CUPE members across the country gathered in memorial ceremonies to mark the 10th anniversary of the massacre in Montréal of fourteen women 006b0069006cled because they were women. They mourned the loss of these young lives, spoke of the violence that women and girls confront each day and reflected on the action taken 0061006e0064 that remains to be taken 0074006f0020put an end to the violence.
At CUPE National, staff met to remember the 14 women - 13 students and Maryse Laganière, a secretary in the finance department at the École Polytechnique and a member of CUPE 1604, shot at her desk.
National President Judy Darcy spoke of the shock, the anger and the vulnerability that women felt upon hearing the news of the massacre 006100200072eaction repeated anew each time they remember. And she acknowledged the progress that CUPE has made in the workplace, in the community and within the union to end violence against women.
But mainly she reminded us of the experience of the women CUPE members at École Polytechnique. She had spoken recently with Local 1604 president Doris McNeil and vice-president Nathalie Courchesne and they shared the members’ perspective.
It was only by chance that many more of them did not die on that day in 1989. It’s a fact that haunts them still. For many the anniversary is too painful, the threat too present to mark as other do.
While the students change, the staff remain. They felt first hand the horror and they’ve taken every action to ensure it is never repeated. They’ve organized training in self-defence and confronting harassment. They don’t tolerate sexist jokes, insults or threats from students, professors or their bosses. They’ve had surveillance cameras installed and they report any bizarre behaviour. They know their rights, and they stand their ground.
But it’s not only in the workplace that they’ve confronted the problem. In their own homes with their own children they’ve worked to promote respect and understanding.
The message from the sisters at École Polytechnique? It was horribly frightening what happened at the École Polytechnique. But it hasn’t stopped women from enrolling at the school in ever-greater numbers. And it won’t.
We mourn. And then we organize for change.