In 2017, acts of sexual harassment and assault have drawn international attention and scrutiny. Fuelled by the #MeToo social media campaign, men in all industries have been called out for inappropriate and criminal behaviour against women. The insufficient apologies and remorse expressed by the attackers have also shone a light on how much society enables gender-based violence. This year’s events have made the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women even more prevalent. At MGCI, several clubs as well as school administration organized events in commemoration of the day.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women began in 1991 after fourteen aspiring female engineers studying at the École Polytechnique de Montréal were killed on 6 December 1989 by a male applicant who had been rejected for admission. He claimed he was “fighting feminism.” The event, known as the Montréal Massacre, is the face of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and is used as an example of gender-based violence.
Around 11 am, Vice-Principle Mr. Sharp began commemoration events with a brief background on the Montréal Massacre, the day, and what it honours. The whole school then observed a minute of silence for the victims. At the same time, SAC’s SAC Social Justice and Equity Committee (SJEC) held their Silent March throughout the school. SAC members as well as representatives from various clubs held images of the fourteen victims with tea candles. The march began on the third floor and passed by every classroom before ending in the library, where the images and candles made a small memorial. Participant John Le, a representative of the Politics and Debate Club, said, “Considering what has been going on involving all the sexual allegations that have arisen, it is important to support women’s rights.”
At lunch, SJEC also welcomed students to their Silent Vigil to come and pay their respects. In the cafeteria, Me to We asked students to write down what the day means to them on orange and white stickynotes, the colours of the United Nations’ Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign. The Feminist Club created a display on the bulletin board in the cafeteria as well, with images of the fourteen women.
In front of the library, teachers Mr. Langford and Ms Longpre asked male students to sign the White Ribbon pledge, promising to end violence against women. Ms. Longpre said, “The White Ribbon pledge is a pledge to stop the culture that perpetuates violence against women in any way. Not only in just extreme behaviours such as rape, but also in ways that seem harmless like sexist jokes.”
Many students participated in the various activities. Grade 12 student Sonia Balani said, “Violence against women is not acceptable and I found that MGCI paying their respects to those who were killed and wanting to take and talk about action towards no violence was nice to see.”
Mr. Alexander, a teacher advisor for SAC, said, “[SJEC] did [these events] because these girls matter. They were getting an education, a right any Canadian has, and their lives were cut short by somebody who was angry about something.” He added that the issue is important for everyone to remember, saying “There are so many people who don’t know about the event, an event that happened in Canada. And as Canadians, I think we have a responsibility to know what happened in our country, and [violence against women] is very modern and everyday.” SAC SJEC Convener Rahma Khedr added, “Our main focus was to give students knowledge of how violence against women affects everyone’s lives, whether it’s our family, family friends, or others.”
In the future, the school administration hopes to have more of the student body participating in activities on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, as well as make gender-based violence not a one-day discussion, but an ongoing conversation. A committee, consisting of Mr. Alexander, Ms. Longpre, Mr. Langford, and Ms. Wilson, plan to accomplish this through more activities throughout the year.