Mr. Speaker, although 29 years have passed since the École Polytechnique tragedy in Montreal that claimed the lives of 14 young women and seriously injured 10 others, we will always grieve the dreadful afternoon of December 6, 1989. Sadly, even though 29 years have passed since that awful tragedy, girls and women are still being killed just because they are female.
How it breaks my heart to say that, in 2017, 173 women were killed in this country and, during the first six months of this year, a girl or woman was murdered every two days. Statistics like that are unthinkable here in Canada. How shocking, how sad, that in a country as magnificent as ours, 84% of murder victims killed by a current or former intimate partner are women.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women is about condemning all forms of violence against girls and women, including domestic, psychological and emotional violence, bullying and human trafficking, all of which must be considered extremely serious.
This year the Fédération des maisons d'hébergement pour femmes du Québec hosted a breakfast to get men involved and hear what they have to say, since violence against women is not just a women's issue; it is a men's issue, too.
It is a blight that affects society as a whole, and as business leaders, colleagues, spouses, fathers, brothers, friends and policy makers, men must play a pivotal role in addressing it. Prevention is very important, yes, but that alone cannot stop the spread of this scourge, which, year after year, continues to affect too many women.
Victims and their loved ones will always welcome annual investments to fund community projects to help survivors of violence. However, victims want more than that. They also want the Criminal Code to reflect the current reality, since there is a growing imbalance between the rights of victims and the rights of criminals. The rights of victims of crime are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so it is vital that they be respected and that they also be strengthened.
What has the government done over the past few years? Very little, far too little, and no setbacks should be tolerated. It is so sad to see that women who are victims of violence are getting younger all the time and we still have not slowed the escalation of this violence that continues to destroy lives.
Prevention is essential, but the government also has a duty to send a clear and unequivocal message to the criminals and abusers: the sentences must fit the crime, and we will always stand up for the victims who have to live with the scars forever, essentially serving a kind of life sentence.
We need to keep funding women's organizations, but prevention also has to mean preventing murder. We therefore need to better equip police officers by giving them the power to make preventive arrests, which is still not allowed today under the Criminal Code. This what we would consider to be a concrete measure demonstrating a serious willingness to address this violence and support the courageous women and girls who report it. We no longer have time for empty promises. We urgently need to pass targeted legislation to protect victims so that all women in Canada feel safe across the country.
They must be a central component of our justice system, and abusers need to know that violence against women is a serious crime in Canada, period.
Given Canada's grim statistics on violence against women, we have no choice but to take responsibility and promise women in Canada that our Criminal Code will be adapted to properly respond to the needs of victims of violence. This is long overdue, and far too many women have already been killed.
Our desire to address violence against women and girls in Canada should never be part of a partisan debate. It must be the desire of all our communities, the country and the government. Canada must be a world leader in this regard.
We will never forget the 14 victims of the December 6, 1989 tragedy, but let us also never forget Daphné, Gabrielle, Clémence, Véronique, Kim, Josiane, Francine, Nathalie, Brigitte, Julie and all of the other women who were killed individually one after the other. They are also part of those same grim statistics of innocent victims who lost their lives in recent years because they were women.
We will always remember all of you, and we will continue to work together to ensure that no one else is added to this too-long list of your sweet names.