Sept. 22, 2021 The Division of Human Resources & Equity is now called the Division of People Strategy, Equity & Culture.

Recognizing the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women

I invite everyone in the University community to participate in next week’s virtual event marking the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women, organized by the Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre, the Community Safety Office, the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office, and Hart House.

Many of us in the U of T community can remember where we were 32 years ago when news first broke of what became known as the Montreal Massacre. Fourteen women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique—including 12 engineering students, one nursing student, and one staff member—were murdered in an act of misogyny that shocked citizens around the globe and reverberated through Canada’s post-secondary sector.

In its aftermath, Canadians expressed solidarity and vowed to “fight the hatred” that motivated the murders. By encouraging remembrance, reflection, and a renewed commitment to action, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, launched by the federal government in 1991, aimed to ensure that similar incidents never re-occurred in Canada or elsewhere.

Yet next week, as we again mark December 6, we do so with the recent memory of the Atlanta attacks against Asian American women. We read the 2021 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan, which reports that “Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than non-Indigenous women.” We learn of the rise in gender-based violence during the pandemic, as all too many women, girls, and members of LGBTQ2S+ communities have had no choice but to “shelter in place” with their abusers. We recognize that gender-based violence is an ongoing issue on university campuses, including our own.

The University of Toronto works to ensure our campuses are safe. This requires engagement and commitment from all areas of our institution. It means providing supports for those directly impacted by gender-based violence. It involves developing training for students, staff, faculty, and librarians that helps us centre consent in all our interactions. It also requires updating and enforcing policies that protect the rights of every member of our community to learn and work free from violence and harassment of any kind.

As Canadians—and as human beings—we remember the women killed at École Polytechnique in 1989, and the many other women who have died due to femicide. Ending gender-based violence on our campuses and in society at large requires individual and collective will. In your reflections on December 6, please consider what choices you can make to help us move from remembrance to action.

Resources & Supports

The following resources and supports are available to the U of T community:

If you are a student who needs immediate support, please call the Health & Wellness Centre at (416) 978-8030 to speak with a counsellor. Counselling is also available through the U of T My Student Support Program (U of T My SSP) 24/7 by calling 1 (844) 451-9700.

Staff and faculty members can access mental health resources and supports through the Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP). The 24/7 helpline at 1-800-663-1142 provides support for those experiencing grief, stress, and trauma.