It’s hard to believe that it will be 30 years since 14 women were gunned down in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989. They were murdered for the simple fact that they were women and I remember that day like it was yesterday.
In a suicide note, the murderer wrote, “feminists have always enraged me.” When he walked into a classroom, he separated the men from the women and shot nine women, killing six, before continuing his rampage. While doing so, he shouted, “you’re all a bunch of feminists and I hate feminists.”
At the time, I was working in the field of violence against women and what I remember most, following the shock and grief, was the debate that this was an isolated incident and it was in no way related to domestic violence or abuse. My colleagues and I knew this was ridiculous. We knew this was about hatred of women, which we saw every day in shelters, in therapy offices, in sexual assault clinics.
Thirty years later and what has changed? Women are still being beaten, raped and murdered at an alarming rate. The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability released a report in January titled, #CallItFemicide, which found a woman or girl is murdered every 2.5 days in Canada.
And before I get the usual responses of what about men — there are more men being murdered — the report’s author, Myrna Dawson, said, “the context in which women and girls are killed is vastly different because they are most often killed by people they know and that’s in contrast to males who are most often murdered by strangers or acquaintances.”
And now we have something that we didn’t have 30 years ago — social media. The van attack in Toronto last year that killed eight women and two men was done by an alleged attacker who posted this on Facebook just before he rented the van: “the incel rebellion has begun!”
Incel stands for involuntary celibate and there are communities of these men who believe they are “gentlemen” that women ignore. He told police following the attack, “I felt very, very angry, I considered myself a supreme gentleman. I was angry that they would give their love and affection to obnoxious brutes. I know of several other guys on the internet who feel the same way.”
So here is this online community of men who sit at home and talk to one another about how awful they are treated by women and for the most part that’s all they do But what about the ones who act on these beliefs? According to the 2019 Global Terror Index, there have been six incel attacks in North America and for some of the social media sites, the Montreal massacre is talked about and the murderer is a hero.
Here in Canada, we also have a problem with Indigenous women being killed at a much higher rate and when a report was issued calling it genocide, what did we do? We spent a great deal of time debating the word genocide. Let’s start taking this seriously and treat the violence against women as hate crimes.
In the meantime, we can honour and remember the women who have been murdered, not just in Montreal 30 years ago but at home. Here on Manitoulin Island, there will events in Mindemoya and Wiikwemkoong, starting with an invitation to the public to drop in to Manitoulin Family Resources on Dec. 5 from 1-7 p.m. to craft an item or write a message of memoriam to put on a public tree of Remembrance and Hope, which will be lit Dec. 6. For further information, call 705-377-5160.
The Wiikwemikoong Health Centre and Prevention Services invites the public to attend events on the 6th; contact Barbara Peltier at 705-859-3800, ext. 206, for further information.
Look for events in your area and let’s never forget the women and children who have lost their lives to violence.
Ruth Farquhar is a freelance writer based on Manitoulin Island.