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A dark chapter in Canadian history is remembered

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Sean Chase/Daily Observer
A moment of silence is observed at the Renfrew County Women’s Monument. Ceremonies marking the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women were held at the monument in Petawawa Wednesday morning.

Sean Chase/Daily Observer A moment of silence is observed at the Renfrew County Women’s Monument. Ceremonies marking the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women were held at the monument in Petawawa Wednesday morning.

 

PETAWAWA – It was a bitterly cold December morning as area residents gathered here Wednesday to not only mark a dark chapter in Canadian history but remember the lives of 23 area women whose lives ended so tragically.

Drawing into a circle in front of the Renfrew County Women’s Monument, a small crowd paused to commemorate the loss of the 14 female engineering students gunned down at Montreal’s L'Ecole Polytechnique 28 years ago as part of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

As their names were called, red roses were laid at the base of the monument for Genevieve Bergeron, 21; Helene Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Maryse Laganiere, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 27; Sonia Pelletier, 23; Michele Richard, 21; Annie St-Arneault, 23; Annie Turcotte, 21 and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, 31. One by one the roses were quietly laid at the foot of the three eight-foot sculptures depicting three women.

Organizers also read out the names of women murdered in Ontario this year. Adding to the poignancy of this year's ceremony was the bittersweet knowledge that the killer of Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton would soon receive justice in a Pembroke courtroom that very day.

“Dc. 6, 1989 was a real wake-up call in terms of violence against women in Canada,” JoAnne Brooks, director of the Women's Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County. “We gather every year to honour and remember the 14 women who were murdered.”

Addressing the ceremony, lawyer Pam Cross, the massacre at L'Ecole Polytechnique by a lone gunman was an event that catapulted the hidden reality of violence against women into news headlines across Canada and around the world. Reflecting on the issue as it stands now, Cross questioned whether Ontario's Sexual Violence and Harassment Plan, intended to address sexual violence on university and college campuses, will matter if there is no accountability to ensure it is properly implemented.

Cross asked if the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will make a difference. She also pointed to the current scandal overwhelming Hollywood in which high-profile actors and producers are being outed for sexual predation. She wondered aloud why the media has not focused on those women who are still not safe to speak out about the sexual violence they have been subjected to.

“The Harvey Weinstein phenomenon opens the door to discussions about male power that need to happen,” said Cross noting such a conversation has already began in Canada with the Jian Ghomeshi trial. She added grief and rage are two emotions that will always be connected with this tragic day.

“Grief at the ongoing violence to which women everywhere in the world are subjected. Rage at how little we have been able to change that reality,” Cross said. “In this beautiful and peaceful spot, let us first take the time to grieve, as we remember the women we know and the women we don't know whose lives have been affected by male violence.”

A white rose was later laid in honour of missing and murdered aboriginal women, while a rose was placed to remember those women still living with violence.

SChase@postmedia.com