National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women held at StFX
Members of the StFX community took time to remember and to issue a call to action against gender-based violence during the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women commemoration ceremony held on campus Dec. 6.
“Think of an action that you can do to end sexualized violence,” RCMP Cst. Deepak Prasad, who co-hosted the ceremony with third year StFX student Karen Nembhard, said to the large crowd gathered in the Schwartz auditorium.
“You guys are the people who can make a difference,” he said as he quoted a saying noting the difference between ‘one day’ versus ‘day one.’ “Today is day one. That’s our call to action.”
Ms. Nembhard says while much has been done, gender-based violence is still very much a reality and problem in our communities.
“We look forward to continued change in our community,” she said as the co-hosts reiterated the words of previous ceremony speakers encouraging everyone to explore ways they can get involved to end gender-based violence.
December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. Established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada, the day marks the anniversary of the murders in 1989 of 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal.
As well as commemorating the 14 young women whose lives ended in an act of gender-based violence that shocked the nation, December 6 represents an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society.
It is also an opportunity to consider the women and girls for whom violence is a daily reality, and to remember those who have died as a result of gender-based violence. And finally, it is a day on which communities can consider concrete actions to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
Guest speaker Dr. Robyn Bourgeois, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Brock University, and formerly of StFX’s Coady International Institute, delivered a videotaped address. In particular, she focused on the reality of violence against Indigenous women.
As an Indigenous woman herself and as the mother of two Indigenous girls, she says they live in the shadow of some disturbing statistics and a certain degree of fear every day. Indigenous women, she says, represent only about four per cent of the population, but account for almost 20 per cent of the homicide cases in Canada. Dr. Bourgeois said similarly Indigenous women are nearly six times more likely to be victims of homicide and about 2.5 times more likely to be victims of violence than non-Indigenous.
Dr. Bourgeois provided some context for this, spoke about the challenges faced, and provided strategies to end this violence, including honouring and recognizing the sovereignty, self-determination and unique knowledge of Indigenous women and involving them in any initiatives, putting pressure on government to take action to end this violence, and of supporting people and efforts working towards this goal.
Also during the ceremony, Dean of Science Dr. Petra Hauf presented first year StFX student Claudia Fulton with both the Memorial Scholarship for Women in Engineering as well as the General Motors of Canada Ltd. Women in Science Bursary, awarded for leadership potential and academic standard.
Margie McKinnon, Director of StFX’s Health, Counselling & Accessible Learning Centre also spoke, providing background on the development of StFX’s standalone sexual violence policy launched last fall. She strongly encouraged everyone to familiarize themselves with the policy, and provide input.
The key goal of all our work is to support and protect the rights of survivors, she said.
“I invite you to be part of this work,” she said as she issued a call to action to everyone to make a personal commitment to learn more about sexualized violence.
It’s not enough to be aware of sexualized violence, and it’s not enough to think the responsibility of sexualized violence prevention lies with this committee or other groups, she said.
“As individuals, each one of us has the power to stop sexualized violence,” she said. “Take a risk, challenge all forms of sexualized violence when you see it.”
Senior StFX student Brenda Gatera gave a stirring musical performance during the ceremony while Ms. Gatera and Ms. Nembhard provided a moving closing performance.