image of women looking in the distance

December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montréal, where 14 women were targeted and killed by a lone gunman. One of those women was Maryse Laganière, a CUPE member and an employee at the school.

Twenty-five years later, more than half of Canadian women still experience violence during their lives. Recent high-profile cases and news stories involving violence against women and girls have provoked important dialogue across the country and sparked countless demands for government action. The violence must end. We all have important roles to play in the struggle. Violence against women is not only a distant issue we see in the media, it’s also a union issue that directly affects our members.

The brutal murder of 43-year-old Zahra Mohamoud Abdille, a CUPE Local 79 member from the health-care sector, is one tragic example. Sister Zahra and her two young sons, Faris, 13, and Zain, 8, were found dead in their Toronto apartment on Saturday, November 29. Her husband took his own life later that day. His involvement in the murders is still being investigated by police. Zahra had previously sought refuge with her two boys in a women’s shelter, but was forced to return home when she was denied legal aid for a custody battle and did not qualify for affordable housing. The system failed Zahra miserably, again and again, and it continues to fail women who experience violence every single day. (Read a message from CUPE Local 79 President Tim Maguire about slain Local 79 member Zahra Mohamoud Abdille here.)

Despite commitments to end violence against women, the Harper government has defunded nearly every federal women’s organization and eliminated the long-gun registry – which was legislated in response to the Montréal Massacre.

A new study, conducted by the Canadian Labour Congress and Western University, reveals the disturbing truth about how domestic violence impacts the workplace. A third of the survey’s respondents reported experiencing domestic violence. Of those, more than half stated the violence followed them to work.

A majority of CUPE Ontario’s 240,000 members are women. Whether it’s bargaining anti-harassment language in our collective agreements or organizing political action campaigns, our sisters and brothers have a proud history of standing together to end all forms of violence against women and girls. Today, CUPE Ontario not only remembers those who lost their lives because of gender-based violence, we also commit to redouble our efforts to organize for real change and an end to violence against women.

Now, more than ever, it’s time for women to come together to have discussions and explore new ways to stop intolerable acts of violence against women. We invite our members to register for our Women’s Conference, March 4-7, 2015.The conference coincides with International Women’s Day, March 8.

Let us not forget…

Geneviève Bergeron was 21 years old
Hélène Colgan was 23 years old
Nathalie Croteau was 23 years old
Barbara Daigneault was 22 years old
Anne‐Marie Edward was 21 years old
Maud Haviernick was 29 years old
Barbara Maria Klucznik was 31 years old
Maryse Leclair was 23 years old
Annie St‐Arneault was 23 years old
Michèle Richard was 21 years old
Maryse Laganière, CUPE member, was 25 years old
Anne‐Marie Lemay was 22 years old
Annie Turcotte was 21 years old
Sonia Pelletier was 23 years old

Communities across Ontario will gather for vigils, memorials and other ceremonies to commemorate women who have died as a result of violence.