National Day of Remembrance and Action of Violence against Women is held on December 6 each year to commemorate the École Polytechnique Massacre. The massacre occurred on December 6, 1989 when a gunman targeted women at the school, resulting in the death of 14 women and the injury of 10 women and 4 men. From witness accounts and the attacker’s own writing, the massacre was gender-based, fueled by the attacker’s hatred of feminist and advancements in women’s rights. 2 years after the incident, the Canadian government enacted a National Day of Remembrace to denounce violence against women. Since then, December 6 has become an important day to remember everyone who has experienced gender-based violence, including women, girls, Two Spirit, trans and non-binary people, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
An important part of remembering those lost is to say their names. Here are the 14 women who were murdered that day:
- Geneviève Bergeron – age 21, Civil Engineering
- Hélène Colgan – age 23, Mechanical Engineering
- Nathalie Croteau – age 23, Mechanical Engineering
- Barbara Daigneault – age 23, Mechanical Engineering
- Anne-Marie Edward – age 21, Chemical Engineering
- Maud Haviernick – age 29, Environmental Design
- Maryse Laganière – age 25, Employee, Ecole Polytechnique
- Maryse Leclair – age 23, Mechanical Engineering
- Anne-Marie Lemay – age 27, Mechanical Engineering
- Sonia Pelletier – age 28, Mechanical Engineering
- Michèle Richard – age 21, Mechanical Engineering
- Annie St-Arneault – age 23, Mechanical Engineering
- Annie Turcotte – age 21, Engineering Materials
- Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz – age 31, Nursing Student
Gender-based violence defined
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a symptom of the gender inequality that exists in society, which gives way to abuses in power or harmful cultural norms. It can take many shapes and includes any harmful act directed towards someone based on their gender. Disproportionately, this type of violence victimizes women, girls, Two Spirit, trans and non-binary people, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
It is important to remember that these abuses can be physical, mental, or financial and occur in any relationship dynamic. In Canada, GBV is commonly used to describe intimate partner violence or domestic violence. However, it also includes sexual violence, human trafficking, child marriage, femicide, or digital violence. Digital violence or cyberviolence has become more rampant since the advent of mobile devices and social media, leading to higher rates of harassment and stalking. Unfortunately, young women between the ages of 18-24 are more likely to experience cyber stalking, sexual harrasment, and physical threats online than then men the same age. The impact of digital violence can be both mental and physical, not to mention it can crossover with other types of GBV. Regardless of the type of violence, the main determiner of GBV is whether the individual is being targeted because of their gender.
What can your organization do?
Understanding gender-based violence is the first step. Here are 3 more steps your organization can take!
- Be Educated on the signs of gender-based violence in the workplace
Education can lead to greater recognition of the signs of GBV and also encourage employees to hold each other accountable. We can support you (through training or consultation) if this is a goal for your organization.
- Actively support women and gender diverse individuals at work
- Creating policies and procedures that protect women, girls, Two Spirit, trans and non-binary people, and LGBTQ+ individuals against gender-based harassment
- Provide an anonymous reporting system for those who experience or witness GBV in the workplace
- Provide spaces for these individuals to meet, such as an Employee Resource Group (ERG)
- Create and follow posts for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based violence online
This is a campaign that runs from November 25 (International Day Against Violence Against Women) to December 10 (International Human Rights Day). The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of GBV, so creation and distribution of related content online is welcomed!
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Charlotte Wray is a contributing writer at MT Consulting Group.