Every year on December 6, CUPE members across the province recognize the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This year marks the 28th anniversary of the tragic events that took place in 1989 at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal, where 14 women were targeted and killed by a lone gunman because of their gender. One of those women was Maryse Laganière, a CUPE member employed at the school.
Almost 30 years after this devastating massacre, gender-based violence still exists in our workplaces and communities. Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. A recent study by the Canadian Labour Congress and the University of Western Ontario suggests that domestic violence, which is almost always against women, often follows them to work.
Conversations of sexual harassment and assault have become mainstream. Social media, for example, has exploded with viral campaigns and powerful personal narratives about sexual assault from women and girls. These online movements show how wide spread the problem is and provide another tool to challenge rape culture and sexual violence. They also remind us that there is still a lot of work to do to keep women and girls safe.
In our work and personal lives, CUPE Ontario members are committed to confronting and ending violence against women and girls. The majority of CUPE Ontario’s 260,000 members are women, and we have a proud history of working to eliminate gender-based violence by organizing political campaigns and by bargaining protections into our collective agreements.
This year, the CUPE Ontario Sexual Violence Working Group was formed after delegates at the 2016 Convention passed a resolution in support of creating more survivor-centric processes for dealing with sexual assault in our union. As part of their work, the group is asking locals to take the CUPE Ontario Sexual Assault and Gendered Violence Survey. The information collected will be used to measure supports and resources that exist and to identify gaps so we can become better at preventing and responding to sexual assault in our workplaces, and in our union.
We also know that racialized, indigenous and LGBTQI women, as well as women with disabilities, experience higher rates of all forms of violence in our society. Our union works through and alongside our Equality Committees to ensure we are fighting for the safety and well-being of women facing intersecting equality issues. Through the work of the Aboriginal Council, for example, CUPE Ontario has supported the successful call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, and remains engaged in advocacy around the inquiry to ensure that it reflects and supports the needs of Indigenous women and their communities.
Each year on December 6, our union remembers those who have lost their lives because of gender-based violence and recommits to confronting and eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. Canada is still not a safe country for women. The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women reminds us that we all have a role to play to change this. Let’s all take action in our communities by supporting organizations that work to end violence against women and girls. Let’s be active to help make our streets, workplaces, unions, and homes safe for everyone.
We will never 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
Please visit cupe.on.ca/believesurvivors to take the CUPE Ontario Sexual Assault and Gendered Violence Survey.