December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. On this day in 1989, 14 young women were killed by a lone gunman at École Polytechnique in Montreal. This was a blatant act of femicide that changed the discussion around violence against women in Canada. It resulted in the implementation of stricter laws, harsher sentences for offenders, and put the safety of women and girls at the forefront.
Yet, more than 30 years later, violence against women and girls continues to rise – not only in Canada but all over the world. Global statistics from the United Nations reveal that on average, out of 161 countries studied by the World Health Organization between 2000 and 2018, nearly one in three women had been subjected to physical and or sexual violence.
The statistics are just as troubling in Ontario. On April 21, 2018, the van attack on Yonge Street in Toronto killed 11 women and injured 15 more. According to the Annual Femicide list issued by the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses and researchers at the University of Guelph , as many as 58 women and girls were killed in Ontario in the past 12 months. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have also seen a sharp rise in incidents of domestic violence against women, and women continue to be sexually harassed in public and virtual spaces.
This year, as we honour the victims of the Montreal massacre, we reaffirm our commitment to collective action to end all forms of violence, against all women. We will continue to honour the many innocent women and girls who have lost their lives to violence, including the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in this county whose stories have yet to be told.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First-Vice President/Treasurer
Dianne Clarabut, Chair, OPSEU/SEFPO Provincial Women’s Committee