Polytechnique shooting vigil serves as call to action

By Taylor MacPherson
December 7, 2017 - 10:00am

Both women and men have to stand up and take action in order to prevent gender-based violence, if the issue is to end.

That was the message of Patricia Leson, president of the Prince Albert Council of Women, at a vigil held last night in honour of the 14 women killed during the 1989 shooting at Montreal’s École Polytechnique. The day was marked across the country as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and Leson said the anniversary of the shooting provides an opportunity to reflect.

“We must remember those who have died as a result of gender-based violence,” Leson said. “They died because they were women.”

The vigil also served as a call to action, Leson said, because the gender-based hatred that inspired the Montreal shooter is still alive in today’s society. Leson called on the attendees to listen, support, and believe victims of gender-based violence, and to speak out and intervene whenever they witness sexism or violence.

Victims are targeted because of their gender, gender identity, gender expression, or perceived gender, Leson said, noting the violence disproportionately affects women and members of the LGBTQ community.

Police Chief Troy Cooper also spoke at the vigil, saying it’s important to ensure police officers are properly trained to investigate cases of gender-based violence. Police must not be a barrier when women choose to come forward with their experiences, Cooper said. A lot of progress has been made, he added, but there is still a long way to go.

“Today, all across Canada, people are reflecting on violence against women,” Cooper said. “An event like this allows us to keep that discussion at the forefront.”

Carol Soles, executive director of the Prince Albert Safe Shelter for Women, sees the aftermath of gender-based violence on a daily basis. She said abuse can take many forms, including withholding affection or money, criticism, or controlling behaviour. Abuse can be verbal, physical, sexual or emotional, Soles said, but in every case it’s important for abused women to recognize that they do not need to accept it.

“We want to show them that they don’t have to [go back],” Soles said.

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