Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. As educators and academic workers, December 6 is particularly poignant.

On December 6, 1989, fourteen women were murdered at L’École Polytechnique, solely because of their gender. These women, engineering students, lost their lives in a classroom – a classroom in which any of us could have taught. As educators, this day challenges us to reflect on how prepared we are to respond to such acts of violence, and what steps we must take – both in our classrooms and out – to prevent acts of violence against women and girls.

Twenty-six years after the Montreal Massacre, there are still disturbing levels of gender-based violence on Canadian campuses.

University of Ottawa recently accepted 11 recommendations from a 9-month task force on sexual violence on campus.

Dalhousie’s Faculty of Dentistry became embroiled in scandal when a Facebook group of dentistry students was discovered to have misogynistic and homophobic comments posted, leading to allegations of a ‘rape club’.

In November this year, UBC was brought into the spotlight after the university failed to respond appropriately to several student complaints of sexual harassment and assault.

We must consider what actions need to be taken on our campuses to prevent gender-based violence.

The Dalhousie dentistry scandal illuminated how misogynist cultures are perpetuated on campuses. It is an uncomfortable truth that the steps from demeaning and aggressive Facebook posts to sexual assaults and violence against women on campuses is a shorter one than most of us like to believe.

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is a day to examine such uncomfortable truths and recommit to the effort to overcome them. We all have a responsibility to be part of the solution to ending gender-based violence.

Post-secondary educators and our faculty associations have worked hard to advocate for policies and procedures that address sexual harassment and gender-based violence. We have striven to change attitudes so women can live, work, study, and socialize safely on our campuses. December 6 reminds us that this work matters. The events at Dalhousie, UBC, and UOttawa remind us of how much work there is still to do.

On December 6, we remember the lives of too many women, murdered and abused and assaulted. We think of the over 1000 Aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered over the past few decades. We reflect on how many of our students have been assaulted or harassed while attending our institutions, both those who reported their assaults and those who did not. And then we reaffirm our commitment to act for change.

As educators, we must not be afraid to talk about systemic violence against women in our classrooms. As workers, we must demand our workplaces are safe places for all people. As caring and compassionate people, we must create a safe and just society, one in which no woman ever needs to be afraid for her safety, regardless of where she is or what she’s doing.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.