Dec. 3, 2020

Reflection, action more urgent than ever as domestic violence surges during pandemic

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women event Dec. 4 moves online
2020 memorial event banner
2020 memorial event banner

On Dec. 6, 1989, 14 women were senselessly murdered at L’École Polytechnique in Montreal in a misogynistic act of violence known as the Montreal Massacre. To inspire hope, raise awareness and advocate for change to end gender-based violence, the University of Calgary observes the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

“This event is a time to reflect on the violence faced by girls and women throughout the world and commit to eliminating all forms of violence against girls and women,” says Debbie Bruckner, senior director, student wellness, access and support.

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is extremely relevant in the midst of a pandemic that has complicated the picture of domestic violence. In Calgary, during the initial lockdown, calls to police, helplines and service providers declined, even though family violence didn’t stop. Rather, the initial lockdown made it more challenging for people to leave abusive situations. Since the lifting of restrictions, calls to police, helplines and services have risen dramatically both in the city and in the province.

For example, the City of Calgary’s Family Violence Info Line received a 23 per cent increase in calls from April to August in 2020 compared to the same months in the previous year. The Calgary Police Service responded to nine per cent more domestic incidents than average — but 10 per cent fewer calls involving threatened or actual violence. The RCMP reported an 11.7 per cent increase in domestic violence calls across the province from March through September with the eastern region of the province seeing nearly a 30 per cent rise in domestic violence calls. As the pandemic rages on, the picture of gender-based violence in our communities is more complicated than ever and will surely evolve. 

“On this National Day of Remembrance, students, faculty, staff and all members of our community pause to remember the tragedy at the Montréal École Polytechnique, which took the lives of 14 talented women simply because they were women. We also acknowledge that Dec. 6 is not just about the past: gender violence persists as a destructive force in all of our lives, including in the ongoing affront of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and growing violence against the transgender community," says Dr. Malinda Smith, vice-provost (equity, diversity and inclusion).

"On this day, we remember potentials unrealized and lives lost but also the imperative to recommit to the work that still must be done to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of women who learn, teach, research and work on our campuses. In these pandemic times, we also must be attentive to the increased incidences of violence against women as individuals and families struggle with illness, economic insecurity, and isolation.” 

UCalgary's memorial to be livestreamed Dec. 4

This year’s memorial will be livestreamed and will run from noon to 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4. Dr. Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president (academic) of the University of Calgary will give this year’s keynote address. Marshall will share personal reflections on the occurrence of gender-based violence in academia, and the role of the university in addressing violence against women. 

Hosting the event will be Assad Ali Bik, vice-president student life, from the Students' Union and Mary Zhang, vice-president student life, from the Graduate Students' Association. Stephen Demaer (guitar), Patricia Lee (violin) and Isaac Willocks (violin) from the School of Creative and Performing Arts will provide music. Lighting of candles will be a central part of the ceremony.

The Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) will be selling handmade beeswax candles to help fund vital programming to end gender-based violence. The candles were made by campus community members, including students, staff and faculty. They will be sold for $5 a pair and pick-up can be conveniently arranged through curbside delivery on campus. For more information, visit the candle sale page on the WRC website. 

Learn more about the Dec. 4 event.

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