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Ombudsman’s statement on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

December 6, 2019

On December 6, 2019, we remember:

Geneviève Bergeron
Maryse Laganière
Hélène Colgan
Maryse Leclair
Nathalie Croteau
Anne-Marie Lemay
Barbara Daigneault
Sonia Pelletier
Anne-Marie Edward
Michèle Richard
Maud Haviernick
Annie St-Arneault
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz
Annie Turcotte

These 14 young women were murdered in a senseless act of targeted violence 30 years ago at École Polytechnique de Montréal. Today, we honour their memory, and revitalize our efforts to end Gender-based violence (GBV) in Canada.

GBV is primarily rooted in gender inequality and is greatly influenced by sexism, racism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism, and other forms of oppression. It is further intensified by social and economic power imbalances and outdated societal gender roles and norms.

In Canada, women represent the vast majority of those who experience sexual violence. They make up 9 in 10 survivors of sexual assault, and almost 8 in 10 intimate partner homicide victims. Research indicates that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are twice as likely to experience a violent crime, and that non-binary, transgender, two-spirit and other gender-diverse people experience high levels of violence in Canada. This violence has immediate and long-lasting impacts on the health and welfare of women and children, with ripple effects in the broader community and country.

Gender-based violence is a significant barrier to the achievement of every United Nations development outcome. Sustainable Development Goal 5 recognizes that gender equality is the foundation for a "peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world" and that this includes a world free of gender-based violence. Goal 5 clearly calls for the elimination of "all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres."

Today, we are facing a clear crisis with the many Indigenous women and girls who are missing and murdered. Prevention must be a priority in Canada, because the level of violence that women and girls experience continues. We must engage in conversations about gender equality, healthy relationships, and appropriate boundaries. Funding prevention efforts particularly among at-risk and vulnerable populations is a must. Raising awareness about the causes and consequences of GBV is critical, as is addressing gender inequality, which includes recognizing that women's rights are human rights.

Women and girls must not be seen only as victims, but as agents of change and equal partners in ending discrimination and violence. We can all play a role in empowering women, promoting equality and confronting stereotypes and biases about violence against women. Every woman and girl has the right to live her life safely and free of violence. We can all take steps to protect women and promote a culture that does not allow or accept violence.


Heidi Illingworth
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime