A woman holds white roses adorned with the names of fourteen murdered female students during a ceremony in Montreal, Dec. 6, 2015, to remember the victims of the Polytechnique massacre on Dec. 6, 1989. Trigger warning: This article includes descriptive language that may be triggering for survivors of gender-based violence.
Twenty-nine years ago, a man entered a packed classroom at l’École Polytechnique, the engineering school at l’Université de Montréal. He told all the men to leave the room. "J’haïs les féministes," he said to the women who were forced to remain: "I hate feminists." He shot all nine women, and then headed out the corridor, where he stalked the hallways looking for more women to hurt.
By the time he had finished he had killed 14 women . Ten other women and four men were injured.
Every Dec. 6 since has been marked as National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women . But nearly three decades later, "we’re still living in a society where violent misogyny is alive and well," says Paulette Senior , the president of the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
Women are still being killed because they’re women, Senior told HuffPost Canada — sometimes in acts of mass violence, sometimes by their intimate partners. An injured person is wheeled away from the Université de Montréal after a gunman opened fire in a packed classroom in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989. "I started working in [women’s] shelters in ’83, and I really thought that in ten years’ time there would be no need for shelters," Silvia Samsa, who’s now executive director of Women’s Habitat , a shelter on the west side of Toronto, told HuffPost Canada. "And yet, here we are."
Samsa points out that 2018 saw one of the country’s most deadly gendered attacks since the Polytechnique massacre. On April 23, a 25-year-old man rammed a van down a busy part of Yonge Street in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 16 others . The suspect is believed to be an "incel," a member of a community where " involuntarily celibate " men react with hostility and violence to women who won’t have sex with them.
Samsa sees a very clear thread connecting those two attacks: "There’s still very much this sceptre of men who actually hate women," she says. Flowers and messages at a memorial during an inter-faith vigil at Nathan Phillips Square in memory of the 10 people killed and 16 people after the deadly van attack. And domestic abuse is still a " serious, pervasive and systemic problem " in Canada, according to UN envoy Dubravka Šimonović, who made an investigative visit in May. The Canadian Women’s Foundation has said that a woman is killed by her intimate partner every six days . So far this year, 131 women have been murdered in Canada . Indigenous women face even more violence than anyone else: they are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women.
All of these things should be recognized as significant problems, Samsa says, rather than as niche curiosities. "This is not a woman’s issue," Samsa says. "We need good men to step up."
Leanne Townsend, a lawyer and life coach who specializes in domestic violence and divorce, echoes her statements: "It’s a societal issue."
Spousal abuse is kept propped up, in part, because of a variety of widely-held misconceptions about who it affects and what it might look like, both women say. As a lawyer, Townsend sees women "from all walks of life, different socioeconomic backgrounds, different levels of education."
"Domestic violence does not discriminate," Samsa says. "It happens in Forest Hill" — an affluent neighbourhood in […]
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