Mourners braved chilly winter temperatures to pay tribute to the victims of the École Polytechnique massacre Dec. 6. Candles alongside photographs of each of the 14 victims were held up at Pioneer Square as the community paused to reflect on violence against women.
“It’s not easier years later to reconcile how somebody could slaughter women in Canada because of their gender,” said speaker Mark Lucas.
“These women were so young and sadly, the memory of their deaths has lasted longer than most of their lives. When a woman or girl is murdered, our world is altered forever for the worse, bringing us grief, possibilities ended and fine ruptures.”
Lucas stressed the importance of not letting these murders pass into memory.
“Today, individually and as a society, we cannot forget our losses or the circumstances of our losses or we are condemned to repeat history over and over,” he said.
“Thirty years ago, women were shot and killed simply because they were women. On that day, all of their potential, all of their power was taken. On this day, we owe it to them and to the future to use our power wisely to help to heal and to overcome.”
The names of each of the victims and their goals in life were read aloud.
“Dec. 6, 1989 was the extreme end of the spectrum of violence against women,” Lucas said after the names were read out.
“But that kind of violence against women, it's not something specific to École Polytechnique or tonight. You don't have to see that horrible life ending violence against women. It is here, it is now and it must end.”
Lucas pointed to the history inside Flin Flon and across the north. Both northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan have some of the highest reported figures of violence against women in all of Canada, according to multiple reports from Statistics Canada.
“We have seen women in our own community beaten, raped or murdered in horrific ways,” Lucas said.
“We see the effects of these deaths and violence against women, on members of our community, on other women, on families and on children. This has to stop. Women are still unsafe in their homes, communities and workplaces. They deserve better.”
In Saskatchewan, violent crime rates against women and girls are more than six times higher than they are in the south. Northern Manitoba’s crime rates are almost five times higher than the southern portion of the province regarding violent offences against women.
“Let us never forget that many women continue to live and to die in the shadow of violence,” Lucas said.
“As the Dec. 6 massacre massacre clearly demonstrates, violence against women is closely linked to the issue of equality. These women can no longer speak for themselves.”
Lucas spoke to the need for all community members to step up and play a role in preventing violence.
“It is those of us that go on living must speak for them, and to change the world we live in,” he said.
“We need women and men, girls and boys to work collaboratively to end all forms of violence against women. The involvement of us men and boys and this process is unequivocally important today and everyday women must have what they need to live without fear, without violence and with a voice.”
Both Saskatchewan and Manitoba have 24/7 domestic violence abuse crisis lines. Northeast Saskatchewan residents can call 1-800-611-6349 and Manitoba residents can call 1-877-977-0007.