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:
“Today, from coast to coast to coast, roses will be laid, tears will be shed and candles will be lit as all Canadians turn their thoughts to the young women who lost their lives on December 6, 1989.
It was 30 years ago today, that an act of unspeakable violence occurred, an act that would shock Canadians, and would shape the actions and advocacy of the women’s movement and government for decades to follow. It was 30 years ago today when a gunman walked into a classroom at École Polytechnique Montréal, separated the women from the men and then opened fire on the women. Thirteen young women who were students and a female administrator died that day, and many others were wounded, simply because they were women.
This is a solemn day to rededicate ourselves to ending gender-based violence, because when those women were killed, we lost not only daughters, friends and colleagues, we lost all the potential that existed within each of them. We lost role models. We lost engineers. We lost community builders. We lost leaders who could have potentially had a hand in shaping this country. It was a tremendous loss for our nation. We will never know what they may have achieved.
Today, we honour their memory by speaking their names: 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.
Speaking their names reminds us that there are so many other victims of gender-based violence whose names and stories we may never know. Today we honour all of them, too.
This is a day to also recognize the important work of those who care for victims and survivors. This is a day to recognize the courage of survivors whose resilience reminds us why we must continue the fight to end gender-based violence. This is a day to recognize the advocates who have been championing the cause of ending gender-based violence, and who have brought government along to share the work.
We think of Nathalie Provost, who, on that day in 1989, confronted the gunman and was shot four times. She survived and is now a successful engineer. We think of Heidi Rathjen, who also survived the shooting and is now an advocate for stricter gun control. We are inspired by survivors and advocates who have risen from this act of violence, and made a clear and powerful call to action. We must respond to their courage with courage. Anything less is cowardice.
Too many lives have been lost. Too many families shattered by violence. Our government will take action to end gender-based violence, through the development of a National Action Plan, and firm action to strengthen gun control. We will never stop working to keep Canadians safe, and we will never forget the lives lost.
We are proud of our achievements, and know that much work remains ahead of us, but nothing we do can rewrite history. This anniversary will continue to serve as a reminder of what happens when misogyny and hatred are left unchecked. In honouring the memories of the women who were killed at École Polytechnique Montréal, and in speaking their names, they live on. They are inspirations to all of us, so that we may continue working together. Only by working together will we reduce and eliminate gender-based violence in all its forms.
Together, we will end gender-based violence by remembering and learning from our past, by listening to survivors, by challenging a culture that perpetuates gender-based violence, and by speaking up against harmful behaviour. Our actions matter every day. Together, we will realize an inclusive and prosperous future for every person in Canada and around the world.”
Office of the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development