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December 6 – a day unlike any other

December 7, 2020


By Edith Cloutier, President of Quebec for Rogers

Every year, people honour their duty to remember the victims of the massacre at Polytechnique on December 6, 1989. A dark day when 14 women were brutally murdered, simply because they were women.

In 1989, I was the same age as those women. I heard the ambulance sirens wailing and I knew it could have been me. It could have been any woman. It could have been your daughter, your sister, your girlfriend, or your mother.

Let’s pause for a moment to think about this.

I like to think that all women in Quebec, as of December 7, 1989, took over from the Polytechnique victims. In spite of the obstacles, women took action. Some became politicians, entrepreneurs, doctors, or engineers. They seized the future that was stolen from the 14 women fighters who had gone down the previous day. They won.

As a woman, it’s important for me today to share my successes, my pride and my ambitions with the Polytechnique victims. In a way, I feel that part of the success of today’s women belongs to those murdered at Polytechnique, and to all others who were killed after that, simply because they were women.

The important progress that has been made in the area of women’s rights the 31 years that have gone by since December 6, 1989, is a testament to how far our society has come.

However, each December 6 is also an opportunity to take stock of the distance that still needs to be covered for the advancement of women.  In this regard, December 6, 2020, will be unlike any other.

Today on December 6, 2020, the pandemic is making us realize that the gains made by women over the last 31 years may not be as monumental as we thought, especially when it comes to employment. In fact, within the first hours of the lockdown, women were among the first victims of the pandemic, with job losses twice  those of men. Recently, an INSPQ study showed that 54% of women say they are anxious during a lockdown period, versus 39% of men. Is that really surprising?

All the social and economic consequences of the pandemic are hitting women harder. 

As such, women are also the most negatively impacted by COVID-19. A report recently issued by Women’s Shelters Canada shows that, since the pandemic began, the severity of the violence against women seeking shelter has doubled.

Make no mistake, this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s not forget that because of the restrictions, many women have found themselves enclosed with an aggressor whose ability to control increased tenfold by the lockdown. As such, the more we analyze the pandemic’s impact on their lives, on the freedom and dignity of Quebec women, the more concerned we should be.

December 6, 1989 taught us that society could not stand idly by in the face of violence against women. And December 6, 2020 is teaching us that women are still not free from inequality and violence. Once again, society cannot stand idly by in the face of this reality. We must act!

So, on this day of remembrance, I am encouraging action.

In 2020, more than ever, the vital forces of society must pull together to create a more just, more egalitarian and less violent society. We owe this to the 14 women fighters at Polytechnique and to all the women they inspire.

As an executive at Rogers in Quebec and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Women’s Y Foundation of Montreal, I commend public awareness initiatives, such as the annual 12 Days of Action campaign against violence towards women by the Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femme.

At Rogers, we have made women’s equality and preserving their mental health key aspects of our diversity and inclusion program. The advancement of women is part of the company’s DNA. As such, Rogers donated hundreds of free phones and data plans to women’s shelters in Quebec last Thursday. That will enable these women to enjoy greater connectivity when they need it most.

Since this pandemic is afflicting women in particular, this is an ideal time, as an employer, to establish concrete means and tools that will enable our employees to achieve their full potential. Women in our companies must have access to resources for supporting them psychologically and helping them if their safety at home is threatened.

Dear sister and brother employers of Quebec, don’t forget. Today is December 6. This is a time to remember 14 women who were fighters. Tomorrow is December 7. That will be the time to take action to ensure equal opportunities for all women.

Originally shared in La Presse.