Little Current vigil recognizes 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre

Candles lit for 14 women lost as well as local victims of violence

LITTLE CURRENT—An emotional vigil was held last Saturday, December 6 in Little current at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church hall recognizing the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and marking the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre where 14 women were murdered at the L’Ecole Polytechnique in 1989.

“Thank you for coming today to take pause and remember the 14 women who lost their life simply because they were women,” said Brenda Clark of Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR) before introducing Leslie Neshkiwe who performed ‘Stand By Me.’ “We have lit 14 unnamed candles in their memory, as requested by the women’s families.”

Following Ms. Neshkiwe’s performance, Ms. Clark listed staggering statistics of women in Canada such as on any given day, 8,200 women and their children are living in emergency shelters and transition houses to escape violence, 400,000 women report sexual assault annually and 90 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

“December is a busy time of year, I am glad to see so many people here today,” said MFR Executive Director Marnie Hall Brown. “Twenty-five years sounds like a long time, but it is a blink of an eye. I was finishing high school in 1989 and I remember watching the news that night (December 6) and not understanding the chaos.”

Ms. Brown led the group in lighting candles for women who had been killed in the Manitoulin and North Shore area due to violence against women. A number of individuals who attended the vigil were given names when they first arrived. As Ms. Brown read the names, individuals from the crowd stood up and lit a candle in their memory. A moment of silence followed.

“That is a lot of candles for a small community,” began the vigil’s guest speaker Julie Lalonde, an award-winning social justice advocate based in Ottawa and project manager of Draw-the-line.ca, a provincial anti-sexual violence campaign that targets bystanders, who is originally from Kagawong. “Today is a day of remembrance and action, but we often forget about the action part.”

Ms. Lalonde spoke of Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar’s recent speech in the House of Commons recognizing December 6 and the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and how, even today, Mr. Dewar didn’t state that Marc Lepine’s actions were directed at women.

“Mr. Dewar said ‘we don’t know what motivated Marc Lepine,’ but we do know, he wrote it down, he yelled it at people, his violent actions were specifically directed at women,” said Ms. Lalonde. “It is appalling that even today people can’t say what happened, 25 years later.”

Ms. Lalonde said that according to the Femicide list for 2014, 29 women and girls died in Ontario from November 2013 to November 2014 as a result of gender-based violence.

“That is one year, one province, and Ontario doesn’t even have the highest rate in Ontario,” Ms. Lalonde said.

Ms. Lalonde also spoke of a fellow women’s advocate, Anita Sarkeesian, who has a video blog ‘Feminist Frequency’ and who has been the target of an online harassment campaign following her launch of a Kickstarter project to raise funds for a documentary about sexism in video games.

“Anita was scheduled to speak at the University of Utah, but someone threated to recreate the Montreal Massacre if she did,” said Ms. Lalonde, explaining that since Utah is an open firearm state and she had to cancel her appearance for both her and the audience’s safety.

She also spoke of Elliot Rodger and the Isla Vista murders near the University of California.

“If you connect the dots between all of these stories, the motivation is a hatred of women,” said Ms. Lalonde. “They all have the ripple effect of violence against women.”

Ms. Lalonde also recognized how the recent media attention involving Jian Ghomeshi has “started an international conversation” about violence against women.

Ms. Lalonde said that as pleased as she was at the progress made in the last year about bringing the issue into the spotlight, she hopes that momentum will continue, eventually reaching a place where “everyone knows about December 6, but can’t wrap their heads about why women were shot for simply being women.”

Ms. Brown concluded the vigil, thanking Ms. Lalonde and repeating her hope for change moving forward.