This December 6, 2014, LEAF recognizes the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. 25 years ago this year, gender-based violence and discrimination in Canada was cast into sharp relief when fourteen women were murdered in Montréal because they were women.

LEAF remembers the fourteen women of the École Polytechnique massacre: Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.

Violence against women is a pandemic. No culture or country is immune from it. No race or class or religion is exempt from it. It is a grave violation of our human rights that prevents us from full participation in our societies and has costs and consequences not just for us, but for our families and communities.

Over the last 25 years we have seen the Rwandan genocide, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the terrors of Darfur and Syria. Women have borne the brunt of gender-based violence and endured hardships beyond the imagining of many Canadians.

Yet since 1989, we have also seen the implementation of the International Criminal Court, the finding by an international tribunal that rape is a weapon of war, and Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security that refer to and build upon the work done at meetings such as the Beijing Conference in 1995.

Here in Canada, we have over 1100 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. They are missing and murdered because they are indigenous women and girls. In the face of Canada’s blindness to this issue, we have seen the recourse by women’s organizations such as NWAC and FAFIA to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the revitalization of indigenous cultures, communities and women’s leadership of the Idle No More movement. At LEAF, we have joined the strong, persistent and justified call for a national inquiry into this enormity in our midst, and we invite you to join us in a solidarity campaign to support the full human rights of indigenous women and girls.

Women around the world are targeted for violence because we are women. But from the women of the Arab Spring to campaigns such as Nigeria’s #bringbackourgirls to Winnipeg’s #Iamnotnext, women all around the world are connecting, mobilizing and organizing to address violence, whether domestic, internecine or structural. We have a multitude of opportunities to name, understand and challenge violence against women in all its forms and in all its locations.

Women’s rights are human rights was the rallying cry at the UN Conference for Women in 1995 in Beijing. Twenty years after the Beijing Conference, LEAF has contributed to a report, “Progress on Women’s Rights: Missing in Action”, critiquing the Canadian government’s performance in implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. We are sure that in any country in the world where such a report is being written, the state signatories will have fallen short of their commitments. However, we are just as sure that there are women’s rights advocates in every single country working to have their government recognize gender-based violence and be held to account for the failure to create the conditions of equality.

Peace and justice are foundational conditions of equality.

Violence against women must end.

On this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, join LEAF as we work toward a just, peaceful and equal future free of violence!