Today in Canada, we mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and around the world, people are marking 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25) to International Human Rights Day (December 10).
On Prince Edward Island, we mark these days by wearing a purple ribbon as a symbol of remembrance and action. It is a pledge of commitment to stand up against gender violence here, across Canada, and around the world.
Some will wear a purple ribbon and remember the 14 women who were murdered on this day in 1989 in the Montreal Massacre. They were separated from the men in their engineering classes at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal and were killed because they were women. Many of these young women have now been dead longer than they lived. Each had her own story, and we will remember them. We will remember the action that followed to draw attention to violence against women in Canada and to bring in gun control in this country, work which continues despite the loss of the gun control registry. This is work to prevent this from ever happening again.
Some will wear a purple ribbon and remember the nine women from Prince Edward Island who have been murdered since 1989. These women were sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, friends, lovers. They were loved ones. Their lives ended at the hands of men who knew them. Each had her own story, and we will remember them. We will remember the action that has followed in Prince Edward Island, such as the Victims of Family Violence Act, or the creation of the Premier’s Action Committee on Family Violence Prevention and the Charlottetown Mayor’s Purple Ribbon Task Force. We will continue the ongoing work to make laws and policies that prevent deaths like these from ever happening again.
Some will wear a purple ribbon and remember women around the world who are abused, raped, assaulted, or killed because they are women. We will remember those who are hurt and killed in their homes by men who know them, and we will remember those who are hurt and killed in acts of war and terror. We will remember that they are no different from us, that they are loved, that they each have their stories. We will begin by acting to make better choices than violence in our homes, in our province, and in our country. We will work towards a world of peace, where we make better choices than violence here at home and around the world.
Some will wear a purple ribbon and remember that violence against women and children harms us all. Gender violence comes from power and control, and it assaults our shared humanity. It values some people more than others just because of their gender or their age. It treats human beings as property. We will remember that this harm is real and damages our communities, from the child who is wounded by witnessing violence against his mother, to the two men and one woman from Prince Edward Island who were wounded or murdered far from home by the side of a highway. We will come together to find new ways to act in the face of such senseless loss and brutality. And, while the wound is too fresh, we will act first by mourning.
I will wear a purple ribbon for these and other reasons. I hope you will join me in wearing a purple ribbon. I hope you will come if you can to noontime memorial services in Charlottetown, Summerside, or O’Leary, where we will light candles of remembrance and silently commit to actions that prevent violence.
Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women