December 6, 2011
Nearly 200 community and labour activists turned out to mark the Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL) December 6 Day of Mourning ceremony at the Union Centre in Winnipeg. The day marks the anniversary of the tragedy that occurred on that day in 1989 when a madman opened fire on students at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, killing 14 women and wounding 13 other people, nearly all of them women. The reason for this horrible event? The fact that the victims were women.
We mark December 6 as a Day of Remembrance to honour these victims and renew our fight to end violence against all women and girls – whether it’s in our own communities, across Canada or in other countries around the world.
In his address to the crowd, MFL President Kevin Rebeck (right) said “The Day of Remembrance is a day to remember the 14 women senselessly killed on December 6, 1989 at Ecole Polytechnique. We mark December 6 as a day to honor those victims and renew our fight to end violence against women and girls, in our own communities, across Canada and around the world.
“I’ve honored and respected the day of mourning since learning about it. It’s come to be more meaningful because of a horrible personal experience that I’ve shared with women I care about. I had a friend – a friend that I used to spend a fair bit of time with. We talked and joked, she shared stories about her wonderful husband and kids, I shared stories about my single life. We laughed a lot and knew each other very well.
“One day she called me up in tears. She said she can’t take it anymore. She can’t take being hit anymore. Would I come get her? We packed her and the kids up that day and I took her to a family member and spent a fair bit of time talking with her.
“She eventually agreed to see someone to talk about things. She left her husband for good. It shocked me that this was happening and no one knew.
“A number of years later, I made a new friend in the labour movement. She was a young activist, keen, bright, outgoing. Still, kind of a rocker from the metal days. She was a city worker who held her own with her co-workers and wasn’t shy to stand up for herself. She got involved in the union because she’d stand up for others too. Shannon Scromeda was a spitfire with a great sense of humour and lots to give.
“On April 19, 2008, she got in a fight with her husband – he won the fight by using a hammer to end her life. It’s tragic, and makes me angry and sad at the senselessness of it all.
“Violence against women is unacceptable. I know many strong women. Women I look up to and love. They can’t make it stop without men paying attention and taking action too.
“Today isn’t just a day of remembrance. It’s a call to action. To speak out. To let others know its not acceptable to hurt others.
“It may be a neighbor or friend who needs to know you don’t think that’s right. It may be more subversive then that. It may be a prime minister who dismantles a long gun registry that police say makes a difference in domestic dispute calls. A law that lets spouses have an opportunity to indicate if they have reservations about their partner having a gun. A registry that tracks firearms and has an impact. A law that has shown a decrease of women murdered with firearms by their intimate partner by 69 per cent.
“It may be a judge who’s comments about a how a woman’s mode of dress justified a rapist getting a light sentence.
“Our voices are needed. Together we can make a difference. Together we need to make things better. I know the MFL is committed to working through and with our women’s committee and our executive to do what we can.
Guest speaker Leslie Spillett (left), Executive Director of Ka Ni Kanichihk, brought greetings and a message of solidarity from the Aboriginal Women’s community. Ms. Spillett condemned the unrelenting violence against women in Canada, and outlined the added pressures facing women in the Aboriginal Community. Too many are victims of violence and victims of degrading racism that allows the perpetrators of violence to escape justice and being held accountable for their crimes.
Another speaker at the MFL’s December 6 Day of Remembrance was The Honourable Jennifer Howard (right), Manitoba’s Minister Responsible for the Status Of Women. She spoke to the gathering and read out the text of the Province of Manitoba Proclamation, declaring this day to be an official day of remembrance:
Whereas On December 6, 1989, 14 women were murdered at l’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, victims of gender-based violence; and
Whereas since then, Canadians, including Manitoba women and men, have observed December 6 as a Day of Remembrance in honour of the women murdered in Montreal, and of all Canadian women who are victims of violence; and
Whereas the Province of Manitoba is committed to ending violence against women; and
Whereas it is right and proper that government formally recognize December 6 as an official Day of Remembrance.
Now Therefore Be It Known That I, Jennifer Howard, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women for the Province of Manitoba, proclaim December 6, 2011 be designated as:
A Day of Remembrance
In Manitoba, and do commend its thoughtful observance to all the citizens of Manitoba.