It was on December 6th 1989 that 14 women were murdered in the “Montreal Massacre” at L’Ecole Polytechnique. Canada has declared December 6th “The National Day of Action and Remembrance on Violence against Women” and on one of the coldest days in our own community many individuals attended a commemorative service on Angel Way adjacent to Parkinson Recreation Centre. Roses were laid in honor of those 14 women as well as over 60 roses were laid and names were read in memory of those women in the Okanagan valley who have died from violence. Unfortunately, each year names are being added and some cases of the murdered women still remain unsolved.
Violence against women is still a reality and despite ongoing education and open discussion the stats continue to be staggering. Every week in Canada at least one woman is murdered by a boyfriend or spouse- more than half have reported domestic violence to the police.
One in five young women is in an abusive relationship. Thirteen women and girls are sexually assaulted every day in B.C. with one in four women being sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Events such as the Vigil held at Angel Way provide important opportunities not only to remember those who have been murdered by men, but also to remind us to continue to take action against this violence.
A special thank-you to the Okanagan College Women’s Studies and Women’s Trades students who expanded on the history of the murdered Okanagan women and built the wooden frames for their pictures. The Moose Hide Patch campaign was introduced this year to encourage men to stand up against violence towards Aboriginal women and children.
Events like this do not occur without the participation of many in the community. We would like to thank Kelowna Community Resources for the meeting space, Peter from Extra Foods for the roses, Council of Canadians and Points West Audio Visual for the Sound Systems, McDonald’s for the welcome hot coffee, Food not Bombs, Stroma Signs, CFUW-Kelowna, Elizabeth-Fry Society, Karen from the Women’s Shelter, Joyce from the Kelowna Family Centre, Avril from United Way, Reseau-Femmes, City staff, the Okanagan College (OC) student union and volunteers from OC, and the Raging Grannies who braved the cold and ended the event with song.
RCMP Supt. Nick Romanchuk sent his support and Cpl. Sandi Fazan came as the representative. Councillor Mohini Singh helped read the names on the long list of the murdered women. A special thank-you is also extended to the media that arrived to report on the event.
What was most interesting that on this coldest evening in Kelowna that the weather in Montreal on December 6th, 1989 was very similar to what we experienced.
Sharon Shepherd & Micki Smith
Directors Central Okanagan Women’s Resource & Education Foundation