Jeremy Yudin, Editor-in-Chief
Being a woman came under violent attack 30 years ago, when a gunman murdered 14 female engineering students at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal on Dec. 6, 1989.
The tragedy that gripped the nation was remembered Friday at Humber as the Centre for Human Rights Equity and Diversity held a memorial to remember the victims of the Montreal Massacre.
The anti-feminist attack killed 15 people, 14 of whom were women.
The ceremony featured keynote speaker Tasha Beeds, an assistant professor in the department of Indigenous studies at the University of Sudbury. She is a scholar of Nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) and the Metis. She is also of Barbadian ancestry from the Treaty Six Territories of Saskatchewan.
Beeds, a survivor of abuse, understands the relation of violence against Indigenous women and the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, trans-women, two-spirited, and gender-fluid people.
She said sharing her experiences was in part to honour her ancestors. “As a black Indigenous woman, my ancestors went through a lot,” she said. “I am the living proof. I am their dream made real.
“And so, I’m always conscious of that,” Beeds said.
She examined her gender-based violence experiences through the anthology of Indigenous knowledge systems.
“In accordance of our belief systems, if we have gifts, and we fail to use them, then we’re dishonoring our ancestors,” she said.
The ceremony at Humber began with Indigenous drumming performances and jingle dances, as part of the land acknowledgement.
“We do that acknowledgment each time we gather. I remember those ones, especially on this day, over 30 years ago, that their lives were taken,” said Liz Osawamick, an Anishinaabe Midewiwinkwe community leader who led the ceremony with Indigenous prayers.
According to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA), 118 women and girls were killed by violence in Canada. This works out to a women or girl being killed every three days in this country. The territory of Nunavut had the highest rate of femicide, and the province of Nova Scotia had the least. Only eight per cent of women were killed by strangers.
Women aged 35 to 44 are the most likely to be killed at 29 per cent followed by women aged 25-34, who are overrepresented at 22 per cent. In 77 per cent of cases, information on the race or ethnicity of the victim or the accused was missing, and any data collected is unrepresentative, according to CFOJA.
Regina Hartwick, manager of the Aboriginal Resource Centre (ARC), said the quest for gender equality, the end of gender violence is part of protecting the land.
“If we are serious about social equity for all women and girls, especially for those who identify as Indigenous mothers, daughters, and grandmothers, then we must recognize that violence against the earth is violence against women,” she said.
Heather Black, the director of HR Business Partner Services, Employee and Labour Relations, closed the ceremony by telling attendees that Humber was a safe space.
“I assure you, that Humber continues to work with our community to create spaces that are free of violence, discrimination, and violence,” she said.