A somber ceremony was held for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women at the University of Toronto’s Hart House campus.
Dec. 6, 2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, the mass shooting that took the lives of 14 female students at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique.
A crowd of more than 100 was silent as each of the 14 victims’ names were read aloud. Each victim was represented by a female U of T engineering student and a single white rose.
Kate Duncan was brought to tears before all of the victim’s names could be read.
“I was a student at Concordia University when the massacre happened. And I can remember there being an absolutely stunned silence and then just pandemonium,” Duncan said.
“It was simply the most horrific example of violence against women… What we need to remember is that it didn’t begin 30 years ago on the sixth of December and it’s most certainly not going to end today either.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Rupaleem Bhuyan used the word “femicide”, a new term for many people.
“I want us to think about what does it mean for us to call this day, perhaps, the National Day of Remembrance and Action Against ‘Femicide’,” Bhuyan said. “Around the world ‘femicide’ remains a significant concern and it’s defined as the intentional murder and killing of women and girls, transgender people and people who are non-binary.”
As an active feminist, Bhuyan voiced her concerns for the cases of murdered women and girls that have not received adequate attention.
“The majority of the violence is not happening in those atrocious events like the massacre in Montreal. It’s happening in peoples’ homes, in their private lives, by their spouse or partner, by a family member and then less commonly also by a casual acquaintance or a stranger,” Bhuyan said.
As her focus turned towards missing and murdered indigenous women, Bhuyan’s research revealed the alarming statistics of female indigenous victims.
“The violence that effects indigenous women and girls and two-spirited people is not based on individual acts they are part of a systemic problem,” Bhuyan said. “The statistics that are available indicate that 24 percent of female homicide victims are indigenous though they make up less than five percent of our population.”
Still haunted by the events that occurred in Montreal 30 years ago, Duncan said she was able to find confidence by the end of the ceremony.
“We join with our sisters and even our brothers today to really draw attention to the various types of systemic, gendered violence and gender-based inequalities, ” Duncan said. “When we can join together in a room like we did today all across the country and in silent vigils and in the memorializing of the 14 women who were murdered today 30 years ago, it will bring us strength.”