Ottawa – The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, today issued the following statement on Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women:
“December 6, 1989 is a day that shook Canada to its core.
Its impacts reverberate to this day.
On this day, 31 years ago, a gunman entered a classroom at École Polytechnique Montréal, separated the women and the men, and opened fire on the women. He killed 14 young women in the engineering school, injured many more and wounded a nation. The women were his target. He sought them out, separated them from the men and yelled “You are all feminists,” as he turned his weapon on them.
Today, we honour the memory of the women we lost. The lives that ended too soon. We speak their names in remembrance, and in recognition of all victims of gender-based violence: Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.
This year, for the first time since that horrible night, people across Canada will not gather in the cold to light candles, lay roses and hold vigils. But even apart from each other and at home, we mourn together. We send survivors our love. We reflect on the progress of the status of women, the safety of our sisters and daughters, and the work that is left to do.
The Government of Canada is deeply grateful to our partners-essential workers from over 1,500 organizations who have remained open to provide safety and security to people fleeing abuse. Since the early days of the pandemic, they have responded heroically to the grim reality that necessary public health measures have trapped some of the most vulnerable women at home with their abusers. These organizations have informed our government’s response to COVID-19, and we will continue to support them in their essential work.
We continue to draw inspiration and guidance from them, and from those they serve, to shape our response to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice, to strengthen gun laws and to develop a National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence.
Despite the steps forward, the roots of hate, misogyny and sexism that motivate femicide remain. We must protect progress and remain focused on the road ahead. The work to ensure that all women in Canada are safe is far from done. At home, at work, at school, online, offline, in blatant ways, in insidious ways, women continue to face harassment, sexual assault, abuse and violence. Too many women still to live in fear, suffer in silence, and-far too often-encounter systemic failures in their protection and support. At particular risk are Black, Indigenous, and racialized women, newcomer women, women with disabilities, and women in the north and in rural and remote regions.
At its core, gender-based violence is about power and control. Power over women’s lives, and control of their bodies and place in the world. When survivors are empowered and have access to the supports they need, they can regain control. They can build new lives and ensure their loved ones are safe, cared for, and healthy. Rightfully, there remains outrage. But the courage and resilience of survivors and silence-breakers brings hope and inspiration. We will continue to listen to them, learn from them, and shape our response around their experiences.
Today, we remember the 14 lives lost at École Polytechnique. We acknowledge the many stories we may never know. We reaffirm to do better and be better for all women and girls. The Government of Canada will be there leading and working with everyone in Canada to ensure that women are safe, respected, and free to pursue their dreams.
If you know someone who is struggling, be there for them today. If you know a survivor, reach out. Let them know you are proud of them and that you love them.
Together, we can end violence against women. Canada’s recovery and prosperity depends on it.”
- Gender-based violence is a persistent issue in Canada. Women make up 79% of homicides by an intimate partner and about 40% of women in Canada have been physically or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives (since the age of 15).
- Over the past four years, with the help of the Minister’s Advisory Council, the Government of Canada has developed and implemented its first Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence.
- Financial supports to front line organizations have increased more than fivefold since 2015 and as part of the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, $100 million is being provided to sexual assault centres, shelters and organizations providing supports and services to women and children experiencing gender-based violence.
- The Government of Canada has built 7,000 new shelter units for survivors of violence, created 45,000 new affordable housing units and repaired or renovated another 60,700 units. The Government has also reviewed nearly 30,000 sexual assault cases categorized initially as “unfounded”.
- Through legislation, the Government of Canada has clarified the legal definition of consent.
- Through the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Government of Canada has committed $19 million to reduce human trafficking and support those most impacted and at greatest risk.
- In September 2020, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-3 to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code to make sure that newly-appointed provincial superior court judges are educated about gender-based violence and trained to recognize common biases, myths and stereotypes about sexual assault.
- This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, also known as the Bird Commission, which made 167 recommendations on actions to address gender inequality across Canada.