first there was a ferocious debate. He was just a madman, they said. It had
nothing to do with violence against women, they said. But we knew better. Why
did we even have to argue the point? His suicide letter had a hit list of
prominent feminists he wanted to kill. He shouted, "I hate feminists,"
as he fired. How much clearer could it be? If he had separated Jews from
Gentiles and killed the Jews would anyone doubt it was a reflection of anti-semitism
in the society? What would it take for society to recognize that too many men
use violence to try and maintain their ancient domination of women?
Quebec the debate continued for two years. It wasn’t until the parents spoke out
and themselves made the link between their daughters’ deaths and the violence
done to women that the media and politicians in Quebec finally accepted the link
and stopped accusing women’s groups of using the massacre to their own
English Canada the debate was resolved more quickly. The media started to report
on wife assault and murder. The politicians started to listen. After a two-year
lobby campaign Parliament declared December 6 a national day of commemoration
and action giving official sanction to what women and university students across
the country were already doing. This year, on the 10th anniversary, Parliament
will dedicate 15 roses, 14 for the women at Polytechnique and one for all the
other victims of violence against women. Hedy Fry, the Minister Responsible for
Women’s Issues, has called for a minute of silence on December 6 at 2:15 pm ET.
impact has been enormous. Gun control legislation is one obvious result, a
doubling of women in the engineering profession is another. Less obvious is the
heightened awareness of violence against women and children. Many people, like
me, women and men were moved to join the struggle that women in rape crisis
centres and women’s shelters had been valiantly waging for years.
the slaughter continues. In November, the Ontario Association of Interval and
Transition Houses (OAITH) reported that 40 women a year are killed by their
intimate partners in Ontario alone. In 1997-98, almost 28,000 women and children
were admitted to 116 women’s shelters in Ontario alone.
have been improvements in the criminal justice system but putting violent men
behind bars will not solve the problem. The root of this violence is male
dominance. Men who attack and kill women are trying to dominate and control
the days after the Montreal Massacre, a poster appeared with a single red rose
and the names of the victims at Polytechnique and a single slogan: "First
mourn then work for change."
this the 10th anniversary of that terrible tragedy each and every one of us
should recommit ourselves to work to end sexism and violence against women. The
young women killed that day and the hundreds of women killed since that day
deserve no less.
Rebick is a writer, broadcaster and activist in Toronto.