Amber Dujay, coordinator of this year’s ceremony, stands beside the Clothesline Project organized by the Anti-Violence Project for display at the memorial. The t-shirts were painted anonymously by survivors of sexual abuse and violence.
Eighteen years later,
memorial event remains incredibly important
By Amber Dujay, fourth-year political science student
When I began planning the December 6th memorials to combat violence against women, I think I was fairly naïve. Before starting the organization for the memorials, I would never have predicted that an issue I saw as so straightforward—the ending of violence against women—would be so controversial and debated.
On December 6, 1989, a lone male walked into the engineering school of l’Ecole Polytechnique in Montréal and gunned down 14 women. His rationale for this act was simply anger: he had been rejected from the engineering school and he blamed this on the women who had taken his “rightful” place. These women, who were doing nothing more than pursuing their dreams, lost their lives simply because they were women and this man could not handle the idea that they could be superior to him. This episode shocked the nation, as it was a visible showcase of the still concurrent anger against women in Canadian society. December 6 was made a day of national remembrance to commemorate the lives of the women, and later it became a day of action to stop violence against women.
I find that while it is still incredibly important to remember what happened on December 6, 1989, it is even more important to recognize that this was not an isolated, random incident. Attacks against women happen every day, in so many situations. Through organizing the memorial for the past few years, I have been able to hold many discussions on the topic of violence against women, and it never ceases to amaze me how many individuals do not believe that it is still a problem in Canada. For instance, the number of men who adamantly deny that women can be abused in modern society with all of our political correctness, and the number of women who adamantly deny that they are feminists, because feminists are angry and bitter and not in touch with reality.
The reason I organize the memorial and continue to call myself a feminist is to educate people that violence against women is still very much a reality in Canadian society. It transcends stereotypes, economic and racial divisions, and even our academic/professional divisions. Violence against women is not limited to certain incomes; domestic violence is as prevalent among professionals as it is among non-professionals. None of us are immune to becoming victims, neither the women who are assaulted nor the men who are in their lives. The only way that we can hope to stop violence against women is through recognizing that it still exists and altering our mindsets and our actions to physically stop it.
I hope that the memorial at UVic on December 4 has given students and faculty an opportunity to think critically about their behaviours and about violence against women as a whole.