A web memorial marks December 6, 1989

The Global Women's Memorial new website takes its inspiration from more than 50 memorials set up by women and men in cities and towns across Canada to commemorate women victims of male violence.

Today, on the 16th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, the National Film Board and the Global Women's Memorial group is launching a new website dedicated to the memory of the 14 young women murdered by a feminist-hating gunman on a snowy evening at L'Ã0/00cole Polytechnique in Montreal and of all women victims of male violence.

Inspired by the many towns and cities that have established memorials and the campaign to make visible the disappearance of hundreds of aboriginal women, it is hoped that the web portal will be a central gathering place for women and men committed to ending male violence against women.

Chris McDowell, the founder of the Women's Monument in Vancouver which was set up in the aftermath of the Montreal Massacre, applied to the NFB for the project and hooked up with feminist producer Cari Green to make it a reality. It kicks off today with a Video Speak Out against male violence and hopes to build over time to a multilayered portal for discussion and organizing an end to violence against women.

The Global Women's Memorial website takes its inspiration from more than 50 memorials set up by women and men in cities and towns across Canada to commemorate women victims of male violence.

According to McDowell, “The web portal will do for Canada what Marker of Change, the Vancouver women's monument, does for Vancouver âe" create a circle from which to speak in unison. The website will build on new methods of resisting violence, allow people to access lists of missing and murdered women, make use of existing memorials, post events and petitions, remember women and children we have lost, stream video and audio of public actions, publicly critique society âe" including police and judicial methods of handling the murders of women âe" furthering the dialogue about violence against women in Canada.”

“This project is in keeping with the NFB's mandate to encourage social dialogue and change,” says Rina Fraticelli, Executive Producer of the NFB's Pacific & Yukon Centre. “The website will offer a new way to honour our sisters, murdered and missing, and provide a virtual forum, both nationally and internationally, to add a new dimension to the struggle to end violence against women.”

The worst mass murder in Canadian history, the Montreal Massacre had a deep and lasting impact on the struggle against male violence against women in Canada. Women's groups at the time struggled to make sure that these young engineering students murdered only because they were women trying to make it in a “man's job” would be remembered within the context of a commitment to ending all male violence against women. The slaughter was the most extreme form of a backlash against feminism that was ferocious in the late 80s and early 90s in Canada.

To this day universities, women's groups and many other institutions hold memorials on December 6 to honour not only these 14 women but all female victims of male violence. Indeed, as a result of lobbying by feminist groups at the time, December 6 is an Official Day of Action and Commemoration against Violence against Women, a unique remembrance day.

After the Massacre, the government of the day and the media began to see violence against women as a priority issue. Over the years, mainstream interest in the issue of intimate femicide — most women who are murdered know their assailant — has waned. We still have media coverage of white women who go missing and coverage of stranger assaults but intimate assault and violence is rarely news any more.

About 70 women a year are murdered by male intimates in Canada and many more women, especially aboriginal women go missing. Shelters continue to be filled to the rafters with women and their children fleeing violent partners and women continue to die. The anti-violence movement is still well-organized across the country but due to cutbacks is forced to spend more time in fundraising than in advocacy. As a result, there are fewer feminist voices speaking out against male violence.

The Global Women's Monument is a creative approach to addressing this problem of invisibility. Bravo to the NFB for supporting the project. Everyone hopes they will be able to get enough support to create the interactive website they are dreaming of.

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