One by one, fourteen female engineering students from Dalhousie university took to the stage to read out the names and accomplishments of the 14 women killed at École Polytechnique 30 years ago.
“Having an opportunity to participate was really important for all of us,” said Sara Evely, a fourth year engineering student at Dalhousie University and president of Dalhousie’s Women in Engineering Society.
“It’s all about remembering how far we’ve come, but also looking to the future, and knowing we have to do better.”
Evely was one of several guest speakers at the National day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women commemoration event held at Pier 21 Friday morning.
The day is an opportunity to honour the women who lost their lives at École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989, and all women and girls who are impacted by gender-based violence.
Speakers reflected on how things have changed and improvements that have been made over the past 30 years.
Chief Julia Cechetto recalled how when she first started out as an officer there was no legislation about how police handled domestic violence calls.
“The victim would say I don’t want anything done, I can’t leave, you know, for a variety of reasons, and we would leave,” said Cechetto.
“In 2001 the domestic violence intervention act was introduced, and in 2002 and 2003 there was training for all police officers across the province, in which we were taught that charges would be laid.”
But speakers also reflected on what still needs to be done.
“This happened 30 years ago and the fact is that gender-based violence is still very strong. It’s felt in the lives of women every single day,” said Maria José Yax-Fraser, chair for the Immigrant Migrant Women’s Association of Halifax.
According to a 2017 UN report, about 137 women around the world are killed everyday by someone they know.
Senator for Nova Scotia East Preston, Wanda Thomas Bernard says to move forward it’s important to promote gender equality, and work to eliminate specific gender roles.
“If we really want to get to the system changes that we need, that needs to start with how we raise our children,” she said.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Evely who says while women have made strides in many industries, others like engineering continue to be male dominated.
“It’s not about convincing every girl to go into STEM or making sure there’s an equal demographic,” Evely said.
“It’s just about making sure that girls know that its okay to reach their full potential if they want to do engineering or any other male dominated career path that they can and we’re here to support them all the way.”
Dalhousie’s Women in Engineering Society will be hosting a separate commemoration event Friday event at 5:30 at the Richard Murray Design Campus, and the Women’s Community Space at Dalhousie Legal Aid Service is hosting Not So Silent Vigil – a walk starting at the Halifax Central Library at 5:15pm.