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Statement on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women

We the North
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On this day, December 6, we remember fourteen women who were murdered at l'École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989. On this day, fourteen women and countless others were subject to a brutal act of gender-based violence. On December 6, 1989, armed student, Marc Lepine, vowed to avenge men in the name of “fighting feminism.”

On this day, the members of the Provincial Women’s Committee (PWC) highlight the disturbing extent and intensity of violence—both interpersonal and structural—that women are confronted with daily. We take note of women who are targeted for violence, in part because of erroneous perceptions that they somehow attract or deserve violence because of what they purportedly believe, or because women are seen as not conforming with traditional roles ascribed to women. According to this narrative, women like those at the l'École Polytechnique have no place in the university and should have no expectation of safety.

Against this prevailing view, the PWC calls for a different conversation about gender-based violence and rape culture that would confront the ways in violence and aggression against women is normalized and viewed as inevitable. We stand in support of a culture that believes women—all women, Trans, racialized, Aboriginal and disabled women—when they say have they have been assaulted. The PWC defends women’s rights to bodily autonomy and to choice, as well as to appropriate services and supports that actually take their needs into account.

Even more, on December 6, the PWC calls for reflection on the myriad ways in which systemic and structural violence impacts women—from gender wage discrimination to the laws and policies which often purportedly protect women yet result in untold harm to women and their families. This requires a critical and nuanced analysis of how laws like Bill S-7, Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, which are ostensibly intended to protect women from violence, actually create additional barriers that prevent women– women from racialized and marginalized communities–from reporting violence and accessing services.

In fact, the Bill explicitly targets racialized communities for attention since it criminalizes forced marriage, bars immigration and migration to some, and frames the problem of violence as a cultural one that requires specific intervention, even though this may mean that women themselves are detained or deported. Even though there is already legislation in place addressing forced marriages and polygamous unions, the Bill makes distinct and separate the application of criminal and immigration law in immigrant and racialized communities, constructing these communities as somehow worthy and deserving of additional scrutiny. The inflammatory rhetoric of the legislation coupled with its disturbing framing based on mischaracterization of violence in immigrant communities as somehow less than “enlightened and free”—demonstrates that the real purpose of the legislation is to target racialized communities for punishment. We encourage you to stand against the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act. Download our letter calling for the repeal of Bill S-7.

The PWC also stands with OPSEU Executive Board and organizations like Amnesty International, The World Health Organization and the ILO in calling for the full-decriminalization of sex work.

It is our position that the criminalization of sex work does not protect women, and certainly not Indigenous women, from violence. Rather, it often leads to arbitrary arrest and detention of Indigenous women and girls. It increases the threat of violence to sex workers, increases medical and welfare intervention, and reduces access to medical care and social services. The evidence, like that gathered by Amnesty International in its Consultation to develop a policy to protect the human rights of sex workers, demonstrates that criminalization of sex work only exacerbates women’s already existing marginalization and the discrimination that they face.

Further, the prevailing view that Indigenous women who are engaged in sex work are exploited, coerced or trafficked continues the legacy of colonial violence and the historical harms caused by residential schools and the sixties scoop. Where Indigenous women are viewed merely as “victims,” the justice system and untold social, health and welfare authorities are sanctioned to forcibly remove women and girls from their homes and detain them in the name of their protection. Download our letter demanding the full de-criminalization of sex work.

On this December 6, we also ask you to join us at OPSEU events in remembrance and action in ending violence against women:

London (Region 1)

Silent Walk/marche silencieuse

December 6, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., 285 King Street West

Please join Region 1 PWC for a silent walk/marche silencieuse in commemoration of all women affected by violence. All are welcome to attend. For more information, please contact Region 1 PWC Representative Christine Laverty at c.lavopseu@hotmail.com

St. Thomas (Region 1)

Candlelight Vigil

December 4, 5:30 p.m., Pinafore Park

Please join the Region 1 PWC for a candlelight vigil. All are welcome. For more information, please contact Region 1 PWC Representative Christine Laverty at c.lavopseu@hotmail.com.

Chatham-Kent (Region 1)

Chatham-Kent Film Night

December 2, 2015, 7 p.m., John D. Bradley Chatham-Kent Convention Centre, 565 Richmond Street West, Chatham

No Place to Hide: The Rehtaeh Parsons Story. The film will include a discussion about cyber-bullying, rape culture and victim-blaming. Parking is free and refreshments are provided. For more information, please contact Region 1 PWC Representative Christine Laverty at c.lavopseu@hotmail.com

See the event flyer attached below.

Hamilton (Region 2)

The Hamilton 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence event includes outreach and education on gender-based violence, a candlelight vigil and a human rights speaker.

Download the event flyer

  • Candlelight Vigil
    December 3, 2015, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Steelworkers Hall, 1030 Barton Street East, Hamilton
  • Candlelight Vigil and Presentation on Domestic Violence
    December 6, 2015, 3 p.m., OPSEU Hamilton Regional Office, Room 1, 505 York Boulevard, Hamilton
  • Human Rights Day Event
    December 10, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., OPSEU Hamilton Regional Office, Room 1, 505 York Boulevard, Hamilton. Talli Osbourne will inspire your activism with her presentation on human rights.

For further information on these events, please contact Shana Shipperbottom, Region 2 PWC Representative at shana_shipperbottom@hotmail.com.

Toronto (Region 5)

Vigil: Women Won't Forget

5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Region 5 PWC invites you to a candlelight vigil. Join us for a night of remembrance and reflection. All are welcome. Please meet at Tim Hortons, 246 Bloor Street West, at 5:30 p.m. before proceeding to the vigil at 6 p.m. at Philosopher’s Walk, University of Toronto. For more information, please contact Region 5 PWC Representative Laura Thompson at opseupwcr5@gmail.com or visit the Facebook event page.

See the event flyer attached below.

Thunder Bay (Region 7)

Service and Film Screening

December 6, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Please join the Region 7 PWC for a service, luncheon and activities for labour activists and unions in remembrance and action to end violence against women:

  • Service at 11 a.m., Unifor Office, 707 East Victoria Avenue
  • Luncheon at noon, Unifor Office
  • The service and luncheon will be followed by a film screening of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes at Silver City.

For more information, please contact Region 7 PWC Representative Elaine Kerr at keetbay@gmail.com