December’s arrival has moved the yuletide season into high gear. The time of happiness and goodwill will be intruded on Tuesday, however, for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
It may not be the ideal season for such thoughts – really, when is? – but the timing was dictated by Marc Lépine, who on Dec. 6, 1989 murdered 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal simply because of their gender.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada was established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada. As well as commemorating those women who have died as a result of gender-based violence, the day is seen as the federal government’s Status of Women organization as a time to work on concrete actions to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
We’re currently in the midst of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence that began on November 25 with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on December 10 with International Human Rights Day. It also includes the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
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Locally, people will gather Tuesday at the Volgelsang Green in Kitchener at noon to remember the 14 murdered women, and the legacy left behind as women continue to experience the life-altering consequences of misogyny and gender-based violence.
The 16 Days of Activism are an opportunity to come together to call out, speak up and renew society’s commitment to end gender-based violence. It’s also a prime time for reflecting on gun-control issues.
At the École Polytechnique, 14 young women were gunned down and 13 others were injured with a legally acquired firearm. Student groups launched a petition in 1989 instigating a national movement for gun control.
Mass shootings are most often associated with the US. In recent weeks, we’ve seen the likes of the massacre at a Walmart in Virginia, where six people died, the followed on the heels of a shooting rampage that left five people dead at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado. There have already been more than 600 mass shootings in the United States this year. That list includes the May shooting in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 students and two teachers dead. (School shootings figure prominently in gun violence, despite the assertions things should and would change following the slaughter of young children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in December 2012.)
But even here in Canada there have been numerous school shootings since the tragedy in 1989. With every incident, some people call for further restrictions on gun ownership.
On the other side of the argument, gun advocates make excuses and argue for greater access to guns, saying armed civilians could have gunned down such criminals before their killing sprees continued.
The latter arguments are commonplace in the U.S., where Second Amendment – the right to keep and bear arms – issues abound. In Canada, the notion seems ridiculous: having more guns at hand increases the risk. It would be far more likely for someone to see red, snap and use a readily available gun than it would be for someone to be faced with a murderer on a shooting rampage.
While not immune here, we operate under a different mindset than do those in the States, where politicians must be pro-gun, or at least not come out in favour of gun control. That kind of thinking would not fly here: even the gun registry debate was more about waste, graft and rightwing ideology than about the guns themselves.
Gun-control advocates, arguing that more guns equals more violence, want us all to think about the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in that light.