hirty years ago, on Dec. 6, a gunman entered École Polytechnique in Montreal. Fourteen women were murdered and another fourteen people were injured: 10 women and four men. The Montreal Massacre is the deadliest mass shooting in Canada. 

In 1991, the federal government established the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women to be observed every year on Dec. 6 to mark the anniversary of the massacre. Canadians across the country are encouraged to observe a minute of silence on Dec. 6 and wear either a white or purple ribbon as a commitment to end violence against women.

With the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre approaching, as a nation we have to ask ourselves have we done enough to end violence against women?

Most are familiar with the #MeToo movement in the Untied States that became widespread in the latter half of 2017 in response to the allegations of sexual misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and several other high profile celebrities. 

Canada is safer than most countries in the world, but unfortunately not for everyone, particularly for those living in vulnerable populations. 

When the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada concluded in 2019 it did so with 231 calls to action to end what it called a ‘genocide’ against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. Everyone deserves to feel safe in our society, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or race.

Yet, many are still taken advantage of, abused and discarded without a second thought. 

Violence across the board is very much prevalent in our world, from ongoing conflicts to gun violence. We seem unable to escape violence and continue do harm to one another. It’s often senseless, resulting in tragic loss of life. 

Certainly, we can be doing better as a society? That this world doesn’t have to continue with this ‘us verse them’ mentality. 

PEI isn’t immune to this type of violence either. On Dec. 6, the province’s Advisory Council on the Status of Women will hold a Montreal Massacre Memorial Service will take place in Charlottetown. The service isn’t only about marking the anniversary of École Polytechnique, but commemorate the 10 Island women who have been killed since 1989 by men who knew them.

A recent study conducted by the Women’s Network of PEI that looked at street harassment on the Island found the youngest age reported for a first instance of street harassment was nine years old with the average reported age was 14. 

Eighty-three people took part in the study, with five identifying as male, four identified as non-binary and 74 identified as female, woman, transgender woman or non-transgender woman.

When I was living in Charlottetown I experienced two separate incidents of street harassment - both involving some guy yelling out the window of a passing vehicle while I was walking. Both incidents weren’t overly serious, but I felt ashamed and embarrassed and I kept wondering what I had done to deserve something like that. 

What everyone deserves is to feel safe wherever they go, right from the moment they step outside their homes. 

In order to do so, the world needs to find ways to end violence of all sorts and make sure all members of society are safe from violence. 

Melissa Heald is the editor of the West Prince Graphic. You can email her at melissa@peicanada.com

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