Mr. Speaker, at École Polytechnique in Montreal 28 years ago today, in the late afternoon on December 6, 1989, 14 young women lost their lives after being shot, and another 10 were seriously injured. This terrible tragedy marked the Canadian psyche in every province and territory and will remain etched in our collective memory forever.
We will never forget the day these women were murdered simply because they were women. Since 1991, December 6 has been officially recognized by the federal government as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in order to draw attention to all forms of violence against women.
Violence against women already existed in our society, in many forms, prior to that tragedy. Now, 28 years later, it still exists, and has even escalated, taking on new forms. In addition to murder, as well as domestic, psychological, and sexual violence, things like bullying, cyberbullying, and the trafficking of women and girls have also emerged over the years.
All forms of violence against women must be denounced, considered extremely serious, and severely punished. Violence against women is unfortunately all too common around the world, so we need to make it the number one concern of our society as a whole, with men being a key part of the solution.
It is absolutely unbelievable that today in Canada between 30 and 50 women are still murdered every year. In Quebec, roughly 15 women are killed by their spouse or ex-spouse every year, the same number of women who were killed at the École Polytechnique. What have we done since December 6, 1989? What have we done as a society, as a government, as individuals? Very little, when we consider how much there is left to do.
It is sad to see that, as a group, the women and girls who are victims of violence are getting younger and younger, and that we have failed to prevent this violence from escalating or slowing the lightning pace at which it has continued to destroy lives. People have been silent about violence against women and girls for far too long, and this has made it taboo. Because victims are isolated in a prison of violence and silence, violence against women has been allowed everywhere, in communities throughout the country, in families, in schools, and in workplaces. It has also quickly pervaded social media, and much faster than the measures taken to prevent it.
It is appalling to see that in Canada, in 2017, only one woman in 10 reports their abuser, the rights of victims are neither known nor protected in the same way as the rights of criminals, and the sentences handed out have been reduced.
There has been a lot of emphasis on condemning violence against women, but what actual steps have been taken? What has been done to fuel that drive to fight violence against women and support the brave women and girls who speak out?
We need to implement meaningful measures and commit to making sure that all women and girls in Canada feel safe and know people will listen to them and respect them. We need to send a clear message to perpetrators: in Canada, violence against women and girls is a serious crime. We must change Canada's Criminal Code to reflect that as soon as possible. As legislators, it is our duty to pass legislation amending the Criminal Code to protect women in domestic abuse cases. There is still no law that allows for preventive arrests in order to prevent a murder.
One of the four pillars in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights brought in by the former Conservative government in 2015 is the right to protection.
This right has to be backed by legislation to further protect women and equip police officers, otherwise more women will become victims of homicide and will feature in our speeches the next time December 6 comes around.
I am sure that everyone here in the House wants the action part of this national day of remembrance to be taken literally, for action to be taken. The safety of women and girls is not a partisan issue. Combatting violence against women and girls is an individual responsibility, but mainly, it is a collective one. We must all work on this together.
Let us never forget Polytechnique and let us spare a thought for the women who have died at the hands of their attacker, including recent victims Julie, Chantal, Daphné, Gabrielle, Clémence, Véronique, and far too many others. We will remember them. We will take action. We owe it to them.