December 6th is National Day of Remembrance & Action on Violence Against Women. On this day in 1989, fourteen women were gunned down at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. This event has led to much debate over the issue of violence against women in Canada, leading the country to be one of the first to build memorials to remember women victims of domestic violence. I wrote about that day and listed their names on last year’s post about the event. You can watch a video here of an interview with Sylvie Gagnon, who survived a bullet in the head in that fateful day.
This time I would like to remind you that according to Statistics Canada, 600,000 women in common-law or marital relationships reported in 2004 that they were physically or sexually assaulted by their spouse. Half of Canadian women can expect to experience an act of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
In a poignant article in today’s Toronto Star (“End violence against all women”), Jasmeet Sidhu highlights the plight of immigrant women, who often come to Canada accompanying their husbands and whose ability to report an abusive spouses is limited by cultural, social, and economic circumstances. Immigration leaves them economically dependent on their spouses and away from the kinship groups or family-support networks to which they belonged in their native country. She asks that the government make more of an effort to reach out to these women and give them support that is sensitive to their cultural constraints.
As Sidhu rightfully points out, violence against women is not simply a matter of women’s rights, it is a human rights’ issue. Lest we forget…