Five things we can do to end violence against women

By Miranda Victoria

On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lépine walked in to l’École Polytechnique engineering school in Montréal armed with a suicide note and a Mini-14 model semi-automatic rifle.

Bursting into a mechanical engineering class, Lépine demanded the men and women separate to opposite sides of the classroom.

As the classmates dispersed, he opened fire on the women, proclaiming them all to be feminists.

He then moved through the hallways of the school, into the cafeteria and other classrooms, shooting as he went.

After killing 14 women, and injuring 14 more — including four men — Lépine shot himself in the head.

Authorities later revealed his suicide note named 19 feminists he intended to kill.

Three days of mourning were declared in Montréal, and 26 years later, Canadians continue to remember those who were innocently murdered for their gender.

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women  was established by the Federal government in 1991 to bring light to the issue and to honour the lives of Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault and Annie Turcotte.

On Dec. 6, a candlelight vigil is being held at Holland Park in Surrey from 5 to 6 p.m. in commemoration.

“On this day, we are reminded that violence, and the threat of violence, are daily realities for too many women and girls,” said Patty Hajdu, minister of status of women, in a statement issued Nov. 25.

“This violence victimizes women and their families and creates chaos in countless lives. In short — this is not just a women’s issue — it affects us all — and we must all be part of the solution.

“If each of us takes action, we can help make Canada safer, more respectful and supportive — not just for women and girls — but for all Canadians.”

Although these senseless murders occurred two decades ago, thousands of Canadian women are still facing abuse today.

Status of Women Canada has launched an online pledge found here: http://swc-cfc.gc.ca/commemoration/vaw-vff/pledge-en.php and list of five things we can all do now to help end violence against women.

1. WWYD?

“If you see a woman being threatened or assaulted, you don’t have to stand by and do nothing. Based on what you see, you may be able to defuse the situation by approaching the woman, perhaps along with others, and asking her if she is alright and whether she needs help. If you have concerns about your safety and that of the woman being harassed, you should call 911 and get the police involved.”

2. Drinking Thinking

“Taking advantage of a woman who’s had too much to drink is wrong. It is a crime to have sexual contact with a person without her voluntary consent. If you see a woman in a vulnerable situation, offer to help her get home safe. Speak up if any friend, or stranger, tries to ‘score’ with a woman who’s had too much to drink.”

3. Girl Talk

“If you have a female friend who you suspect is being physically or emotionally abused by her partner or an ex, ask her about it. She may feel helpless, but a friend breaking the silence may be just what she needs to start getting help.”

4. Bro Code

“If you have a male friend who you suspect is physically or emotionally abusing a woman, get him alone and calmly tell him you value his friendship but you’re troubled by his behaviour. Let him know that non-consensual physical or sexual contact, even in a relationship, is a crime. This may support him to see that what he is doing is wrong. It doesn’t have to mean the end of your friendship.”

5. Speak up!

“Abusive language about women in general, or talk that cruelly demeans a specific woman or women, often occurs in social situations or online. You can object to this behaviour in a non-confrontational way just by saying, or posting, “It’s just wrong to talk about women that way. Stop it.” Do the right thing. You may be surprised by how many of your friends agree with you and were just waiting for someone to speak up.”

To take the pledge to #EndViolence and join the movement visit women.gc.ca.