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Canada condemns gendered violence on December 6: Does Calgary City Council enable it?

By Aymen Sherwani, December 1 2022

On December 6, 1989, 14 women were murdered during a mass shooting at an engineering college, École Polytechnique, in Montréal. The gunman, Marc Lépine, allowed the male students to leave the lecture room before he opened fire, screaming “I hate feminists” as he did. Claiming he was fighting feminism, Lépine entered a school he was rejected from, coming in with the belief that it was because of the presence of women there that denied him his place — with the assumption that engineering is an inherently male discipline and that woman should not work in non-traditional jobs. 

Shortly afterwards, the gunman killed himself and blamed feminists for ruining his life in a suicide note. The École Polytechnique Massacre is one of the largest mass shootings in Canadian history and Dec. 6 is now observed in Canada as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. 

This year marks 33 years since the tragedy unfolded and — since then — remembrance of Dec. 6 has evolved to encompass a broader initiative to end violence against women in both private and public spheres. Whether it is at home or in the workplace at the hands of abusers who count on their targets not speaking up. 

For instance, city of Calgary mayor, Jyoti Gondek, of has recently made a statement against disgraced council member Sean Chu — former police officer charged with the sexual assault of a 16-year-old — renewing the calls for his resignation from office.  

“[Chu] took photos of my vehicle license plate in a secured area — photos that later surfaced from a member of the public,” Gondek wrote in an official statement on her Instagram regarding Councillor Chu’s conduct. “I am not comfortable with liaising with Councillor Chu’s office nor entrusting him with the responsibilities of deputy mayor. 

“I found myself in a situation where I would be unable to chair the Dec. 6th Council meeting, and Councillor Chu was to have been the one responsible to start the day with a recognition of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women,” continued Gondek. “I am well aware my own experience pales in comparison to what happened to a 16-year-old girl in 1997… it should, however, demonstrate that working with this individual has jeopardized my safety and created fear of reprisal for speaking out.” 

Since then, Chu has acknowledged that he did indeed take and share photos of Gondek’s license plate, but fell short of explaining why he did as such. His actions follow a broader and more disturbing trend of the Mayor’s personal information being used for malicious purposes as — earlier this year — protestors stood outside her home threatening her regarding city vaccine mandates. 

For Chu’s presence to remain in City Council — let alone chair a meeting on gendered violence, when he himself is a perpetrator — is a slap in the face of victims, including his own. On Dec. 6, it’s important to remember the victims of École Polytechnique and other women who have faced violence in their lives.

This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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