Gender-based violence is still alive: remember and take action

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Woman - Dec 6

On December 6, we commemorate the lives of fourteen women who died as a result of the massacre École Polytechnique de Montréal:

Geneviève Bergeron, 21; Hélène Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz​, 31; Maryse Laganière, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 22; Sonia Pelletier, 23; Michèle Richard, 21; Annie St-Arneault, 23; and Annie Turcotte, 21.

A December 6 message from the OPSEU Provincial Women’s Committee

On December 6, 1989 a man walked into the École Polytechnique de Montréal, armed with a gun, and murdered fourteen women before taking his own life. In his suicide note, he stated that his goal was to “send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker.” This tragic event, which came to be known as the Montreal Massacre, was the impetus for December 6 becoming recognized as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in 1991.

Decades later, gender-based violence is still a reality for too many women and girls, and the violence and misogyny that inspired the horrific hate crime in 1989 is still very much alive. Ending this reality, and the rape culture that enables it, is a priority for the OPSEU Provincial Women’s Committee (PWC), and while there is still so much that needs to be done, there is also hope for new possibilities.

Part of what makes violence against women and girls so alarming is the scale and intensity of the harassment and violence women are confronted with daily. Violence can no longer be viewed as simply limited to physical acts of assault. There are myriad ways in which systemic and structural violence impact women – from gender wage discrimination to laws like Bill S-7, Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act. Last year, the PWC successfully mobilized against the bill; it was ostensibly designed to protect women from violence, but actually prevented them from reporting and accessing services.

In recognition of the disproportionate levels of systemic violence faced by racialized, Indigenous, lesbian and trans women, and women with disabilities, the PWC also supported a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, as well as the call to rectify violence against Indigenous women in the Truth and Reconciliation Report. The PWC continues to demand that all levels of government acknowledge the link between violence against Indigenous women and the legacy of residential schools.

Today, digital communications technology is adding to the multiple forms of violence women face. In too many digital forums, women and girls are viciously trolled, hacked, spammed, and harassed in ways never before imagined. In 2015, the United Nations recognized cyber violence as just as damaging to women as physical violence.

Offline world events such as the verdict in the Jian Ghomeshi trial and the presidential election in the United States have made it clear that we still live in a rape culture that normalizes and excuses all forms of gender-based violence. In delivering his verdict in the Ghomeshi trial, Ontario Court Justice William Hopkins blamed the complainants, calling them “deceptive and manipulative in giving their evidence.” Recently, during the United States election, a videotape surfaced of new President-Elect Donald Trump admitting to sexual assault. Both of these instances are prime examples of why survivors of domestic and sexual violence do not come forward: namely, the fear that when they do, they will not be believed — even at a a police station or hospital. And frankly, women do not come forward because even when a man admits to engaging in acts of violence, he can still get elected President of the United States.

While 2016 has been a difficult year, there has also been an unprecedented resurgence of feminism both online and in the streets that has shifted how we talk about sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of gender-based violence.

The PWC endorsed the “We Believe Survivors” rally and march that was organized in response to the Ghomeshi verdict. The rally was as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with survivors and to change the public conversation. This conversation extended online where hashtags such as #IBelieveSurvivors and #WeBelieveSurvivors are now commonplace. One of the legacies of the social media campaign has been that, while it may not have changed the verdict, it helped change the culture on sexual violence. It empowered people to speak out and it made it possible to address gender-based violence in real and meaningful ways.

There has also been progress towards creating the kinds of workplaces needed to end violence against women. In Ontario, NDP MPP Peggy Sattler’s Bill 26, which the PWC has endorsed, passed second reading. Once passed, this bill would provide employees who have experienced domestic or sexual violence with up to 10 days paid leave and flexible work arrangements. Leave provisions such as these are incredibly important because they create job protections for women who are most likely to work in low-wage and precarious jobs. More than this, domestic/sexual violence provisions are equity-promoting tools that help address the gender wage gap and workplace inequalities that disproportionately impact racialized, Indigenous, and immigrant women, as well as women with disabilities.

The OPSEU Provincial Women’s Committee urges OPSEU members to honour all women and girls who live with violence, have survived violence, or have died due to violence. Please join us in taking action by attending the vigils and commemorative events in your region (listed below).

– Laura Thompson, Chair, OPSEU Provincial Women’s Committee

Actions you can take:

  1. Take action in support of survivors and against cyber-based violence and join the #IBelieveSurvivors movement
  2. Sign the OFL’s "Pledge to Make Paid Leave for Domestic and Sexual Violence Survivors a Collective Bargaining Priority" at
  3. Call for a meaningful inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women, and support organizations like the Native Women’s Association of Canada
  4. Support the campaign to close the Gender Wage Gap
  5. Attend a commemorative event in your region or community

December 6 Events across Ontario:


Film Screening and Discussion: Highway of Tears

Date:  December 6, 2016
Time:  6:30 p.m.
Place: Active Lifestyle Centre, 20 Merritt Avenue, Chatham

The Chatham-Kent Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee presents a documentary about the women and girls, missing and murdered along a 724 kilometer stretch of highway in northern British Columbia. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, 519-354-8908


National Day of Remembrance and Action Candlelight Vigil

Date:   Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time:   6:30 p.m.
Place: The Boathouse, 116 Gordon Street, Guelph

On December 6, join the vigil to remember, reflect and respond to the 14 women who were shot in Montreal in1989. The event will commemorate those who have been taken from us, encourage reflection on the prevalence of violence in our communities and move to action as we respond to social injustices that perpetuate gender based violence.


National Day of Remembrance and Action: Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women.


Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016


11:30 a.m. Keynote speaker: Robyn Bourgeois; Respondent: Bev Jacobs

1:00 p.m. Confirmation of new plaque and white pine trees in honor of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

All day: poster display in Indigenous Studies Program ceremonial space and   art exhibition around campus as part of the REDress campaign

Place: Social Sciences Community Room, Wilson Hall, McMaster University (Sterling Avenue Entrance)

For more information, contact the anti-violence network at

Dowload the event poster dec6event_mmiw_2016.pdf


National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women Vigil

Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Place: HARS, 844a Princess St., Kingston

The Anti-Violence Advisory Council will host the commemorating those lives lost in the Montreal Massacre as well as those women locally and across Ontario killed through gender-based violence. The event also aims to raise awareness of the prevalence of violence against women, while offering solace and support for those who have survived gender-based violence, as well.

The vigil will include a series of speakers discussing the issue and the action needed to combat it before a candlelit vigil and rose-laying ceremony. During that ceremony, the names of the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre, as well as women murdered in Ontario and Kingston will named and commemorated. The ceremony is followed by the Caledonias, an all-female a cappella choir from Queen’s University.

London and region

The REDress project

A co-sponsorship of Fanshawe’s Sexual Violence Prevention Advisor and First Nations Center

Date:  Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time:  All day
Place: F Hallway, Fanshawe College

For more information contact:

December 6 Vigil

Sponsored by Women’s Rural Resource Center.

Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 11:30 a.m.
Place: 34 Frank Street, Strathroy, ON

For more information,

Ritual of Remembering

Sponsored by the Circle Women's Collective

Date: December 6, 2016
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Place: Auditorium, St. James Building, Brescia UC

For more information,

Candlelight Vigil

Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Place: Women’s Monument, Victoria Park

For more information, contact:

Download the event poster dec_6_-london_poster_-_pdf.pdf


National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women Community Vigil

Outdoor Vigil

Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Place: Women’s Monument at Minto Park, (Elgin and Gilmour)

Indoor Vigil

Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: First United & All Saints Westboro Churches (347 Richmond Rd, just west of Churchill)

For more information, Women’s Events Network, 613-230-6700 (; or First United, 613-232-1016 (

Oxford County

December 6th Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women Vigil

Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Place: Woodstock Courthouse Monument, 415 Hunter Street


December 6 Annual Remembrance Vigil and Shoe Memorial


Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Place: Mississauga's City Hall in the Great Hall

Peel Committee Against Woman Abuse (PCAWA) in partnership with the Art Gallery of Mississauga (AGM) and the City of Mississauga's Cultural Division will be hosting a rose vigil to remember the 14 women who lost their lives on December 6th, 1989 in the Montreal Massacre at École Polytechnique, along with the women who have lost their lives to gender-based violence in Peel Region in the past 10 years and the many missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada. PCAWA's annual vigil ceremony will include live singing performances, poetry and inspirational survivor speakers.

A shoe memorial of over 500 pairs of shoes will be on display in the Great Hall for the entire day of Dec 6th. The shoe memorial was originally adopted from the City of Vancouver's Shoe Memorial ( Similarly, each pair of shoes at this event will be representative of the women and girls across Canada that have lost their lives due to gender-based violence.

Sault Ste. Marie

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women Memorial

Hosted by Women In Crisis

Date:Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Place: The Gallery: Banquet Room L1120 (Sault College, off Willow Ave.)



Pack a Purse

Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 12:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m.
Place: Sudbury Labour Council Office, 109 Elm Strett, Suite 209

Donate items to pack a purse at the Sudbury and District Labour Council office. For more information,

Thunder Bay and Region

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women Vigil


Date: Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Place: Lakehead University Agora

For more information, Sherrie-Lee Petrie at


Women Won't Forget: December 6 Vigil

Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 5:30 p.m., vigil starts at 6:00 p.m.
Place: meet at Tim Hortons, 246 Bloor St W; Vigil Location: Philosophers Walk, University of Toronto

Facebook Event:


Candlelight Vigil and Reception

Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Time: 5:30 p.m., reception to follow at 6:00 p.m.
Place: Memorial of Hope (between Dillon and Essex Halls), Reception in the Ambassador Auditorium, CAW Student Centre