The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, also known as White Ribbon Day, marks the anniversary of the Dec. 6, 1989, École Polytechnique massacre, in which armed student Marc Lépine murdered fourteen women and injured ten others. The massacre has since gone down as the worst case of gender-based violence in Canadian history.
Two years after the horrific events that happened at École Polytechnique, the Canadian government passed legislation making Dec. 6 a national day to reflect on the violence committed against women and encourage discussion around the issue.
Since then, memorial services have been held across Canada in honour of the innocent women who have lost their lives due to hatred and violence. TRU has been no different and in the past has regularly held a service on the day.
This year however, will be a little different. In line with Aboriginal artist Jaime Black’s Redress project, the TRUFA Equity and Status of Women committees will combine efforts with Jeffrey McNeil and his Aboriginal Decolonizing Social Work Practice class to collect and hang dresses and pantsuits across campus.
Meant to symbolize missing and murdered women in Canada, McNeil’s project strays slightly from Black’s initiative in that not only red dresses will be displayed.
“On Dec. 3 we will be installing yellow, black, white and red garments to keep in line with medicine wheel teachings that the colours represent the four nations, or races of women,” McNeil said.
Though the day of remembrance is held on the 6th, the dresses will stay up until Dec. 7, when the TRUFA Status of Women Committee will be hosting their lunch memorial in Old Main’s art gallery. Sociology professor Monica Sanchez and McNeil will be the event’s guest speakers.
The day is also meant to highlight issues of violence in minority communities as well. “It’s a day of action against violence against people in general,” said Gail Morong, co-chair of the TRUFA Equity Committee.
“This year the focus is broader though, it’s not just about violence against students in educational institutions, and it’s not just about violence against women in general,” Morong said. “Though we really wanted to focus on violence against Aboriginal women, because it’s a subset that is even more problematic in this province.”
Morong hopes that the day encourages discussion on what is a very complex issue. “We need to have intimate talks and discussions, especially within the curriculum,” she said. “The Status of Women Committee have been lobbying for years for a minor in gender studies. We don’t want courses in gender studies to be a once a year kind of thing.”
She said that it is also a time to take a look at how fairly women are represented in the university’s faculty.
“We as women in faculty are represented very well at the lowest level. We might have 70 per cent sessionals who are women, but when you get to the top and ask, ‘What per cent of the highest-paid people at this university are women?’ It is reversed, and about 70 per cent are men,” Morong said.
She attributes this problem to TRU’s lack of data on employment diversity. Despite TRU’s employment equity policy, which requires the university to hire minorities, the university doesn’t keep data on the number of women or other visible minorities it hires.
“For example, if the number of Aboriginal students is increasing, but the number of Aboriginal faculty is not, there is a problem,” she said. “Unfortunately if the data isn’t there, then you can’t see that problem.”
Though Morong has said there is still much work to be done, simply recognizing the problem is key to resolving the issue. “From there, we can start making spaces for the voices of minorities,” she said.