The tragedy at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique in 1989 may have occurred nearly three decades ago but the message heard in the immediate wake of the tragedy is as relevant now as it was then.
And that message – that violence against women fueled by a motive of anti-feminism must be stopped – was delivered once again at a vigil in Campbell River’s Spirit Square on Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 6).
“I think that violence against women is just as epidemic (now) as it was then,” said Anne Marie Long, 2SLGBTQIA+ Specialist at Foundry Youth Care.
On Dec. 6, 1989, a man motivated by a hatred of feminists shot and killed 14 female students and injured 13 other people at the Montreal engineering school.
Long was only in high school when the massacre took place but sees the importance of activism and spreading the message all these years later.
“It’s still a reality for indigenous folks, for queer and trans folks. We need to come together as a community to come against violence and come up with real solutions,” said Long.
Joining Long on stage in front of a receptive crowd of about 36 people who were likely taking their lunch break, were a group of women who have experienced domestic or gender-based violence within their lives and community: Not just feminists, but groups of Indigenous women, of the LGBT populace, and of the victims and survivors of Residential Schools as well.
These are communities of people who have experienced violence at an alarming rate: in 2019, around 30 per cent of all police-reported violence was domestic abuse. In 2021, with nearly 70 per cent of the victims being women or girls, that number increased for the fifth consecutive year. Among Indigenous women in 2021, more than 6-in-10 have been assaulted by the age of 15.
“Opening up my heart to the community, to make people know they are welcome,” said Lavern Henderson of Wei Wai Kum Nation, who led the crowd in an opening prayer. “The ones speaking out about the violence against ladies. I hope we stick together as a community to face it. We care.”