December 6th, 2017 is the 28th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre, otherwise known as the Montreal Massacre. 28 years ago, Marc Lépine opened fire on female engineering students because he was angry he did not get accepted into the school. He cited feminism as the root cause of that, shouting “I hate feminists!” before shooting at the women. Fourteen women were killed and are remembered today by many across the country. Not only do we remember the massacre and the fourteen women whose lives ended far too early, but we also remember it as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, which was established by the Canadian Parliament in 1991.
Many towns and cities across the country held vigils to commemorate the day, and some universities joined in with their own events or shared those of others:
However, there were many centers that simply didn’t acknowledge the day, let alone host or promote a vigil that was happening in the area. Two of these centres were the Centres for Women and Trans People at Ryerson and the University of Toronto.
Most of these centers didn’t post anything on December 6th, vigil related or not, but one centre in particular received criticism for only making a post on transgender terminology.
Wilfrid Laurier’s Centre for Women and Trans People made this post in reference to Laurier’s President Deborah MacLatchy’s apology to trans students who claimed they had not been represented in the recent events on campus surrounding hate speech vs. freedom of speech
Later that day, an individual commented on the post, expressing her disbelief at the centre’s forgetfulness or disregard towards the day. The Centre for Women and Trans People (CWT from here on) was full of excuses in their response to the individual, claiming there are more “pressing issues” on campus, and implying that by not making the above post they would be “neglecting trans students”:
In this post, the CWT belittles the events of the massacre, saying it happened “nearly 30 years ago” while ignoring the fact that the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women happens every year, and is acknowledged every year by many women’s organizations.
After receiving more comments on their status, the CWT posted another response, claiming now to have forgotten about the massacre:
They also go on to claim that violence against trans women is much higher than that of “cis” women while in reality violence against females is extremely high, in Canada and across the world in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Colombia, Japan, and South Africa, surely among very many others.
It is not difficult to see that violence against women exists, and in huge numbers too, so why are organizations such as this one not even acknowledging it, let alone attempting to create events or discussions around it?
The CWT also pointed out that other campus groups are tackling “gender” based issues, but if that’s really the case, they haven’t been promoting these events much. The page is filled with mostly their own, often trans related concerns and events, as well as those of other groups and centers.
The CWT ended up going and deleting all the comments on their post aside from their own last, sad response:
I would like to ask the CWT a few questions. I ask these questions as a young woman who attends university and volunteers at a women’s centre myself. I ask these questions not with the intention to attack anyone, but simply to discuss and voice my concerns, something that is being sorely erased by many transgender activists these days.
Why do you have to use the term “cis-white women” as if this day does not focus on ALL women? While all the women who died at L’ecole Polytechnique were white, this day commemorates all women whose lives are lost to male violence. Not too far from Laurier University, there was a vigil being held in Kitchener by the Canadian Federation of University Women Kitchener-Waterloo (CFUW-KW) which not only commemorated the important and tragic events that happened 28 years ago, but was also co-hosted by Indigenous women who discussed the ongoing issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.The CWT wouldn’t have had to look far to find this event and could have at least shared it on their page a few days prior.
The safety and rights of transgender people are important and deserve a space to be talked about and publicized, however it’s concerning when it’s done at the expense of women and our issues. On November 20th, you took the time to make a post about the Transgender Day of Remembrance, reminding us that it is our duty to create a world of safety and acceptance towards trans people. Why do you not extend the same sentiment on December 6? Why is that day either so forgettable or not important enough to make a small simple status about such as the one below?
Why, instead of apologizing either publicly or to the women in the comments did you delete all the comments with the views opposing yours? Transgender people claim to be silenced, however, in universities certainly, they are doing a lot of the silencing. Between a research project on de-transition being denied by a university in the UK and another one “no-platforming” a Black, lesbian feminist because of her gender critical views it would appear that the feelings and views of trans people are very much validated and considered at many universities. By briefly engaging with the women on your status and then deciding to delete all the comments without even considering the criticisms and concerns that were being presented, it is apparent that women’s voices don’t matter much to you, unless they’re agreeing with or promoting your views.
I would like to ask you in good faith, as a fellow university student, as a woman and as a feminist, to consider the concerns presented to you by the women on your status, as well as those written above. It is evident that violence against women not only still exists, but is extremely prevalent all throughout the world. These issues are not given much of a platform in other parts of the university or other institutions, hence why women’s centres have come into existence. I ask you to center the voices of women, to share our stories and events just as you have done with those concerning trans people. I sincerely hope this is not too much to ask for from a women’s centre.