32nd Anniversary of the Polytechnique Tragedy
National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women Marked with Militant Demands as Situation Worsens
December 6 marked the 32nd anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre, a tragic event experienced by the people of Quebec and all of Canada. On December 6, 1989, an individual opened fire on twenty-eight people, killing fourteen women and injuring ten women and four men. Ever since the tragedy, thousands of women and their organizations have used the yearly commemoration to advance the agenda for the elimination of violence against women and for a public authority that takes up its social responsibility and guarantees their rights and the rights of all.
To commemorate the memory of the victims, murdered because they were women, and of all women who are victims of violence, many activities were organized again this year. Between November 25 and December 6, the 12 Days of Action to End Violence Against Women campaign comprised film screenings, workshops, vigils, zoom meetings and other activities in various cities across Quebec, including Montreal, Quebec City, Gatineau, Victoriaville, Sherbrooke, Rimouski and Amos. Canada-wide, workers’, community and other organizations also held vigils, issued statements commemorating the victims of the Polytechnique tragedy and denounced all forms of violence against women.
On December 6, as is the case every year, 14 light beams lit up the Montreal sky from the Kondiaronk Lookout located in front of the Mount Royal chalet.
Due to a winter ice storm, the 12 Days of Action to End Violence Against Women Committee held the event that was to take place at Montreal’s Place du 6-Décembre-1989 park, virtually on zoom and social media. The theme of the event was “Remove the Confines Around the Conversation on Gender-Based Violence.” Speakers argued for the need to have women’s voices resound, to amplify the sharing of their experiences and solutions, in workplaces as well as in neighbourhoods and communities and in society as a whole. Breaking the silence on what women are saying, on them being able to live without fear and in safety in schools, hospitals and on the street was a dominant theme throughout the interventions.
A minute of silence in memory of the victims was observed, during which each of their names appeared on screen. Interventions took the form of brief presentations and songs and poems. Speeches denounced the particularly violent targeting of Indigenous, Black and racialized women and girls. Others called for increased government funding for women’s shelters, centres and community organizations working with women. One of the issues raised was the glaring lack of services for women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence.
The meeting called upon everyone to go all out to have women’s voices resound throughout the society.
The Regroupement des groupes de femmes de la Capitale-Nationale rallied women and allies at a march at Parc de l’Amérique française on December 8. The event was a silent march with lanterns followed by women speaking in front of the National Assembly at the end of the event.
On Monday December 6, at noon, people gathered in Mémoire d’Elles Park in Gatineau for a remembrance vigil marking the end of a twelve-day campaign of action for the elimination of all forms of violence committed against women. The ceremony was organized by various help centres and shelters for women in the sectors of Gatineau, Hull, Aylmer and Buckingham, as well as Chelsea and AGIR Outaouais, a regional collective of women’s defence organizations.
The remembrance vigil was dedicated to the memory of the 14 women killed at École Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6, 1989, the 18 women killed in Quebec by their spouses or ex-spouses in 2021 and the murdered or disappeared Indigenous women and girls. After the name of each murdered woman was read out loud, a white rose was placed on the Jeannine Boissonneault Monument, along with a white feather for Indigenous women and girls.
The organizers who spoke at the vigil pointed out the importance of supporting the movement for the elimination of all forms of violence committed against women. The number of women and children seeking help and refuge in the face of domestic violence has risen drastically during the pandemic, resulting in over 1,000 requests per month in the Outaouais, a number well beyond what the women’s centres and shelters are capable of dealing with.
Speakers emphasized the need for increased investments, so as to allow those who intervene to have the means to properly protect women and children who are threatened. They also pointed to the fact that the situation must be looked at within the context of the overall impoverishment of society, and the importance of the fight against poverty, which can render women and their children vulnerable to violence, including the dangers of living on the streets because of a lack of housing and proper resources.
(Photos: RU, PS, CALACs Abitibi, Maison Unies-Vers-Femmes, RGFCN)