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Every day of the week, CUPE members and activists work on the front line to prevent violence against women.

At the Eastman Crisis Shelter—a refuge for abused women and children in Steinbach, Manitoba—CUPE members support abused women and draw awareness to their plight. It’s just one example of the countless organizations where CUPE members provide much-needed community services.

On December 6 the shelter will host a series of candlelight vigils in Steinbach and other nearby towns to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. They’re not the only ones. There are events planned by CUPE members and Canadians happening across the country.

In Ottawa, guest speaker Rashida Collins of the Native Women’s Association of Canada will join CUPE National President Paul Moist for a special ceremony to mark the date. Collins will speak about the Sisters in Spirit campaign, which has sought to raise awareness for missing or murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

In New Brunswick the CUPE NB Women’s Committee is asking members to wear purple to mark the day.

In Winnipeg a candlelight walk from the Union Centre to the Legislature is planned in the morning, and will be followed by a luncheon to raise money for Winnipeg Harvest and the MFL Women’s Memorial Fund.

On Prince Edward Island, Lori MacKay, a member of CUPE’s National Women’s Committee, will speak at a special memorial service on behalf of the PEI Federation of Labour.

In Quebec, CUPE members will participate in events coordinated by the Fédération des Femmes de Québec (FFQ) including a rally in downtown Montreal.

In Toronto, following a recommendation from CUPE’s National Women’s Committee, the Ontario Federation of Labour is co-sponsoring special workshops focusing on new violence and harassment language in the Ontario Health and Safety Act.

More events are planned in every province.

An important date, a serious issue

The special date marks the anniversary of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique shootings, in which fourteen women were singled out for their gender and murdered. One of the women was a CUPE member.

For many years CUPE has been engaged in the struggle to end violence against women,” CUPE National President Paul Moist and CUPE Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux said in a joint letter. “December 6 is an occasion to reaffirm CUPE’s commitment to the broader struggle for women’s equality.”

The statistics on violence against women are startling. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, every minute of every day a Canadian woman or child is being sexually assaulted, and each week one to two women are murdered by a current or former partner. Homicide is the number one killer of women in the workplace.

Aboriginal women face even higher rates of violence. More than 582 Aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada over the past few decades.

CUPE has taken several steps to address women’s issues even in the past few months, introducing a new Code of Conduct for conventions and national meetings, supporting an UN international petition which garnered over one million actions, and supporting CUPE Manitoba’s Respect campaign who developed a video highlighting the work of CUPE members who work in organizations that support abused women.

Mise à jour: Photos from the Ottawa ceremony have been added. Michelle McGuire and Rashida Collins of the Native Women’s Association of Canada/Sisters In Spirit joined CUPE National President Paul Moist in a ceremony at CUPE’s national office.

Collins discussed some of the unique challenges the Aboriginal community in Canada faces regarding violence against women. A lack of proper transportation, for example, often puts Aboriginal women at risk.

In some of our smaller isolated communities, women and girls are forced to hitchhike, and we can’t even tell them not to,” said Collins. “They need to [travel to urban centres] for things we take for granted, like groceries, doctors appointments, that sort of thing.”

Moist addressed how violence exists in a variety of forms that need to be addressed in different ways.

Our union is committed to working with others to end violence against women and girls, including taking measures to end poverty, which is a form of structural violence that makes women and girls and others vulnerable,” said Moist. “It’s important that we gather on this day every year to remember the victims and to resolve ourselves to fight for positive change on behalf of all women who are victims of violence.”

For more information on CUPE’s work on women’s equality, check out some of these links: