From 14 to thousands: Remembering victims of femicide

| December 5, 2014
Photo: flickr/Ben Townsend

Editor's note: Many names are included in this piece. One has not been included due to a publication ban.

Twenty-five years ago I was five years old.

I remember seeing the images and hearing that women had been killed.

It wasn't until my university classes, one in particular, where I felt the gravity of what had happened on that Wednesday morning in December, 1989. It was my first-year reporting class at Ryerson. We were analyzing the images and the mistakes made by journalists as they scrambled to tell the story that 14 women had been shot and killed.

Later, I participated in the memorials, held annually in the Ryerson Quad where sometimes, we would hear the names of the women who had died that year at the hands of a man. The lists always felt endless.

But, I grew up amid myths of progress: we're always getting better. Society is always becoming less racist, more informed, more aware of the mistakes of our past. And we're improving.

How am I to square the myth of progress with my deep feelings that we're actually going backwards? I can't. The reality is that we aren't making good enough headway. In some cases, we're going backwards.

Twenty-five years ago, he separated the women from the men and started to shoot.

Women continue to be targeted and killed, by partners, by acquaintances, by strangers.

Last month, the only reason why the Conservative attempt to further loosen gun control laws was shelved was a poorly timed attack on Parliament Hill where a gunman shot his way past security. Security has already been tightened such that visitors are no longer allowed on Wednesday, when caucuses meet. Because the value placed on politicians' lives is higher than of women who might meet the end of a gun some day.

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz. Geneviève Bergeron.

Fifteen women have come forward to accuse one of Canada's most celebrated radio hosts of beating, choking and abusing them. He is now facing four charges.

Hélène Colgan. Nathalie Croteau. Bella Laboucan McLean. Elizabeth Nugent.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to call an inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of more than 1,000 Indigenous women.

Barbara Daigneault. Anne-Marie Edward. Cheyenne Fox.

Service cuts from provincial governments across Canada are limiting women's access to life-saving social services. Governments claim that austerity measures are critical while women, poor women, mothers and caregivers, know that this will just place even more stress on them as they live to survive.

Maud Haviernick. Maryse Laganière. Jaswan Pandher.

Women who speak out against so-called Men's Rights Groups have been targeted, smeared and harassed online and in real life. The emergence of groups fighting for men's rights are as backwards as groups who fight for White Power, yet one organization plans to open an office in Toronto.

Maryse Leclair. Lisa Ann Zielke. January Marie Lapuz.

And, despite evidence that says more sex workers will be put in harm's way, the Conservatives are pushing through legislation that will further criminalize sex work and force it underground.

Anne-Marie Lemay. Pearl Brown. Fahmida Velji-Visram. Sanjula Devi.

But, while it feels as if we're moving backwards, women remain the backbones of our communities. We are still powerful. We can seize power, if we organize.

Sonia Pelletier. Michèle Richard. Katrina Willemsen. Terra Gardener.

On December 6, we mourn the dead. We mourn the women who lost their lives at the hands of a system that placed less value on their lives than the lives of men. We mourn the victims of violence, the women who never came home, the mothers who were found dead in their homes and the children who never stood a chance against the violence they were subjected to.

Annie St-Arneault. Barbara Whitlock. Loretta Saunders. Karen Nabors. Jill Lyons. Amritpal Saran.

We mourn because we know that violence is still used as a tool to keep women in line. Violence is still used to threaten and silence women. It's used to make some women invisible. Violence is used by men to demonstrate their supremacy over other men, and women and children are caught in the crosshairs. Men are victims of patriarchy as well.

Annie Turcotte. Rhonda Borelli. Amanda Todd.

But on March 8, we organize. We mobilize for women's liberation. We march against femicide. We march for better lives for ourselves, our families and our communities. This year, united with women around the globe, we will demand liberation: for our bodies, and for our territories.

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz. Jenique Dalcourt.

Because the endless destruction, the brutalization of families and of mothers, resource extraction and poisoning of our land, air, water and our bodies cannot continue. Because women are the backbones of our families and communities, and they feel the consequences of this destruction the hardest.

Dorothy Tucker. Evelyn Bumatay-Castillo. Zahra Abdille and her sons Faris and Zain.

This year, it's time for women to take control of progressive campaigns that target our bodies and our lands. It's time for women to stand up to Stephen Harper, to Philippe Couillard, Brad Wall, Kathleen Wynne, Christy Clark and John Tory, and say no: we will not let you loosen gun control laws.

We will not let you hurt our sisters or our families.

We will not allow for the destruction of our lands to continue.

We will do everything we can to protect each other, our children and their children's children.

Nora Loreto is a writer, musician and activist based in Québec City. She is the author of From Demonized to Organized, Building the New Union Movement and is the editor of the rabble.ca series Up! Canadian Labour Rising. Nora is on leave as an editor with the Canadian Association of Labour Media while she takes care of infant twins. Nora's music can be heard here and her blog can be read atwww.noraloreto.ca.

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