Every year students and staff gather at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) to recognize violence against women.
The annual event is to commemorate the Montreal Massacre and Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
The Montreal Massacre occurred on Dec. 6, 1989, when Marc Lépine killed 14 female engineering students at École Polytechnique.
He shot the women claiming he was “fighting feminism” in a targeted attack. It has since been remembered annually as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women to raise awareness of gender-based violence.
The victims of the 1989 massacre were Geneviève Bergeron, 21; Hélène Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Klucznik, 31; Maryse Laganière, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 22; Sonia Pelletier, 23; Michèle Richard, 21; Anne St-Arneault, 23; and Annie Turcotte, 21.
“We come together today of solemn remembrance of 14 beautiful souls their lives taken from the earth so quickly in a violent act against humanity. We come together to create a safer space and protected space,” said Lheildi T’enneh Elder and UNBC Chancellor Darlene McIntosh.
She began the memorial with a territorial acknowledgment and opening prayer.
“The world today has too much hate, too much violence, and it's far too easy and far too normalized,” said UNBC President, Geoff Payne.
“As the president of UNBC it is my commitment to ensuring that all of our campuses are welcoming places of all and that nobody should be subjected to any hate violence or anything on those lines.”
Coun. Tim Bennett also attended the memorial and spoke on behalf of Mayor and Council.
“Today we remember those women and all of those who have been victims of violence because of their gender,” said Bennett.
“We remember the status of women, girls, LGBTQ+, and two-spirited people have been hard won. We acknowledge that even today there are those who would see their status and equity being taken away from them. It is so important that we remember the numbers are staggering but they are not just numbers to talk about. Behind every statistic of gender-based violence are people.”
He then read statistics from a 2019 survey indicating that women in Canada are almost four times more likely than men to be assaulted at least once since the age of 15.
More than one in 10 women aged 15 to 24 were sexually assaulted in the year before completing the survey and more than six in 10 women aged 15 to 24 experienced unwanted sexual behaviours in a public place one year prior to completing the survey.
“Events like this one can help create awareness and allies. Together we can create a word where safety and equality of all people is a reality,” added Bennett.
Teresa Healy, a PhD adjunct professor at the School of Planning, Sustainability and gender studies, also read a poem she’s written to commemorate the day.
“So many years now since that night glued to the CBC in shocked and disbelief. It couldn’t be? Not shot to death not in Canada? It couldn’t be? Not four? Wait six? Wait how many?” read Healy.
“And how so many years later we have to ask has anything really changed? With the horror of another gay club shooting only four days ago? And women still part of the marginalized minorities and still dying violent deaths and powerless to make change, to make justice happen for ourselves, seeing our hard-earned battles washed away in the rising tide of right-wing extremism?”
Toward the end of the ceremony, the Khastan Drummers performed three songs followed by a few more speakers from both UNBC and CNC.
The ceremony was hosted by both UNBC and CNC as well as the Northern Women’s Centre and Inspiring Women Among Us.
The UNBC community came together on Wednesday to take a stand against gender-based violence.— University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) (@UNBC) November 23, 2022
Students, faculty and community members reflected on the horrors of gender-based violence and the 14 lives lost on Dec. 6, 1989, at École Polytechnique in Montreal.