12.08.2007

december 6: day of remembrance

Two days late, I want to acknowledge the anniversaries of two terrible, important events in Canadian history.

On December 6, 1917, the people of Halifax were devastated by the detonation of a French cargo ship, fully loaded with wartime explosives, that collided with a Norwegian ship in Halifax Harbour. Now known as the Halifax Explosion, about 2,000 people were killed, and more than 9,000 people were injured. The population of Halifax was about 50,000 at the time. The Halifax Explosion was the largest artificial explosion until the United States destroyed Hiroshima, and is still one of the world's largest artificial non-nuclear explosions to date.

The loss of life could have been much worse, were it not for the heroism of one man, Vince Coleman. James sent me this excellent re-telling of that well-known story.

On December 6, 1989, 14 women, students at École Polytechnique in Montreal, were murdered by a man named Marc Lepine. Another 14 women were injured but survived, and Lepine committed suicide on the scene.

This was the ultimate hate crime: Lepine killed the women because they were female. He announced, "I hate feminists".

December 6 is remembered in Canada as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. In the House of Commons on Thursday, I saw many Members wearing white ribbons in remembrance.

Although response to the massacre led to changes in laws, especially gun-control laws and the police response to shootings, violence against women in Canada remains a serious problem, as it is everywhere, in every country in the world.

Here are some facts, and a statement about the Day of Remembrance from the NDP. Look at their names. All but one was younger than me.

Geneviève Bergeron (b. 1968)
Hélène Colgan (b. 1966)
Nathalie Croteau (b. 1966)
Barbara Daigneault (b. 1967)
Anne-Marie Edward (b. 1968)
Maud Haviernick (b. 1960)
Maryse Laganière (b. 1964)
Maryse Leclair (b. 1966)
Anne-Marie Lemay (b. 1967)
Sonia Pelletier (b. 1961)
Michèle Richard (b. 1968)
Annie St-Arneault (b. 1966)
Annie Turcotte (b. 1969)
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (b. 1958)

9 comments:

M@ said...

On the École Polytechnique memorial, it's important to remember who those fourteen women were: engineering students. It wasn't just violence against women; it was violence against women who dared to transgress traditional gender boundaries. The murders were anything but random. This is often forgotten in the coverage of the events.

There are some thoughts on this here -- from someone who was a young woman preparing to go into engineering herself when the Montreal Massacre happened.

L-girl said...

Thanks, M@. They were definitely not random murders, but I prefer not to differentiate them as engineering students. I know that piece is very important to many people, and I respect that, but I personally don't want to do that.

Women are killed because they are women, whether or not they stay home and raise children, work on construction crews, work in factories or stores, go to university, or any combination of the above. Women who live within traditional gender roles are at very great risk for violence, simply because they are women.

In fact, women in traditional roles actually may be at greater risk, because their relationships may be more conventional, and it's conventional male/female relationships that put women at the greatest risk of violence.

I appreciate where you're coming from, though, and I don't mean this as an argument - merely my own perspective.

Jen said...

On the Halifax explosion: Did you read "The birth house"? Although the novel is primarily set in a small town in NS, the main character (the midwife)leaves it several times with increasing chaos encountered as she heads further afeild. The furthest, and most chaotic, journey was to Halifax in early Dec, 1917. It's a great read.

On Ecole Polytech massacre: I agree with you L-girl that the engineering link is secondary: Lepine could've been a student of any other discipline but his hatred was towards women and feminists. 28 others were injured, not all of them engineering students, Maryse Laganière was a billing clerk at the school and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz was a nursing student. This last point is near and dear to me considering:

"Health care workers are more likely to be attacked at work than prison guards or police officers.
Nurses are the health care workers most at risk, with female nurses considered the most vulnerable"

(International council of nurses http://www.icn.ch/matters_violence.htm)

Nursing is often a role maligned as "traditional" with a "You're so smart, why aren't you in medicine?" which makes me wonder why people don't want smart nurses? Anyways, I'm digressing...

M@ said...

No, I understand where you're coming from, too, and of course I wasn't commenting critically or argumentatively either.

Btw, the Halifax explosion is even more incredible when you see the size of Halifax harbour. I'd read about it in the past but being on the pier and seeing how immense the explosion must have been really hit home for me. The re-telling of the story on Websnark is truly excellent -- I'm glad you linked to it.

L-girl said...

No, I understand where you're coming from, too, and of course I wasn't commenting critically or argumentatively either.

I totally knew that, and thanks for the link to the LiveJournal post.

impudent strumpet said...

I've never thought specifically about the engineering angle before. Now that I do think about it, I wonder if this has anything to do with why the whole "Encourage girls to go into engineering" thing became so infuriatingly pervasive shortly afterwards?

James said...

I wonder if this has anything to do with why the whole "Encourage girls to go into engineering" thing became so infuriatingly pervasive shortly afterwards?

On the plus side, girls swept the grand prizes at the prestigious Siemens student science competition for the first time this year.

Well, the plus side is that they swept it. The minus side is that it took nine years to happen.

Cornelia said...

Women who live within traditional gender roles are at very great risk for violence, simply because they are women.

In fact, women in traditional roles actually may be at greater risk, because their relationships may be more conventional, and it's conventional male/female relationships that put women at the greatest risk of violence.

I agree. This is a very important point. Women who are enlightened and know their rights and have support (and who are maybe even financially independent or at least not scared of state assistance) can come across offenders, too but I guess at least it's easier for them not to put up with abuse or at least not that long or that severely because they don't buy into everything some sexist bully, idiot and offender (and his likes!!!) says. All that conventional environment and gender role stereotyping makes it harder to get out. Thank God I'm away but if a woman buys into all that crap and stays...

Cornelia said...

Sorry my point was definitely not on murder, but on long-term domestic violence or otherwise very abusive relationships. Just wanted to make that clear in order to avoid any sorts of misunderstandings.