Montreal Massacre: “Remember, then organize.”

by matttbastard

Record snowfall may have forced the cancellation of local commemorative events, but the memories of December 6th, 1989 remain fresh, regardless of where we wrestle with them. Though we take time today to reflect on the untimely murders of 18 women (for the heinous crime of being women), all-too-immediate events demand that we not simply remember the past, but also resolve to continue the fight for justice in the struggle for women’s equality. Eileen Morrow, coordinator, Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, notes in a Toronto Star op-ed how economic strife is intrinsically linked with violence against women, and how renewed calls for austerity measures in the wake of mounting debt could have even more of a negative impact:

During a recession, the fear is that violence against women will rise while meaningful action on the issue will fall. That worry is well-placed.

The media have already reported increasing calls by women to crisis lines and police. Catholic Family Services in Durham region reported a 24 per cent increase in referrals for domestic violence in the last three months of 2008. The Canadian Mental Health Association in London reported a rise in domestic violence in the spring of 2009. Brockville reported a 100 per cent increase in domestic violence calls to police during that period.

In the spring of 2009, stories about a stunning increase in calls to shelters in Calgary, where the recession hit hard, were reported in newspapers across Canada — a 200 per cent increase in one year; a 300 per cent increase in the month before the stories ran.

A spot survey just conducted by the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses bears out the continuing trend toward increasing calls for help, despite predictions that the economic outlook is positive and recovery has started.

A comparison of service delivery in the years 2007 and 2010 in 15 women’s shelters across the province shows that requests for support have increased, albeit not as dramatically has those of Alberta.

Crisis calls increased by almost 15 per cent between the two years; admissions of women and children increased by 20 per cent. Shelters had to “turn away” 44 per cent more women and children in 2010 than in 2007 because they were full. In smaller towns with fewer services, the shelters faced double the demand of larger cities.

Each year, the women’s shelter association gathers the names of women and children murdered in situations where an intimate partner is either charged or commits suicide. In 2008 and 2009, the total was 16 for each year. In 2010 (up to the present) it is 21.

Admittedly, the numbers are not scientific and cannot be decisively linked to the recession, but they are troubling. Still more troubling, however, is the possibility that governments will overlook the need to increase support for women rather than to freeze or lower to meet the demands of austerity.

Recent history only compounds concern about government overlooking the needs of women:

In the Mike Harris era of the mid-90s, cuts to women’s services and broad social programs such as social assistance and housing, forced many women to stay in abusive relationships. Murders of women increased in Canada, primarily in Ontario. Services in Ontario are still struggling to recover.

The mid-90s was a time of growing government restraint both federally and provincially, somewhat like today but far less acute. The global economy had not yet failed.

Nationally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been clear that national priorities are fixed on cost-cutting and reducing the $45.4 billion federal deficit. The Province of Ontario also has an $18.7 billion dollar deficit to address.

Both federally and provincially, all political parties are in election campaign mode. The timing of the federal election is a guessing game; some are guessing spring of next year. The Ontario election is fixed for Oct. 6, 2011.

As a result, no one knows which political party will be responsible for ultimately guiding the country and the province back to economic stability. What is clear, however, is that right now is the time to raise issues of women’s human and equity rights, not when an election is finally called.

Judy Rebick notes that with programs dedicated to women’s issues once again in the sights of budget-cutters, the only way to truly stand up to the forces of austerity and push a truly progressive agenda of social and economic justice for women is to challenge the casual disregard of technocratic indifference. If we are to make a measurable impact, supporters of women’s liberation must once again mobilize:

Today the women’s movement in English Canada is a shadow of its former self and the women’s movement in Quebec is weaker too. I do not believe this has anything to do with the horror at Polytechnique but rather in part because of our success and the feeling of a younger generation that equality had been achieved and in part because of the impact of neo-liberalism and the individualism and consumerism that it promotes.

But while there is a societal consensus against male violence against women today, that violence goes on unabated particularly against marginalized women like those disappeared on the downtown east side or the hundreds of aboriginal women who are disappeared and murdered without much attention from police, or the virtual slavery of desperate women trafficked into prostitution on a global scale.

The best way to remember these 14 women is recommit ourselves, women and men, to the fight for women’s liberation and an end to violence against women. On Sunday there will once against be vigils across the country. Remember them and then organize.

“Remember them and then organize.”

We truly honour their legacy by refusing to give up the fight, even in the face of intimidation, be it from the barrel of a long gun or an autocratic prime minister’s far-right legislative agenda.

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From Marc Lepine to Hiram Monserrate

by matttbastard

This was the first thing I read today, 20 years after the violent massacre of 14 young women (because they were women):

New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate, one of the Democrats who helped “defend traditional marriage” in the New York Senate last week by voting against a bill that would have made same-sex marriage legal in the Empire State, was sentenced to 250 hours of community service. 52 weeks of domestic abuse counseling and three years of probation, on an assault conviction stemming from a December 2008 incident where he “accidentally” slashed his girlfriends face while beating the crap out of her after he dragged her through the lobby of his Queens apartment building.

Prosecutors had said that Monserrate, an ex-Marine, lashed out at his domestic partner, Karla Giraldo, with a glass in a fit of rage after he found another man’s business card in her purse. The glass broke against her face, cutting her near her left eye down to her skull and leaving a lasting scar.

Monserrate had been originally charged with two felony counts and two misdemeanor counts of assault after cutting Giraldo’s face during a bitter argument in his apartment on Dec. 19, 2008. However, in October, New York William M. Erlbaum, who presided over his trial, acquitted him on the two felony assault charges, which carried a mandatory sentence of seven years in prison and would have forced him to forfeit his Senate seat.

Dawg:

Has anything really changed since the now-disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment held a mess dinner to honour Marc Lepine?* I would like to believe so. I would like to think that these annual memorials and the respectful newspaper editorials and the gentle men who wear white ribbons are making a difference.

But the fact that so many still appear to have trouble with woman-hatred–trying to wish it away, reduce its significance, confine its existence to a “lone madman,” blame it on a nonexistent Muslim bringing-up, or even, on the fringes, excuse it, tells me that we have much, much further to go. Violence against women continues to flourish, including mass murder. Still think Marc Lepine was alone?

Indeed, we still have miles to go in this struggle. April Reign charts the course we need to take:

This year as you remember and mourn the loss of 14 of our sisters remember also the words of Joe Hill; Don’t Mourn, Organize!

Help Equal Voice to get more women elected, fight for strong gun control, support women’s reproductive choice, donate to a local shelter, help a woman or a young girl learn tech skills or use those skills to help others.

In the words of Emma Goldman;
“No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution… revolution is but thought carried into action.”

Let’s get active.

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12.06.89

by matttbastard

Today isn’t about pro or anti coalition rallies, the respective leadership abilities of Stephane Dion vs. Stephen Harper, partisanship, or unelected heads of state. Nor is it about Western alienation, Quebec separatism, parliamentary democracy, or regional polarization. Today isn’t even about the stumbling global economy (although God knows the latest job numbers are hard to put out of mind for long).

Today is about them:

montrealmassacre.jpg

(Click image for more on the Montreal Massacre)

Lest we forget.

Update: More posts commemorating the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women:

– skdadl @ POGGE

– mirabile dictu

the regina mom

Shameless

Womanist Musings

A Secret Chord

Tattered Sleeve

The Stormy Days of March

Hullabaloos

One Woman, One Blog (and here)

– La Revue Gauche

Update 2 12.07: More:

unrepentant old hippie

Politics ‘n’ Poetry

Update 3: And more:

Lilith Attack

Whileaway North

Cara @ The Curvature (x-posted @ Feministe)

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Dear Conservative Fuckbaskets

Taxi!

Show some fucking decency and pick another date to hold your little partisan circle jerk Rally for Canada.

Hugs ‘n’ kisses,

matttbastard

P.S. *points* Ha ha! /Nelson Muntz

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Why ‘Backlash’ Should Be Required Reading

by matttbastard

I really didn’t want to politicize this day. Respectful National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women statements have been released by the NDP, Grits and Bloc. Uncle Steve and Co., on the other hand, have chosen to draft a “statement” (as of this writing not yet posted to the SWC website) that reads like an election-year style stump speech. 107 words on the Montreal Massacre; 205 spent self-righteously shilling partisan Conservative policy initiatives.

Classy.

There is also, however, this steaming, stinking load of contrarian horseshit from Barbara Kay, published in yesterday’s National Post, which is…well, good fucking God:

[T]he Canadian public never seems to weary of the annual Dec. 6 tribute to the 1989 Montreal Polytechnique shooting massacre of 14 women. Indeed, 12/6’s branding power burgeons with every anniversary: The theme of violence against women dominates the media; new physical memorials are constructed; additional programs decrying domestic violence against women are entrenched in school curricula; masses of white ribbons are distributed; more stringent gun control is more strenuously urged. Their cumulative effect is to link all Canadian men to a global conspiracy against women of jihadist proportions.

[…]

Public tributes to the fallen can bring out the best or the worst in our national character. We see the best in our beautiful Remembrance Day ceremonies, formulated in an era of national pride and cultural confidence, when male heroism was considered a quality deserving of public recognition. But now, a “grandfathered” Nov. 11 is the only day of the year when feminist ideologues refrain from overt misandry.

We see the worst on Dec. 6, a day when truly one may reasonably ask, “doesn’t grieving … have a shelf life?” We should indeed wind it down, for it is as unethical to denounce an entire gender for an individual’s behaviour as we all acknowledge it would be in the case of a race or religion.

[…]

Commemorative ceremonies serve an edifying purpose when they facilitate a unifying rite of formal mourning for national tragedies, ceremonies that strengthen collective resolve to combat real, not perceived threats. Unifying is the key word: If public ceremonies divide instead of uniting the citizenry, they demoralize rather than edify the nation.

We should not fund grief rituals that nurture conspiracy theories and phobias. The 12/6 tribute has become a propaganda mill for both. It is high time we turned our attention and public funds to worthier commemorative projects. How is it that we have yet to inaugurate a yearly ceremony for the 25 Canadians who died in the Trade Towers?

The relative indifference displayed by Kay’s ideological brethren in Parliament, taken in context with their record with regards to women’s issues, leads one to believe that her misogynistic, hate-saturated screed is, by proxy, their true December 6th statement.

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