On December 6th

NDP MP Megan Ellis’s statement at the December 6th Not-So-Silent Vigil in Halifax [EDITOR’S NOTE: Megan Leslie, not Megan Ellis – with apologies. I also apologize for the formatting. It got messed up when I changed templates and I can’t seem to fix it.]

Hello. Thank you for asking me to be here today.

I have been attending December 6th events my entire adult life. It never feels any less somber. Less affecting. Less urgent. Nineteen years later, and where are we?

I was 16 when the Montreal Massacre happened. The victims seemed like adults, I remember thinking that. Women in their early 20s, studying engineering. It was all pretty far away from my teenage reality a small mining town. But when I look at this list now, and read these 14 names and ages, it strikes me. They were so young. They seemed like adults, and yet, I’m several years older now than the oldest victim was then.

I’ve noticed over the years that we are very careful with ourselves when we discuss this shooting. We do not to say the name of the killer, just as I am not going to today. We also only talk about the fatalities. Not of the hit-list the shooter had prepared, containing the names of several prominent feminists, many of whom are our friends. We hold the events at arm’s length, and we squint. In looking for answers, we ask ourselves: “why?”. Because we can take comfort in that answer to “why?” It contains phrases that allow us some distance: “Lone gunman.” “Isolated incident.” “Psychotic break.”

Oh, we let ourselves think. That’s why. All of those reasons are separate from me. Unique. I am not culpable. I am not in danger.

But the question we don’t let ourselves ask is what. What is it about our culture that made the shooter blame “feminists” for all his troubles? What is it going to take to change things? What can *I* do?

The answer to these questions is unsettling, because it makes us face uncomfortable facts: We live in a culture of casual misogyny. We live in a culture that pays attention to women most often when it wants to berate us, blame us, or compare us to each other. And we don’t do enough to fight it. Like when hundreds of Aboriginal women go missing. When the word “equality” is taken out of the Status of Women mandate. Like when on my first day in Ottawa as a new MP, another MP said something so sexist and so degrading to me that my first thought was “what am I wearing? Did I ask for this?” When victims of violence are referred to in the media as “hookers” and “junkies” rather than “women” or even “people”.

As a woman, we’re subject to these warning shots all the time. Be pretty. Be good. Be careful. When we talk about December 6th, we place it as an extreme end of a spectrum that begins with domestic violence. I am acutely aware that domestic violence touches many more lives than we are likely to ever know . It is a pandemic problem that provincial and federal governments have done little to address.

But I do not feel that the events of December 6th were an exaggerated version of domestic violence. I believe they were an extreme form of the gender terrorism that happens so much all around us that we hardly even recognize it for what it is anymore. In the wake of these shootings, big plans were made. We promised ourselves an end to violence against women. And here we are today, for the nineteenth time, saying “Never again”, and trying to believe it.

We need to do better than this. We need to call out sexist behavior, even if it causes social friction to do so. We need to support women who are working to create and reflect a culture of non-violence and possibility. We need to tell the media that they won’t talk us into hating ourselves and each other. We need to remind our government that women count. We need to look after each other, and ourselves.

The handbill for this event asks us to make a commitment to act against violence against women. I commit to naming sexism and gender terrorism. And I commit to going easy on myself when I don’t have the strength to stand up against it. And I commit to seeking support from others to make sure I have the strength to name it the next time.

On December 6th, 1989, fourteen women were shot because someone thought that they’d stepped out of line. On that day, all of their power and potential was taken from them. On this day, and on all days, we owe it to them to not waste ours.

From an e-mail sent by Martin Dufresne to the Par-L list.

National Day of Remembrance & Action


December 6, 2008, marks the 19th anniversary of what came to be known as the Montreal Massacre. Events are held throughout the country to remember the 14 women who were killed at l’École Polytechnique:

Geneviève Bergeron, 21
Hélène Colgan, 23
Nathalie Croteau, 23
Barbara Daigneault, 22
Anne-Marie Edward, 21
Maud Haviernick, 29
Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, 31
Maryse Laganière, 25
Maryse Leclair, 23
Anne-Marie Lemay, 27
Sonia Pelletier, 23
Michèle Richard, 21
Annie St-Arneault, 23
Annie Turcotte, 21


In 1991, the Parliament of Canada declared December 6th to be the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The day represents a time to reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society. It is also a day for communities and individuals to think about the concrete actions that each of us can take to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women.

Women in the Workforce

From the Canadian Labour Congress:

On this December 6th, as we remember the lives of fourteen women murdered down nineteen years ago, we pledge to take action to prevent violence against women. The Canadian Labour Congress calls for action to end violence against women at home, in the workplace and in the community. Violence against women is a workplace hazard.

Workers in every sector of the economy experience workplace violence. In the last ten years, workplaces have seen a 40% increase in violence. Women workers suffer violence at a much higher rate than their male counterparts.

Women are too often denied the right to a safe workplace because so many work at jobs that are part-time, low pay, precarious or unpaid, especially women of colour, Aboriginal women and women with disabilities.

Violence against women in Canada continues to be a serious problem and has followed women out of their homes and into their workplaces. The lack of government and employer action to provide safe workplaces continues.

Take action.

Take action by talking to your Member of Parliament and your provincial, territorial and municipal politicians about violence against women at work. Ask them to support measures that will:

change occupational health and safety laws to recognize violence and harassment as workplace hazards;
mandate employers to take concrete steps aimed at violence prevention;
change how workplace accidents are reported so that statistical data can be collected to measure the rates of workplace violence more accurately, and programs can be implemented to stop workplace violence;
create public awareness campaigns to highlight the economic and social effects of violence against women and the social policies needed to achieve women’s security and autonomy.

Violence against women – it’s a workplace hazard

Ken Nuemann, United Steelworkers


CUPE Saskatchewan

Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women  *this site has good resources and statistics for the province

B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union

Public Service Alliance of Canada

Girl Guides of Canada  *I really like this one

Status of Women New Brunswick

Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada

Congress of Black Women of Canada

City of Toronto Proclamation

Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Association

Canadian Federation of University Women Fédération des femmes du Québec


Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter

Statement of Marie Minna, Liberal Status of Women Critic:

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper showed yesterday that he can run away and hide when his job is at risk, but women whose lives are at stake don’t have that luxury,” said Ms. Minna.

 “This is a day of remembrance and action not only for those 14 young women, but for all women and girls who face discrimination and violence on a daily basis,” said Ms. Minna.

 More than 650,000 women aged 15 and over have experienced spousal violence in the past five years. Women are still six times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than men and continue to be victimized.

 On November 25, 2008, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion introduced by Ms. Minna to develop a violence against women prevention strategy.

 “Progress on the equality rights of women has been undermined by the right wing ideology of the Conservatives,” said Ms. Minna.

 “They got rid of the Court Challenges program and cut funding for women’s groups and are now trying to use the economic crisis to undermine pay equity. It is shameful that our country is moving backwards instead of forward. It is time for all Canadians to stand up and say together: ‘we have had enough.’”


You GO Marie!


Message from Her Excellency The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean

Status of Women Advisory Committee for the City of Hamilton

A Great Idea

From YWCA Canada:

The Rose campaign is a national advocacy campaign to end violence against women and girls. The Campaign takes its name from the original Rose Button, created almost 20 years ago to commemorate 14 young women who were murdered at l’Ecole Polytechnique, by calling for a national action plan on violence against women and promoting strategies to stop violence in our communities.The new Rose button has been redesigned by Joss Maclennan, the designer of the original button, with a take action messaging that indicates that we can all work towards stopping violence in our communities. Violence Against Women in Canada

Violence against women is the world’s largest and most persistent human rights violation, and Canada is no exception. Over 50% of Canadian women will experience violence at some point in their lives, the majority before they turn 25. In most cases, women know their abuser.
The federal government estimates the direct medical costs of violence against women at $1.1 billion per year, plus $4 billion a year for criminal justice, social services, and lost productivity. 
In Canada:


  • Over 31,000 incidents of spousal violence against women were reported to police in 2006, and it’s estimated that over 70% of incidents go unreported.
  • Women are more likely than men to be the victims of the most severe forms of intimate partner abuse, such as homicide, sexual assault and stalking.
  • Almost 40% of women in Canada who reported assault by an intimate partner said their children witnessed the violence. In half of those cases, the woman feared for her life.
  • The devastating count of missing and murdered Aboriginal women points to a deep-seated gendered and racialized violence in our culture that impacts both Aboriginal women and women of colour.
What you can do to Take Action on Violence Against Women:

Speak up about violence in your community

Encourage people who commit violence to get help

Teach girls to protect and empower themselves

Raise children who can resolve conflict without violence

Make sure your home, workplace and community are safe for women and girls

Speak out against negative media images of women and girls

Promote women’s economic and political equality

Donate your time and resources to organizations that work to end violence against women


Canada needs a national action plan to end violence against women and girls

Ending violence against women requires a major societal shift in our country. To prevent violence before it starts, it must be treated as unacceptable behaviour whenever and wherever it occurs. Women need full equality in practise, not just in law. That means equal pay, not 73 cents of each dollar earned by men. More than a third of families led by single mothers live below the poverty line. Women need the ability to establish independent, violence-free households. Governments can make this easier to achieve by ensuring that women:

can place their children in affordable, high-quality child care and find employment

find affordable, safe housing when they leave the shelter system, or when they need to leave an unsafe home

have enough financial support to raise their children.

Our commitment

As part of our commitment to end violence against women and children, YWCA Canada has been the national distributor of the Rose Button since 1991. To date, YWCA Canada has distributed over 400,000 Rose Buttons to schools, shelters, social and government agencies, socially responsible corporations and individuals across Canada.

 Want to show your support?

Take action on violence against women by making Rose Buttons, bookmarks and brochures available to your employees, clients, community partners and stakeholders. The Rose Button Campaign is a great fundraising opportunity for groups and organizations that support anti-violence programs and services. Purchase the buttons for 50 cents each and sell them for $1.00 or more.

. For further information, you can also contact YWCA Canada at:

Email: national@ywcacanada.ca
Tel: 416-962-8881
Fax: 416-962-8084


 Want to place an order?

To place an order, click here for English or here for French 


Why December 6?

December 6 is Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. In 1989, when 14 women were shot to death in Montreal by a man deliberately targeting women on a busy campus, Canadians reacted with shock, sorrow and outrage. A strong lobby formed to bring guns under control in Canada, work that continues to this day.

 December 6 is the day we remember the women who died and re-commit to taking action on violence against women and girls – because Canada is not yet a safe country for women.