In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to gather every Dec. 6 to remember the women who were murdered by gunman Marc Lépine at a Montreal engineering school 30 years ago in 1989.
But we owe it to those victims, and all victims of violence against women, to continue to gather to remember – not only the lives that have been lost to family violence and those who will continue to lose their lives until the cycle of violence finally comes to an end.
In Amherst, the community will gather on Dec. 6 at noon at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre to recognize and commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
The event is being hosted by Autumn House and the interagency committee on family violence and will feature guest speaker Bev Walker, the executive director of the Millbrook Healing Centre.
On Dec. 6, 1989, Lépine entered a mechanical engineering class at École Polytechnique and ordered the women and men to the opposite sides of the classroom. He separated nine women, instructing the men to leave. He said he was ‘fighting feminism’ and opened fire – killing six. He would kill eight more as he roamed the cafeteria, corridors and another classroom before turning the gun on himself.
It was a horrible night in Canadian history – one in which many Canadians (not just woman) – remember where they were when the news broke of the shooting in Montreal. It’s a Canadian tragedy that helped change the mindset of a nation when it comes to gun control in Canada and it also led to changes in how police respond to shootings – something that was later credited with minimizing casualties 17 years later at another shooting at Dawson College.
We are so fortunate in that we haven’t had another Montreal Massacre since, but the campaign to end family violence and violence against women continues. And while gains have been made – including a zero tolerance approach by police when investigating and prosecuting these incidents – much more work is needed.
It would great to see the day when facilities such as Autumn House are no longer needed in our community and women can live and work in their communities and their homes without the fear of being abused physically, emotionally or financially because of the gender. They also shouldn’t have to fear the stigma that comes along with being the victim in an abusive relationship.
While we may dream of the day when violence against women is a thing of the past, just as we dream of a day when violence against the LGBTQ+ community is history, walking into any women’s shelter in this province shows its very much alive and a part of the lives of too many families.
Events such as Dec. 6 serve to remind us of the need to continue working in advocacy on behalf of women living in abusive relationships and those who have died and will continue to die until we as Nova Scotians and Canadians say enough and take a united stand that stops the cycle of violence by helping abusers realize it’s not the answer and gives children the positive reinforcement that there are much better ways to solve disputes that may arise. As unlikely as this is – at least in the near future – we can still dream about a violence-free society. Maybe it isn’t wishful thinking.