Roses were placed at the foot of the Women’s memorial at the Emerald Necklace Trail in Petawawa. The roses represented those women killed by gender-based violence on Dec. 6 during the End Violence Against Women Renfrew County (EVA) memorial vigil. (Facebook Photo)
EVA hosts online vigil to mark National Day of Remembrance and Action to End Violence Against Women
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday December 17, 2020
On Dec. 6, 1989, 14 women were singled out for their gender and murdered in a devastating massacre at École Polytechnique.
The crime was not only shocking in scope; the act of violent misogyny changed the cultural landscape of Canada forever. Though this gender-based violence was not the first of its kind in the country, it was a tragedy that spurred many to act, as government officials vowed never again.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women honours these women, the thousands more who experience gender-based violence, and those who have died as a result of it.
And it isn’t violence from strangers women should fear the most. Every six days, a Canadian woman is killed by her intimate partner. The crimes against those of indigenous descent are even more distressing as their deaths too often go ignored. They are killed at eight times the rate of non-indigenous women by their partners.
These women are annually remembered and honoured with a vigil by the Women’s Monument along the Emerald Necklace Trail in Petawawa every Dec. 6. This year, however, was different with attendees at their computer screens to pay homage as the closed ceremony was live-streamed on End Violence Against Women Renfrew County (EVA) Facebook page.
But still, their loss was mourned.
“We have been mourning since 1989,” said JoAnne Brooks, EVA Coordinator. “Thirty-one years and we continue to mourn every day because we know that women are living with violence.”
Wearing a mask, Grandmother Roberta Della-Picca opened the ceremony with drum and song, joining the listeners with one spirit and one soul, “so we can truly honour the reason that we are here today,” she said.
Candles were lit, roses were laid at the foot of the monument, and the names of those killed at Polytechnique, in Renfrew County, as well as women murdered in Ontario over the past year were read aloud, their names etched in the monument stone.
The pandemic hasn’t only affected people’s physical health and the way they conduct their daily lives, it has also had a devastating impact on those living with an abusive partner. Where they were once able to find respite going to work or even out for a coffee, safety protocols have meant more time at home.
“For some, that meant closer proximity to their abusers,” said Pam Cross, an advocate for ending violence against women. “We remember and mourn all those who have been subjected to gender-based violence, and we promise every one of them that we are still here for support and to act for change.”
Many men and women think that they are incapable of ending gender-based, but that isn’t true, noted Brooks
“If a survivor comes to you and tells you their experience with violence, believe them,” she said. “They want to find support and you can reach out and ask them what they need. How you can help.”
More importantly, everyone should speak up against harmful behaviour. They can also donate their time or money towards organizations that deal with violence.
“We can all do something, we must all do something,” said Brooks.
Though by some measures violence against women has decreased in non-pandemic times, it is still an ongoing problem. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, every night, 3,491 women and their 2,724 children sleep in shelters because it isn’t safe at home. An additional 300 women and their children have to be turned away because shelters are full. In times of economic and social hardship, that number climbs.
Men are just as likely to be victims of domestic abuse; however, women are about four times more likely than men to be victims of intimate partner homicide.
Bernadette McCann House is the Renfrew County residential shelter for those experiencing abuse. They offer programs and services to women, children and youth.