On December 6, the University of Toronto recognizes the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, created in response to the murder of 14 women at the Montreal engineering school École Polytechnique in 1989. Known as the Montreal Massacre, this brutal act of femicide exposed the extreme ways in which hatred based on gender identity can manifest. It deeply impacted citizens across the country and profoundly shook Canada’s post-secondary sector, particularly at institutions which, like École Polytechnique, actively supported the success of women in what were then considered “nontraditional” career paths.
More than thirty years later, Canada is still working to end violence targeting sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or perceived gender. Two national action plans to address the issue—the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan and the 10-year plan to end gender-based violence in Canada—have been launched since 2021 alone. National data confirm that the roots of gender-based violence are many and complex, encompassing not only misogyny, but also racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination and violence. More than 70% of 2SLGBTQ+ women with disabilities surveyed in 2018 reported experiencing some form of intimate partner violence since the age of 15. According to Statistics Canada, the gender-related homicide rate in 2021 for Indigenous women and girls was more than triple the rate of gender-related homicides overall. Gender-based violence takes more forms today than ever before, ranging from physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and financial abuse to cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying.
At the University of Toronto, as at institutions across Canada, no single strategy will achieve the goal of fostering learning and working environments that are free from violence and harassment of any kind. Hosting tri-campus events is crucial, providing a forum in which our community can engage with gender-based violence from different perspectives and reflect upon the actions each of us can take to address the roots of this violence.
Many of you attended the University’s Trans Day of Remembrance and Resilience Vigil and screenings during U of T’s inaugural Film Festival to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. I encourage everyone to participate in the hybrid event on December 6, Care, Healing, and Justice: Addressing Transmisogyny and Ending Gender-Based Violence for All, co-hosted by the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office, the Community Safety Office, the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Office at UTM, the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Office at UTSC, the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, Hart House, the Division of People Strategy, Equity, & Culture, the Institutional Equity Office, the Sexual and Gender Diversity Office, and the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre. This event will provide a collective space to remember the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre and honour all those impacted by gender-based violence. It will also provide the opportunity to explore how violence against trans women can be fueled by both transphobia and misogyny. Identifying these biases is an important first step in eradicating gender-based violence in all its forms.
Ending gender-based violence is possible through widespread, consistent, and ongoing action. We can realize this possibility at the University of Toronto, one action at a time.