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 that day in 1989 at Montréal's École Polytechnique simply because they were women. It was a hideously shocking event but the rage of gender-based violence is very familiar to women, for more than half of all females in Canada will experience violence at some point in their lifetime.
Sometimes the assailant is a stranger, but often the violence lies closer to home. Over the past decade approximately 70 women a year have been murdered by their partners or ex-partners, and annually more than 25,000 women have reported they've been the target of a domestic assault.
Without a safe emergency shelter to escape to, women trapped in a violent household will remain targets, and their children traumatized. The Harper government has a role to play that must include funding to expand access to emergency shelters and affordable housing for women locked in abusive relationships. Reducing violence also requires more funding to agencies to provide counseling and vocational training for victimized women to rebuild a safer, independent life.
Gender-based violence at work must also be confronted because murder — not accidents — is the leading cause of workplace death for women. Workers, their unions and employers must continue to be vigilant in enforcing a zero-tolerance workplace policy regarding verbal, psychological, physical and sexual harassment.
As a community, we must also join together to acknowledge and confront the factors and attitudes that contribute to violence against our Sisters.
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.
A number of gatherings across Canada will commemorate December 6 — the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. A partial listing can be found here.