The Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education joins the University of Toronto community in recognizing the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on December 6. Please read below a statement from the Vice-President of People Strategy, Equity & Culture at U of T, Kelly Hannah-Moffat.
On December 6, 33 years will have passed since the Montreal Massacre. On that day in 1989, 14 young women—the youngest aged 20 and the eldest, 31—were murdered at Montreal’s École Polytechnique (now Polytechnique Montréal) simply for being women. That this inconceivable act took place at one of the country’s engineering schools shook Canada’s post-secondary sector, and resonates still. Collective grief and rage laid the foundation for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, observed annually since 1991.
I urge students, faculty, librarians, and staff to participate in a University-wide event on December 6 to remember the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre and honour the lives taken and impacted by gender-based violence. This event will also recognize members of our community who have shown a commitment to ending gender-based violence and engage activists, scholars, and community leaders in discussion about the need for ongoing efforts to address gender-based violence in Canada and globally.
More than 30 years after the Montreal Massacre, femicide and gender-based violence continue to occur in public and private spaces across Canada. Recent statistics tell a devastating story: the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability reported a 26% increase in killings of women and girls from 2019 to 2021. Indigenous women and girls have experienced the highest rates of all forms of sex- and gender-based violence. Police-reported data confirm that rates of physical and sexual assault are higher for women who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, who have lived experience of disability, and/or who are racialized. Such realities confirm both how deeply rooted misogyny is within the structures and systems that define Canadian society, and how other forms of discrimination—such as racism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia—are significant factors in determining an individual’s risk of experiencing violence, and the severity of this violence.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women urges all of us—citizens, institutions, and governments—to oppose and prevent gender-based violence through our words and our actions. At the University of Toronto, this work is ongoing and requires substantial progress on a wide range of commitments: from creating more robust policies to improving our pathways for disclosure and reporting, and from pursuing corrective actions to promoting a culture of active consent across our three campuses. We appreciate that our community of students, faculty, librarians, and staff urges University leadership to do more and to do better. We will continue institutional efforts to create learning and working environments that are free from violence and harassment of any kind.