Every year, on December 6, we mark the Day of Remembrance and Action for Violence Against Women. We remember the fourteen women who were killed and the ten who were injured at École Polytechnique in 1989.

On this day, and always, CUPE Ontario reckons with the deep reservoir of sexism in our society – and we recommit to eradicating it once and for all.

In this moment, we’re seeing an escalation of violence against women. Ontario’s Assaulted Women’s Helpline has reported significant increases in the number of calls since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In light of provincial restrictions and a loss of work, many women are now at home with their abusers and without the privacy they need to make these calls. Meanwhile, the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women grows with little outcry, let alone action.

There are reports of more frequent incidents of violence in the workplace during this pandemic. Front-line workers, disproportionately women and racialized, are facing the brunt of this trend. CUPE Ontario knows this all too well because many of our members are front-line, women, and racialized.

The violence that women – including trans women, who are disproportionately harmed – face is the product of structural sexism. It’s a structure that also breeds quieter, yet still undeniably damaging, forms of violence.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen that women have experienced more job losses than men. Women are more likely to be on the front-lines, without the PPE they need. Most of the long-term care residents who’ve passed have been women. And women have been more likely to be impacted by the closure of childcare centres.

Our work as a union has been to raise these very issues. We’ve been calling on the Ford Conservatives to put forward a budget which ensures permanent funding for childcare centres, among other social services. We’ve called on this government to reverse its decisions to disband the expert panel on violence against women; its cuts to the Ontario College of Midwives; and its cuts to Ontario rape crisis centres.

CUPE Ontario’s Women’s Committee has led our union’s work to eliminate gender-based violence by organizing awareness campaigns and bargaining protections into our collective agreements.

The many forms of violence against women that remains in all our communities will only end with collective action. Now, more than ever, is the time to gather a storm of resistance.