By Sheroog Kubur, December 7 2022—
Yesterday on December 6, the University of Calgary held a ceremony commemorating National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It falls on the 33rd anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre that resulted in the death of 14 women and the injury of at least 13 others. The ceremony was in person and live-streamed for those unable to attend.
The ceremony was hosted by Nicole Schmidt, the president of the Students’ Union, and Masume Akbari, the vice president student life for the Graduate Students’ Association. In her statement, Akbari highlighted the revolution currently taking place in Iran against gender discrimination.
“Iranian women have been chanting in the streets — women, life, freedom,” Akbari said. “I am inspired by Iranian people, men and women standing shoulder by shoulder, risking their lives for freedom.”
Jenna Lines of campus security was invited to light a candle in memory of the 14 women killed followed by a moment of silence.
Dr. Penny Werthner, the interim provost and vice-president, gave a statement about the importance of commemorating this day on university campuses. She emphasized universities as being a place for equality, inclusiveness and creating an opportunity for education for all.
“It’s important we do this on university campuses because the hate and misogyny that was shown that day needs to be addressed and discussed,” Werthner said. “That is what education is all about — equality and inclusiveness for all.”
Dr. Laleh Behjat followed with a statement of action against violence. She listed the motivations of the shooter as fighting feminism, which she highlights as a movement to continue to exploitation and belittlement of women. She also mentioned gender-based violence in the Philippines, Ukraine, Afghanistan and the recent serial killings of Indigenous women in Canada.
“Throughout history all over the world, violence has been used as a tool to exploit and oppress people and especially women,” Behjat said. “They use violence to shatter our sense of self, extinguish our hopes and crush our souls.”
Behjat said that the best way to fight against violence was through kindness, compassion and love.
In addition to the ceremony, towards the end, a group of Iranian attendees protested the violence against Iranian people on the basis of religion holding signs with the names of various victims. They were additionally handing out pamphlets with more information at the end of the ceremony.
The ceremony concluded with a statement about the work of the Women’s Resource Centre and its commitment to working against gender-based violence. The centre is participating in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10. They will be selling handmade beeswax candles with all the proceeds going to support the campaign.