Dec. 6 - Remembrance and action on violence against women

'Violence is far less likely between equals. . .therefore, equality and respect of all people is a crucial concept. . .women have not yet achieved equality, and this must be redressed.' - Witness at the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women, 1993

Ottawa (4 Dec. 2007) - On Dec. 6, 1989, a deranged gunman entered L'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. After segregating the female students from the men, he began firing at the female engineering students.

On that day, 14 young women lost their lives to violence. The event became known as the Montreal Massacre and has become symbolic in the fight to end violence against women. In 1991, Canada's Parliament declared December 6th a National Day of Mourning and the National Day to End Violence Against Women.

Cuts to Status of Women

“Sadly, our nation continues to struggle, if not stumble, in its efforts to eradicate violence against women and girls,” says James Clancy, NUPGE National President. “If we can not end the violence perpetrated against women in this country, we should at the very least ensure that we can provide protection and support to those who are struggling to escape the violence.”

Many transition houses and shelters that endeavor to provide this support were affected by the program cuts announced in 2006 by the Harper government to the Status of Women Canada, which included funding both directly and indirectly to these organizations.

As well the Harper government is attempting to silence the voices of women’s organizations that advocate and lobby for an end to violence against women by cutting their funding.

The National Union and its Components will continue to lobby the federal government to reinstate funding to the Status of Women Canada and the organizations it supports, as well as to return “equality” to its mandate.

Sisters in Spirit

In October 2006, at its Building International Sisterhood Conference, the National Union committed funding to a campaign called Sisters in Spirit (one of four women’s projects funded). The Sisters in Spirit campaign was launched by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC).

The main objective of the Sisters in Spirit campaign is to address violence against Aboriginal (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) women. A key focus is violence that is perpetrated against Aboriginal women because of both their gender and their Aboriginal identity.

It is believed that more than 500 Aboriginal women have gone missing in Canada in the last 20 years. Through the Sisters in Spirit campaign, NWAC works with other Aboriginal women's organizations to improve the human rights of Aboriginal women and address the violence facing Aboriginal women.

At the National Union's Triennial Convention in June 2007, a resolution was passed unanimously to provide continued support through its Social Justice Solidarity Fund for three years.

Silent Witness Program

The National Union and its Components, through the National Union’s Advisory Committee on Women's Issues, continue to work in partnership with coalitions and grassroots organizations across Canada to promote the Silent Witness Project. The goal of the project is to remember women killed in acts of domestic violence, create awareness of family violence issues and to promote action against violence towards women.

The Silent Witness initiative consists of a traveling exhibit of life-size, red wooden silhouettes. Each silhouette represents a woman who was murdered by her intimate partner. Because these women no longer have a voice, the silhouettes are called the Silent Witnesses.

Global Voice

The National Union and its Components are adding their voices to ITUC, PSI and other Global Union Federations in saying no to violence against women by participating in 16 Days of Action to End Violence Against Women. The campaign runs between November 25 – UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and December 10 – International Human Rights Day.

The 16 days of action focus on stopping violence against women and girls which is the most common but least punished crime in the world. In a statement released by the ITUC the union points out that:

  • World wide, at least one in three women has been beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime.
  • Globally, women aged between 15 and 44 are more likely to be maimed or die as a result of male violence than through cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war combined.

Actions You Can Take

  • Lobby the Federal Government to reverse its cuts to the Status of Women Canada
  • Donate to your local women’s shelter
  • Support the Sisters in Spirit Campaign
  • Support the Silent Witness Program NUPGE

More information:


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE