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Stopping violence against women includes recognizing the violence of colonial dispossession, major energy projects

Amanda Polchies says no to fracking in Elsipogtog, October 2013. Photo by Ossie Michelin.

Today is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It was on this day in 1989 that fourteen women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal were murdered because of their gender.

On December 7, 1989, Stevie Cameron wrote, “Now our daughters have been shocked to the core, as we all have, by the violence in Montréal. They hear the women were separated from the men and meticulously slaughtered by a man who blamed feminists for his troubles. …Fourteen of our bright and shining daughters won places in engineering schools, doing things we, their mothers, only dreamed of. That we lost them has broken our hearts; what is worse is that we are not surprised.”

Judy Rebick has commented, “I think [what happened on December 6, 1989] was both an act of terrorism and an extreme form of the violence women face every day. The best way to remember these fourteen women is recommit ourselves, women and men, to the fight for women’s liberation and an end to violence against women.”

Ending violence against women includes recognizing the violence in the colonial dispossession of Indigenous women.

Sharon McIvor, Pamela Palmater and Shelagh Day write, “Discrimination against Indigenous women is as old as Canada. It is a marker that defines Canada as a colonial, patriarchal nation-state. …Two investigations, by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, found that sex discrimination in the Indian Act is a root cause of the crisis of murders and disappearances, precisely because Indigenous women have been cast out of their communities and treated like marginal human beings.”

The fight for women’s liberation also includes the freedom for women to speak against climate change without misogynist attacks.

Council of Canadians climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue was recently subjected to online hate messages after she posted a video on Facebook celebrating that Indigenous rights, the right to water, and the right to a climate had been protected with the defeat of the 1.1 million barrel per day Energy East tar sands pipeline.

Harden-Donahue laments, “I’m not the first to face harassment over social media for taking a position against tar sands expansion. In fact, Indigenous allies and grassroots activists are more likely to face this harassment and less likely to have the institutional support I have working with a non-profit organization. And I’m not the first woman to face the additional misogynistic hate speech associated with taking a public position on the energy sector in Canada.”

And with British Columbia premier John Horgan days away from a decision on the Site C dam, we would remind him of the findings of this Amnesty International report.

That report highlighted, “High wages for resource sector workers, and the large numbers of workers attracted to the region, have driven up local prices for essentials such as food and housing. However, not everyone has access to these wages. In fact, women’s wages in the northeast are well below the average for women in Canada. The presence of a very large, young, mostly-male transient workforce adds to this risk, because young men are statistically more likely to be perpetrators of violent crime. …Misogyny and racist attitudes toward Indigenous peoples, largely unaddressed in public life, have also made Indigenous women and girls more likely to be targets of violence.”

The Council of Canadians denounces sexism and all gender-based violence and harassment. Specifically, we recently supported the Secwepemc Womens Warrior Society and Tiny House Warriors Women’s Declaration Against Kinder Morgan Camps and we support the application (and disclosure) of Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) on resource extraction projects as explained in this Discourse article.