National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women - École Polytechnique
Projects such as the TAP-EDM are one of many ways in which expertise can be shared across national borders, with the goal of achieving gender-equality on an international scale. On December 6 and this week, as we mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women, we renew our commitment to combatting GBV in all its forms. As part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence international campaign, this article was written by Anju Fujioka, one of the TAP Canadian Experts working in Gambia – Building capacity of the Gambia’s ordinary criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual and gender-based violence.
National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women
On December 6, 1989, a gunman murdered 14 women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal. It was a devastating act violence, misogyny, and hate. It was a targeted attack on feminism, women, and their pursuit of gender equality.
In 1991, the Parliament of Canada declared December 6th to be the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. On this day, we mourn and commemorate the 14 women who lost their lives in the senseless massacre. We also reflect on the gender-based violence (GBV) that continues to plague our societies and take time to think about the ways in which we can combat the issue. This day falls within the United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, which started on November 25, 2022 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and ends on December 10, 2022 (Human Rights Day).
Awareness of sexual and gender-based violence is increasing, in no small part due to the relentless advocacy of survivors, advocates, and civil society organizations. The progress made to date would not have been possible without the investments and commitments at the governmental level. However, GBV remains a reality. Certain groups, such as Indigenous women and girls, racialized women, women living in rural and remote communities, people in 2SLGBTQI+ communities, and women with disabilities, are at even greater risk to experience GBV.
In addition to long-standing issues with gender inequality, we have seen new and emerging trends that cause serious concern.
The Covid-19 pandemic, and the associated restrictions on movement, created a “shadow pandemic” of GBV. Women and children were isolated at home with their abusers and the severity of GBV increased. Help and safety became less accessible. In recognition of this, the UN called on
“all States and relevant stakeholders worldwide to take urgent steps to prevent the pandemic of femicide or gender related killings of women, and gender-based violence against women, through the establishment of national multidisciplinary prevention bodies or Femicide watches/observatories on violence against women.”
We will be dealing with the effects of this shadow pandemic for years to come. Nationally and globally, we also see troubling increases in anti-feminist rhetoric and action. We see retaliation against activists who fight to eradicate GBV and gender inequality. The rates of femicide remain high.
The path to gender-equality is neither short nor easy. Eradicating GBV is difficult work that takes investments and commitments by all sectors in society. Canada still has a long way to go. However, we should not minimize the feminist movements and efforts of survivors and advocates that have driven significant policy changes and led to investments in GBV prevention. Improvements are also being made in creating survivor-centric systems and options for safety, accountability, justice, and healing. Canada has learned from initiatives to combat GBV in other countries. There is also a wealth of knowledge and experience that Canadian survivors, advocates, and experts can share on the global scale.