Tuesday, 6 December 2016
Jackie Foord spoke at the provincial vigil for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women today.
Here is her message:
December 6th, 1989 was a terrible day in Canadian history. One of our darkest moments. For me, it was the day when my sense of safety, justice, and equality was forever changed.
Twenty-seven years later and here we are still talking about and working for safety, justice and gender equality. The French saying - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose – the more things change, the more they stay the same - seems rather fitting.
The women killed in Montreal were killed because of their gender. This was a rare public act of gender-based violence, hate, and misogyny. I’d like to think that things are better now. I'd like to believe we’ve learned from this event. However, the statistics show that while there are few shocking public acts such as the one that happened in Montreal, an appalling number of private acts of violence and misogyny still happen in our city and province every day.
You can see the impact of those private acts of violence on the faces of the women and children who come to the YWCA counselling centre. In September 2016 we had already seen more people than we saw in all of last year. Our average wait time to see a counsellor is six weeks. If we see them in time, we can help plan a safe escape. If we don’t see them in time, we end up standing beside them as try to put their lives back together.
YWCAs across Canada and around the globe have been working for the prevention of violence against women and girls for over 150 years. Yet we still have so much work to do.
Since the Montreal massacre, there have been approximately 1600 women killed by their intimate partners in Canada. The Edmonton Police Service went out on more than 8,500 domestic violence calls last year. There are far too many sexual assaults in this province. Young girls don’t feel safe in school hallways. Women aren’t sure if they should subject themselves to the abuse that comes from being a leader. The result is that women disengage and disappear from public spaces and public dialogue. When that happens, we all lose.
The fourteen young, smart women who were gunned down all those years ago didn’t go to school that day knowing they would die. But they did. And we owe it to them to do more than remember them. We need to take action.
We need to call out misogyny where and when we see it. We need to encourage and support women who want to study in non-traditional fields.
We need to ensure every corner of our neighbourhoods, cities and province is a safe space for women and girls. We need to end the stigma around violence and encourage people to reach out for support. And we need to fund and support the non-profit and public agencies that provide those services.
We owe those fourteen women a province and a country where the mere idea of violence against women is unthinkable.