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Memorial held in Ottawa for victims of Montreal Massacre and all violence against women

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It’s been 33 years since the massacre at Montreal’s École Polytechnique and Canadians will be gathering to honour the lives of the 14 women killed by a gunman and all lives lost to gender-based violence.

Dec. 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Womenand vigils were held across the country.

Ottawa’s was held at the women’s monument in Minto Park, located on Lewis Street between Elgin and Cartier streets. 

Other measures to mark the day included the lowering of flags on all City of Ottawa buildings. The city says flags will be at half-mast from sunrise to sunset Tuesday.

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women was created in 1991 as a response to the femicides at École Polytechnique. Marc Lépine killed 14 women at the Montreal engineering school in an attack deliberately and openly targeting feminists. He injured 10 other women and four men in his attack before he turned the gun on himself.

Killed were 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.

Nathalie Provost was shot four time and survived. She said the memory of this day never fades.

"I also know what kind of damage an assault-style weapon can do and how quickly it can do it," she told CTV Morning Live.

Femicide and violence against women were the focus of a coroner’s inquest earlier this year.

The inquest was held into the femicides of three Ottawa Valley women in 2015. It included 86 recommendations aimed at preventing similar tragedies, including calling on the Ontario government to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic and to establish an independent commission dedicated to eradicating it.

A man with a known history of violence against women murdered Nathalie Warmerdam, Carol Culleton and Anastasia Kuzyk on Sept. 22, 2015. Basil Borutski was a former partner of all three and had been deemed a risk prior to being released from prison on previous domestic violence related offences. Borutksi was convicted in 2017 of first-degree murder in Warmerdam and Kuzyk’s deaths the second-degree murder in Culleton’s. At 60, he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 70 years.

This year’s national day also comes on the heels of controversy involving a federal gun-control bill that has been amended to impose a regulatory ban on what the government calls “assault-style weapons”, including the type of gun used in the École Polytechnique massacre, in addition to tightening legal access to handguns. Critics have argued about the definition of “assault-style weapons” and have said it would negatively affect hunters, particularly Indigenous hunters whose right to hunt is protected by the Constitution.

Controversy also erupted when the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights publicized the discount code “POLY” for use on its merchandise store, which carries items like mugs, clothing, and flags. The CCFR claims the code was a clap-back against the gun-control group PolySeSouvient, which had previously criticized the CCFR for selling merchandise. The CCFR denied that the code was meant to mock the École Polytechnique massacre. The code is no longer valid.

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

"Never should femicide be used as a promo code, or a hashtag," said women and gender equality minister Marci Ien on CTV Morning Live Tuesday. "Let's just think about that."

Ien also praised Provost and asked views to imagine what she felt about the discount code news.

"For her, with what she’s struggled with, to have to look at that as it makes headlines across the country, it’s more than unfortunate. I’ll just say that." 

Hockey Canada has also been under intense scrutiny this year for its response to its handling of sexual violence. It was revealed in May that the organization paid an undisclosed settlement to a woman in London, Ont., after she alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight men, including members of the 2018 men's world junior team. It was later discovered that Hockey Canada had three funds to cover costs that included sexual assault settlements. 

Women and Gender Equality Canada says the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is not just about remembering the lives lost to femicide and violence against women but also a day to take action to stop it.

“Achieving a Canada free from gender-based violence requires everyone living in this country to educate themselves and their families and communities on gender-based violence, centre the voices of survivors in our actions and speak up against harmful behaviours,” it says. 

--With files from CTV's Leah Larocque.

SUPPORTS

Unsafe at Home Ottawa

Unsafe at Home Ottawa is a secure text and online chat service for women who may be living through increased violence and abuse at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Counsellors provide emotional support, practical advice and referrals. Text and online chat service is available 7 days a week from 8:30 a.m. to midnight.

Text: 1-613-704-5535 or chat online at https://unsafeathomeottawa.ca/chat-text/

Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa

The Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa supports all women survivors. This including those from diverse groups, particularly, though not limited to, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people, immigrants and refugees, racialized persons, persons from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, and those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions. SASC Ottawa strives to be a safe space for survivors of all intersections, and we believe a commitment to end gender-based violence is centred in the foundation of anti-oppressive values.

Phone: 1-613-234-2266

Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre

The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre provide services for survivors of rape and sexual violence. Its telephone crisis line is available 24/7. It also offers online and text-based supports from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. seven days a week in partnership with Sexual Assault Centre Kingston, and has information on counselling services.

The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) supports and empowers trans and cis women, trans men, two-spirit, gender-fluid, and non-binary survivors.

Phone: 1-613-562-2333

Text: 1-613-544-6424 or online at https://www.webelievesurvivors.ca/chat-now

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