On a crisp winter afternoon in December 1989 I was walking across the University of Waterloo campus to one of my final classes in honours mathematics and computer science. I was stopped by one of my female mates from the (now closed) Womyn’s Centre. She asked me “Have you heard the terrible news”? I had not. It was December 6th.
Over the past 26 years I have attended December 6th memorials, I have fundraised for the December 6th Toronto fund to help women escape violent husbands and I wrote and performed a spoken word piece in 2012 at the annual Toronto memorial event. It is perhaps the most significant day of remembrance of any kind to me. It struck a deeply personal chord as a woman studying in a traditionally male dominated field. And over the years I have heard from many other women that it struck a deeply personal chord with them too. When women hear of that type of massacre they tend to recoil. Being killed for being a woman is something that strikes too close to home for most, if not all, of us.
In 2012 I found out about the Counting Dead Women campaign that Karen Ingala Smith started in the UK. She started recording the names of all women suspected to have been killed by male violence. She tweeted regularly the names of these victims and documented them on her personal blog. As her work progressed she started tweeting and writing about the patterns she was seeing. In following her work I often thought “Canada should have something like this”. I googled and asked my fellow feminists and found out that there were some provincial iniatives but nothing nationally. Over this same time period I saw and supported the growing awareness of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigineous Women.
At the beginning of this year, after seeing some summary info about the UK 2014 list and learning of a similar new iniative in Australia I decided that instead of asking why Canada doesn’t have anything like this I would just start doing it. And so I did.
As of this writing, there are 125 women and girls on the list for 2015. That’s 125 women and girls suspected to have been killed by male violence or 1 every 2.6 days. And the summary information I have collated looks very grim. Of the 76 solved cases (where a suspect has been charged), 54% (41) of them were killed by a current or former partner and 13% (10) were killed by their sons. I have been able to identify 22 of the 125 as aboriginal. The aboriginal population in Canada represents 3.9% of the total population. On the Counting Dead Women Canada list they represent 17.6% of the total victims. There are also inexplicable geographical differences. The population of Alberta represents 11.6% of the Canadian population yet on the CDWC list they represent 26.4% of the victims. A similar disparity occurs in Saskatchewan - they represent 8% of the victims yet their provincial population is only 3.2% of the total national population. At the beginning of the new year I intend to post more detailed summary information for all of 2015 on the NL Feminists and Allies facebook page.
I see now how the work I am doing in compiling this list is the best way I can honour not only the 14 women killed on December 6, 1989 but the unrecorded numbers of women killed globally by male violence. I do this work in the hopes that such lists will be become unnecessary. And, on the 34th anniversary of the call by Latin American and Caribbean Women to declare November 25th the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I invite you to not only contemplate the 125 Canadian women and girls on this list for 2015 but also the 1000s of women and girls facing fatal and non fatal violence both nationally and globally. And, in order to raise national awareness of femicide on #IDEVAW, on my personal twitter account I will be tweeting the names and pictures of each victim on this year’s list. I will start at 9:00 a.m. and tweet one name every 5 minutes. As of this writing the last tweet is scheduled for 7:25 p.m.