The 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre and the 29th CFUW Southport event at Coulter Parkette drew more than 100 supporters and called for an end to gender based violence.

Hub Staff

On December 6, 30 years ago, 13 female students and one female administrator of École Polytechnique in Montreal were segregated and massacred by a man who claimed to be fighting feminism. On the 30th anniversary of this tragic event, the CFUW Southport held a vigil as they have done for the past 28 years. The vigil remembered those who were lost and but also acknowledged those who are still suffering from gender based violence today.

The vigil was held at Coulter Parkette and a table was set up to raise awareness about the White Ribbon Campaign, a project that was adopted in Ontario in 1991 and has since spread to over 60 countries. The vision of the White Ribbon is “a future free from gender-based violence.” Men and boys are encouraged to wear a white ribbon from November 26 until the December 6 National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. By choosing to wear the ribbon, men and boys pledge to “never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women and girls."

Donations were collected at the vigil and will be equally divided between the Women’s House Serving Bruce and Grey (WHSBG) in Kincardine, The Women’s Centre Bruce Grey in Owen Sound, and the Kabaeshiwim Respite Women's Shelter in Saugeen First Nation.

CFUW Co-President Sandie Primeau addressed a crowd of more than 100 supporters and questioned whether things have improved over the last 30 years.

“Between 1980 and 2012, 1,181 Indigenous women have gone missing or murdered and it’s still increasing,” reported Primeau adding that in Bruce County, police services receive two calls per day related to domestic violence and local shelters receive 26 calls a day from women and children requesting assistance.

Primeau brought up the Toronto van attack, where a man drove his van down the sidewalk on Yonge Street, targeting women and killing ten females and injuring six others in April of 2018.

Michelle Lamont, Community and Fund Development Coordinator at WHSBG shared some local statistics on violence against women. Over the last fiscal year, the Kincardine shelter assisted 810 individual women, 219 individual children, and managed 8,649 crisis support and advocacy calls.

“At the Women’s House, we see our community’s most vulnerable everyday,” stated Lamont. “We see what happens when a society becomes complacent, silent, and accepting of things that happen to other people."

Lamont acknowledged that a shift in mindset has begun but is far from complete. She described the way violence against women has been obscured, confined to whispers, and hidden in the shadows.

“We’ve kept violence and hate in the dark,” declared Lamont, “letting it fester and hide in those dark places, leaving our most vulnerable alone to fend for themselves and giving more power to the haters."

Lamont announced the need for action to move past this societal encumbrance. “We need to open the conversation, take a stand, talk about it, and only accept the acceptable,” said Lamont. “Stop accepting jokes that really aren’t funny. Stop turning the other cheek. Stop ignoring the hurt in people’s eyes,” instructed Lamont.

The Volunteer Coordinator of Victim Services Bruce Grey Perth, Heather Hodgson Schleich, explained how the organization can help those suffering in the three counties and explained how their services can relieve the strain on the community’s emergency resources.

“If somebody does need assistance for anything that [makes] you feel victimized, that’s what we’re there for,” assured Hodgson Schleich. “You can call us, it doesn’t have to be the police or firefighters or emergency services."

"We will be there for additional emotional support and we’ll also follow up with information on giving longer term support as well," Hodgson Schleich said.

Hodgson-Schleich provided statistics from Victim Services over the past 11 months for Bruce, Grey and Perth counties as follows:

Assisted 393 clients involved in 286 domestic violence incidents.

Assisted 223 clients involved in 126 sexual violence incidents.

Assisted 33 clients involved in 12 human trafficking incidents.

Assisted 50 clients involved in 43 criminal harassment and stalking incidents.

“It’s absolutely mind boggling,” exclaimed Hodgson Schleich. "When you think of how many people who are out there that haven’t reported it, that haven’t received assistance.”

Hodgson Schleich urged listeners to reach out to those who are in need and help them make that call to Victim Services.

“I’d kind of like to see that with this kind of a turn out,” Hodgson-Schleich said to the over 100 individuals gathered at Coulter Parkette. "As maybe now we’ve got a stone thrown into the still water and with the ripple effect, that maybe we could change."

Fourteen participants emerged from the crowd, each holding the picture of one of the École Polytechnique victims, and read a caption about each woman who was lost. Next, Liz Owen of Port Elgin, recited a poem composed by a Guelph CFUW member, followed by a song of peace and hope from the Chantry Singers.

CFUW Co-President, Heather Conlin, expressed her appreciation to all whom attended, the speakers and Chantry Island Singers. She also made a special thanks to Rowan Stephenson, a Saugeen District Senior School student who designed the poster for this year’s vigil.

Sandi Primeau

CFUW Southport Co-President, Sandie Primeau, spoke at their annual vigil December 6 in regards to the ongoing violence against women and the daily calls to both police services and the women's shelters in Grey and Bruce counties.

Michelle Lamont

Community and Fund Development Coordinator at the Women’s House Serving Bruce and Grey, Michelle Lamont, addressed a crowd of over 100 supporters at the CFUW Vigil in Coulter Parkette in Port Elgin to remember the 14 female victims murdered in 1989 at École Polytechnique in Montreal. Lamont indicated a need to bring violence against women into the light.

Heather Hodgson Schleich

Volunteer Coordinator of Victim Services Bruce Grey Perth, Heather Hodgson Schleich, informed listeners of the help available from their not for profit organization that had assisted hundreds of clients from January 1, 2019 to November 30, 2019.

Liz Owen

Port Elgin resident, Liz Owen, recited a poem about the victims of the Polytechnique shooting, written by a Guelph CFUW member.