations that promote their equality on many fronts.
  13. Women need better harassment protection in the workplace.
  14. Women need to be treated fairly in the immigration process.
  15. Women need to be safe around the world from war and abuse.

In their media release, the CLC stated: We will never know what the 14 women killed on December 6, 1999, would have accomplished if they hadn't had their lives cut so short. We will never see the bridges they dreamed of building. We will never stand on the sidewalk and gaze up at the skyscrapers that sprang from their imagination. Their parents will never hold those daughters' children.

They will never grow old and hold grandchildren of their own. Like countless other women across the country and around the world, their potential for greatness was snuffed out just as it was beginning. We will never see their dreams come to life.

It is the job of those of us who go on living to realise those dreams on their behalf. To open the doors to education and opportunity to women.

To ensure that their children are cared for in quality child care centres. To offer a safe harbour to women who are persecuted for their gender or sexuality in their home country. To work and fight to make sure that the country and the world is a safe place for girls to grow up. To ensure that no more women are killed before their dreams are fulfilled.

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