December 6, thirty years on

December 6, 2019
Philip Steenkamp
Tags: President

Today our university community gathers to commemorate the 14 women who lost their lives in a horrific act of violence and misogyny at Polytechnique Montréal 30 years ago.

I cannot know what it is like to fear that my dreams for love, education, career, and for a long life on this earth, might be taken because of my gender. I cannot know what their families, schools and community endured.

I do know the toll that violence takes on women, girls and LGBTQ2SIA+ people continues to this day.

Gender-based hate is deeply engrained in societies around the world, Canada included. From the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two Spirit people whose lives were treated with such disregard by our justice system, to violent mass attacks motivated by explicit misogyny, to the overt hate directed to women, girls and LGBTQ2SIA+ people who aspire to leadership, who challenge gender norms or who simply speak out — whether it’s by Twitter mobs or workplace whisper campaigns.

From the Highway of Tears to the internet: it is painfully clear that 30 years on, gender-based violence is still a daily reality.

Should we take that as a reason for hopelessness? No.

But we should take it as clear evidence that our efforts to date haven’t been nearly enough to end the hateful ideology that underpins that violence. We should take it as a prompt to see how misogyny and transphobia intersect with racism and colonialism, and challenge patriarchy in all its forms.

That should inform everything we do as a university: our teaching, our research and our practices as an employer, as colleagues and as members of the broader community.

This is a day to embrace remembrance and action. To grieve those we have lost. To recommit to building a community where women and girls, and LGBTQ2SIA+ people can be safe to live their lives.