Montreal Massacre 30th Anniversary: Experts say cases of gendered violence in Canada remains too high

WatchIt's been 30 years since the Montreal Massacre, a mass shooting that killed 14 young women. The brutal attack sent shockwaves across the country, a tragedy forever highlighting the issue of violence against women.

This day 30 years ago, it was chaos at a Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique University.

Fourteen students died and another 10 were wounded. All were women.

“He was walking slowly, really calmly, he was pointing at everyone. He shot about 12 times,” said one witness describing the shooter in 1989.

“He said in French ‘you’re a bunch of feminists’ and started to shoot,” said another witness.

A gunman opened fire in the university, targeting only female students, before killing himself.

“He shot a lot of time, I think he killed one of my friends. I don’t know how my friend is,” said one survivor from the hospital.

It’s the worst ever mass shooting in Canada.

And three decades later, many feel not much, and certainly not enough, has changed to make women and girls safe.

According to Statistics Canada, more than half of women in B.C. have experienced physical or sexual violence after the age of 16.

Every year there are more than 60,000 physical or sexual assaults against women – that’s more than 1,000 every week.

But experts say, those stats, don’t even tell the full story.

“So many groups that are disproportionately impacted by sexualized violence aren’t even going to be captured in the data,” said Leah Shumka, University of Victoria’s Sexualized Violence Education and Prevention Coordinator.

“The scope of this problem is staggering.”

Experts say while there been important strides towards equality in Canada, the amount of violence against women hasn’t changed.

“It feels very frustrating,” said Shumka.

“But it’s really about focusing on gender roles and norms and how are we raising our little boys and girls. When we have these really rigid ideas about gender we are putting them in these little boxes and these boxes are oppressive and as it turns out it’s teaching them really not great things.”

And local politicians, agree, more work needs to be done.

“We have to solve this issue together, this isn’t a women’s issue, this isn’t a men’s issue, this is a society issue,” said Sonia Fursteneau, MLA for Cowichan Valley

“We have a long way to go before this world that we live in is a truly safe world for women.”

From coast to coast, flags were flying at half-mast Friday.

Vigils were held across the country to remember the victims and take a moment to consider the possibility of a future without violence against women and girls.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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