An act of violence 29 years ago may have spearheaded the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, but the continuing gender-based aggression battle still wages for women in today’s society.
It was Dec. 6, 1989, when a man walked into the l’École Polytechnique de Montréal and killed 14 women because they were women.
Two years later, the federal government made the date a national day of remembrance.
Teresa MacLennan, an executive member with the Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie, says she hopes everyone will be at the Barrie City Hall Rotunda on Thursday at 6 p.m. for a vigil to remember the past and present of violence against women.
“Every six days, a woman is killed by her intimate partner and that doesn’t even include the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, which would make the number much higher and the days less,” MacLennan said. “We use this day to not just honour the 14 women from Dec. 6 1989, but to also bring awareness to those women and girls who are being killed now and in the future.”
The Barrie facility provides emergency shelter and outreach services and is partially funded for 27 beds for women and their children, but MacLennan told BarrieToday the number of women supported continues to rise.
“On a typical day, we are support from 30 to 35 women and their children in our emergency shelter and we are seeing an increase in the amount of women who are being trafficked and seeking help from our shelter,” said MacLennan.
“For many women and girls, violence is part of their daily lives and they are afraid to leave for so many reasons," she added. "Statistically, a woman is most at risk when she is trying to leave.
"And with so many killed each year, women have good reasons to be fearful. Women often stay because their abuser has threatened to kill them if they leave, or to kill himself, their children or their pets.”
Having lived and worked in Barrie her whole life and been a longtime advocate for women’s rights, MacLennan says she has seen thousands of cases and situations of abused and/or murdered women and feels that it will only start to stop when men speak up, too.
“We have a saying that the voice of women alone is not enough,” said MacLennan. “We need men to speak up about the degradation of women in the locker rooms and at work. Once it is deemed socially unacceptable, only then will it be on a course to stop. “
As for the tragic events of Dec. 6, 1989, MacLennan admits she doesn’t think she understood the magnitude of the murders until later, but certainly does now and remembers every day as she sees the tragic numbers that show a message that isn’t getting across.
“I was 20 years old at the time and it wasn’t until later that it really hit me,” she said. “I am definitely not saying that men are not abused, and that is terrible as well, but as women, we live our lives different than men, with a little more sense of fear in our daily lives.
"We hope men and women will join us Thursday and maybe start to end this senseless violence.”
The event at city hall runs Thursday from 6-7:30 p.m., with refreshments provided. People are being asked to wear purple in support of women who have suffered from abuse.
Georgian College is also hosting an event to honour all victims on Thursday in the Georgian College Students' Association lounge beginning at 10 a.m.