On Dec. 6, 1989, 14 women were murdered in Montreal simply because they were not men.
They were students and staff of L’Ecole Polytechnique.
They had promising futures.
The world would be a better place if they were alive today.
In alphabetical order, their names were Genevieve Bergeron, Helene Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganiere (the only non-student killed, who worked in the engineering school’s budget department), Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michele Richard, Annie St-Arsenault and Annie Turcotte.
Thirteen more people were injured in the attack perpetrated by Mark Lepine, who brought a semi-automatic assault rifle to the school that day and ended innocent lives filled with so much promise, because, as he said at the time, feminism had “ruined his life.”
In 1991, the Parliament of Canada established Dec. 6 as the National Day of Remembrance for these women.
Gloria Jackson, Coordinator of Community Based Victim Services with the Campbell River Family Services Society (CRFS), says society in general has come a long way in terms of gender-based violence since then, but we’ve still got a long way to go.
“I’d like to think that it is changing. I’d like to think that we have made some headway over the last 30 years,” she says, citing the current situations of celebrities accused of violence being held accountable by the public in ways they may not have been before.
“(Jian) Ghomeshi, and (Ray) Rice, and Bill Cosby just wouldn’t have been talked about 30 years ago,” she says, “so things are changing. People just can’t behave like that anymore. We just won’t accept that.”
She says it’s like the changing attitudes over the years towards child discipline or drinking and driving, in that society has realized the real harm being caused.
“We have changed the way society views those things by people standing up and stepping in and educating our population,” she says. “We can do that with domestic violence, as well.”
When people see video like that of Janay Rice being beaten by her football-player husband, they are shocked, according to Jackson, “but the reality is that I see women every week in my job who have been assaulted like that.”
The RCMP responded to 421 domestic violence related calls in Campbell River in 2013. They responded to 90 sexual assault situations.
The currently accepted estimates, according to Jackson, say that approximately one quarter of all domestic violence situations and one tenth of sexual assaults are reported to the police. That means there were possibly upwards of 1,700 domestic violence altercations and 900 sexual assaults in our community last year.
“It’s definitely still something we need to work on in our community, in our country, in our world,” she says. “I don’t know that we ever had it and lost it, but we need to get it.”
If you or someone you know needs a place to turn, there are people who will listen. There are people who will help.
Contact Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-287-2421. Stop in to CRFS at 487 10th Avenue or go to www.crfs.ca where you can find a lengthy list of support services available within the community.
Even if you don’t need help, take some time to recognize the issue and remember those we have lost. Step up if you see it happening around you.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is a global initiative running from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, culminating with International Human Rights Day, which, according to Jackson, is extremely fitting.
“This issue,” Jackson says, “is about being respectful to other people. It’s about men respecting women. It’s about women respecting men. It’s about respectful relationships. Everybody, everybody, deserves respect. It doesn’t matter their gender, their age, their race, their sexuality, it doesn’t matter. They deserve to be respected and safe. It’s a human right.”
Watch the Mirror for more on domestic and sexual violence as we explore what we can all do to speed up the process of eradicating it.