Local organizations fail to commemorate Montreal Massacre

As Canadians marked the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when Marc Lapine killed14 young women inside the L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, it felt very disheartening.

Sunday was the actual anniversary. But earlier in the week, Minister for the Status of Women Helena Guergis held a tribute ceremony in the House of Commons foyer. It was gut wrenching to view such incredible hypocrisy. Here was a woman meant to be the champion of women’s rights in our parliament honouring women who were gunned down in the worst act of violence against women in the country’s history. Yet, only a few weeks ago voted with her party to abolish the gun registry.

Guergis, a former rape councillor, tried to deflect criticism by saying her actions at the ceremony were above partisan politics. No one is against ending violence against women. Still, it clearly demonstrates how inconsistent the Conservative Party is on women’s issues.  It also eliminated a court challenges program that funded equity appeals and other rights-based challenges made by women’s groups.

Local commemorations included a joint remembrance service at the Carpenters’ Hall in Port Hope where members of the United Steel Workers and St. Andrew’s United Church in Grafton gathered to mark the occasion.

Sadly, there was nothing formal done in Cobourg. A few flowers, some candles and other remembrances surround the Gathering Place in Victoria Park. The Abuse Awareness Project of Northumberland County erected a sculpture called the Sheltering Form as a permanent commemoration of women who died at the hands of violent abusers.

It is discouraging on both a local and national level to see a lack of leadership around such an important topic as violence against women. We must be grateful for the union and the church for organizing something. It is too bad the Victoria Park location was not utilized. However, it should not take away from the great efforts of these two groups.

But where were all the other organizations and institutions in Northumberland who fight for women’s rights. Where was the solidarity when it was needed on such an important date? This hurts the credibility of the cause for everyone, when all these groups cannot come together as one on such a significant anniversary and on such a vital issue. It is stunning how quickly these agencies will seek publicity to garner donations from the public, but not speak out, acknowledge or provide leadership publicly at such a time as this.

Then, there is the stinging rebuke of the Canadian Conservative Party, who play politics with the gun registry. It was the Montreal Massacre that inspired the creation of the registry. Today 300 fewer people die from gunshots annually than in 1995 due to its existence. Police use the registry 10,000 times each day to prevent or investigate crimes.

You would think Northumberland MP Rick Norlock, a former OPP officer, would support the registry and his brethren in blue. He does not. He voted with his party to repeal the long gun registry on Nov. 4.

The women who face abuse deserve better from our community leaders. For those organizations that provide services and assistance, the work is noble and vital to our community. But silence is compliance. It is hugely disappointing to hear nothing in the local media or on websites about this anniversary.  Shame to all! This was a golden opportunity missed.

As for our elected representatives on all levels, this was also a missed an occasion to demonstrate your commitment to the women in the community. With upcoming elections on all three levels of government in the months ahead, this won’t be forgotten.

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