December 6, 2022: remember & act

Some years, December 6th – the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women – seems harder than others. This is one of those years. The massacre of 14 women at Ecole Polytechnique– what we would now call an act of mass femicide – may have taken place more than 30 years ago, but violence against women remains a daily occurrence; so common, in fact, that much of it doesn’t even make the news.

According to the United Nations, more than five women and girls are killed every hour by a family member. Fifty-two women and girls killed in Ontario this year contribute to that statistic.

In solidarity

While the majority of women murdered in Canada are killed by men they know, many others are killed by men they don’t know.

The murders over the past several months of four Indigenous women — Marcedes Myran, Morgan Harris, Rebecca Contois and a so-far-unidentified woman who has been given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe – apparently by the same man, is a brutal reminder of this reality.

A joint statement issued today, in solidarity with Indigenous families, notes:

“As we observe the 16 Days of Activism on Gender-Based Violence and the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, announcement of charges in the murder of four Indigenous women at the hands of an alleged serial killer linked to white supremacist ideology is a tragic indication that the urgent action long called for by Indigenous women, families and communities to address the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse people has not been taken. . . . As the families of the four women have expressed over the past months, with their loss also comes the loss of the possibilities their lives held and the contributions they would bring to their families and communities.”

Gotta get a gun

The Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights (CCFR) recently offered a 10 percent discount to online shoppers who used the promo code “POLY.”  According to Nathalie Provost, who was shot four times during the Montreal massacre on December 6, 1989, the CCFR has dismissed the Montreal massacre as “an anomaly that does not warrant changing gun laws.”

Provost’s organization, PolySeSouvient, is paying close attention to a gun control bill  — Bill C-21 — currently under study by the federal government. The CCFR and Conservative MPs see the bill as an attack on law-abiding gun owners, claiming it would ban rifles and shotguns presently used legally for hunting.

In response, Prime Minister Trudeau says:

“Unfortunately, we see the gun lobby working with the Conservative Party of Canada to spread misinformation, to use fear, to sow division by trying to mislead Canadians.”

“I love my family”

Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price recently posted a picture of himself with a gun in support of the CCFR, with this comment:

“I love my family, I love my country and I care for my neighbour. I am not a criminal or a threat to society. What [Prime Minister Trudeau] is trying to do is unjust. I support the [CCFR} to keep my hunting tools.”

Price has since said his post was in response to Bill C-21, was not intended to disrespect anyone, and that he was not aware of either the Montreal massacre or the CCFR’s promotional campaign.

There seems to be more than a bit of disingenuousness on the part of both the CCFR and Price.

The CCFR claims that its promo code has nothing to do with the Montreal massacre:

“Our promocode was in no way a reference to the tragedy at Ecole Polytechnique. It was a two-week old response to a Twitter account criticizing us for fundraising. Any suggestion to the contrary is blatantly false.”

Really? What could the promo code “POLY” possibly be referencing other than the Montreal massacre?

Price says he intended no disrespect and, if he truly didn’t know about the Montreal massacre (more on that below), perhaps he’s right. If that’s the case, then would the right thing not have been to apologize and then shut up?

Instead, last night, he again posted his support for guns:

“I continue to stand beside my fellow hunters and sport shooters who have legally acquired our property and use in a safe manner.”

Price seems to be significantly misinformed about what Bill C-21 will do — no doubt in part because of the efforts of organizations like the CCFR — and that is troubling.  

More troubling is the fact that he appears not to have known about the Montreal massacre. I am sure he is not alone in this, and that’s not okay.

Just as our public education system has failed to ensure that children and young people grow up knowing about the harm caused by the genocide and ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples, so it has failed to ensure that those generations born after December 6, 1989, learn about gender-based violence. This leads to thoughtless and ill-informed Twitter posts like those by Carey Price that cannot be un-tweeted. It also creates a culture in which Indigenous peoples are exposed to ongoing harms and in which 52 women are killed in 52 weeks.

As we first remember and then act, today and in the days and weeks to come, let us do so in a way that honours the lost lives of Marcedes Myran, Morgan Harris, Rebecca Contois, Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe and so many others whose names we know and don’t know.

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