In the wake of the massacre, École Polytechnique’s spokesperson said the university was “in a state of crisis” and would remain closed.
“We were trying hard to attract women to the engineering school, and now an imbecile like this goes and ruins the careers of so many promising young female students,” the spokesperson is quoted telling the Montreal Gazette.
“There are no words to describe how horrible it is. I don’t know if we’ll ever get over it.”
That was 1989, the year in which the massacre that killed 14 women propelled the issue of violence against women to the fore of the Canadian conscious, putting women’s rights and feminism under the microscope.
Wait, There’s More: Women’s shelters on the front lines are in crisis
Yet, 30 years later, to be a woman in Canada still means living with risk — to live knowing that, on average, a woman is killed every other day, that once a week a woman is murdered by her partner and that one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence over the course of their lives.
Although the homicide rate has gone down, the overall levels of violence against women have not changed substantially in decades. While 164 women were killed in 2018 compared to 245 in the year of the massacre, that still amounts to one woman every 60 hours.
That is what’s behind the repeated calls from a number of experts for a national action plan to address violence against women.
The United Nations called on every country to have a national action plan by 2015, however that same year, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government actually voted down a motion from NDP MP Niki Ashton that would have created one.
After that, Justin Trudeau’s government created a federal strategy to address gender-based violence, which the UN special rapporteur on violence against women noted in a June 2019 report was “project oriented, focusing on specific areas and lacking a human rights based holistic legal framework” before highlighting the need for a national action plan.
While Trudeau’s party promised $30 million for a national action plan during the most recent election, the pledge came without many details or a timeline. Without a proper plan, a blueprint created by Women’s Shelters Canada makes it clear Canadian responses to violence against women “are largely fragmented, often inaccessible and can work to impede rather than improve women’s safety.”
What follows are headlines ripped straight out of the news. How much has actually changed since the horrific day when 14 women were gunned down? Can you tell from newspaper headlines alone which issues of violence women were grappling with in 1989 versus 2019?