Caroline Cochrane: National Day of Remembrance and Action Vigil

Delivered on December 6, 2017

Welcome everyone, this evening we gather together to mark this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. 

I would like to thank the Status of Women Council, the Public Service Alliance of Canada North - NWT Regional Women's Committee, and the Northern Territories Federation of Labour for working collaboratively to organize this event tonight. 

On this date 28 years ago, fourteen young women were murdered at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. Although it was 28 years ago, some of us, myself included, remember this horrific day like it was yesterday. 

These young women were not killed due to family violence or because of a personal vendetta against them individually. These women were killed only because they were women. Women seeking higher education in non-traditional fields. Women who wanted to challenge the stereotypes if women's roles that limited what they could do. This stereotyping has held so many of us down and continues to exist today. 

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women as created to ensure we do not forget these fourteen women who died in our fight for equality and equal opportunity. 

Today we also reflect on violence against women in the Northwest Territories and throughout Canada. 28 years later women who seek non-traditional occupations are still judged negatively by many. Often people do not see this judgement as violence if there is no physical marks to bear, however women in powerful or non-traditional occupraitons often feel additional expectations, are second guessed on decisions, and sometimes set up to fail simply because of their gender. This in itself is violence and we need to continue to challenge the voices of those who put down women simply due to their occupational choice. 

December 6th is a key date in the 16 days of activism on violence against women and girls.

The 16 days of Activism began on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ends on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. 

This year's theme for the 16 days is hashtag MYActionsMatter. 

The MYActionsMatter campaign asks Canadians what we can do to prevent gender-based violence, and invites each of us to focus on the five ways in which we can strengthen our efforts to end this violence, including:

  • Listening
  • Believing
  • Speaking out
  • Intervening
  • Acting

Creating communities that take a stand against all forms of violence is essential to changing societal values and social attributes. The #MYActionsMatter campaign is one way to change attitudes and foster communities that value and protect women from gender based violence. We only have to look at the past few months on social media to see the impact that brave women can have by speaking out on harassment and assault by men in positions of power. 

Their voices - our voices - have influenced people to start seeking real solutions. 

These women who were brave enough to come forward against men of great influence are part of the history of women who pave the way for others to stand up against injustices enacted on us solely because of our gender. Each time a woman speaks out she opens the door for more to follow. 

Although I speak of women who have taken a stand, it is also important to recognize that we need men to stand with us against geneer stereotyping, expectations and assumptions. We need men to challenge their own thinking when they consider the roles and abilities of women and to challenge others who vocalize negative assumptions, judgements, and those cruel comments thrown out as "jokes" that continue to perpetuate the negative stereotypes. 

As I have said so often and will continue to say, this is not a women's issue, it is not a men's issue. Gender violence is a societal issue and only when all of us stand together to promote equality will the violence end. 

I would like to thank all of you for being here this evening to take a stand for women and girls working to end gender-based violence and discrimination. 

Our actions count - and now is the time to act. 

Thank you, merci and mahsi cho.