SUMMERSIDE – Progress has been made in ending violence against women but much more needs to be done, says Justice Minister Janice Sherry.
© Mike Carson/Journal Pioneer
Andrea Pickett (left), from the Youth Empowerment Program of the East Prince Youth Development Centre, lights a to candle remember all Island woman who have suffered violence in their lives. Then candle lighting ceremony was part of the National Day of Remembrance and Action On Violence Against Women. Looking on is Andy Lou Somers, East Prince Women’s Information Centre.
The minister was the guest speaker, Friday as people gathered at the National Day of Remembrance and Action On Violence Against Women service in Summerside.
The ceremony centred on the 14 women who were murdered at l’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and on the nine Island women murdered over the past 24 years.
“It will be forever seared in our minds and in our memories the tragic, senseless murder of 14 women at l’Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989,” Sherry said. “Those young women who were murdered simply because they were women, is a shocking reminder that violence against women is sadly a common reality in our world.”
The minister said this is 24th anniversary of what has been termed the “Montreal massacre.”
“We must never forget the tragedies that occur in our midst,” she said. “This is a very personal issue for me. Through working with a family member, a victim, I learned first hand the unspeakable tragedies associated with domestic violence. That experience has deepened my resolve as justice minister to take action to prevent domestic violence and to help victims.”
Sherry said there was a time when acts of violence against women were ignored, denied excused and covered up, but never confronted.
“I wish I could tell you today that acts of violence against women are being reduced,” the minister said. “I wish I could tell you today that fewer women are living in fear. I wish that I could tell you that more women are coming forward to report abuse. But sadly, the facts tell us quite clearly that domestic violence remains a serious issue for the criminal justice system and for society in general.”
Sherry presented the following facts:
- about one in two women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual abuse since the age of 16.
- two-thirds of Canadians say they personally know at least one woman who has been sexually or physically assaulted.
- on average, every six days, a woman in Canada is killed at the hands of a partner.
- every two-and-a-half minutes another woman is assaulted.
- each year, over 40,000 arrests result from domestic violence – but less than one quarter of incidents are ever reported to police.
- more than 3,300 women, along with some 3,000 children seek emergency shelter (yearly) to escape domestic violence.
“This day is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on those senseless acts of violence,” Sherry said. “It’s a day to remind ourselves of the continuing acts of violence which are still being perpetuated against women. It is also a day to rededicate our efforts to eliminate violence against women in all of its forms.”
She said violence against women affects everyone.
“It destroys lives,” the minister said. “It takes a tremendous toll on our communities and it weakens the very fabric of our society. Violence against women in all of its forms is a serious violation of laws that are aimed in protecting all citizens. As a society, we must reaffirm that such acts of violence are totally unacceptable and must be stopped.”
Sherry said ending violence against women is not something government can do on its own, but all citizens need to play a part in preventing such actions, working hand-in-hand with government.
Services and supports to women have been strengthened but more needs to be done. She said.
“While the level of violence against women has declined slightly, there are still some disturbing trends,” Sherry said. “The level of homicides has increased. It’s believed that fewer incidents are going unreported but still, one act of violence against women is unacceptably high.”