FTP memorial ceremony marks 30th anniversary of Montreal Massacre

December 12, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Representatives of Family Transition Place (FTP) joined with members of the local community last week to commemorate the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history.

This past Friday (Dec. 6) marked the 30th anniversary of the infamous Montreal Massacre, where lone gunman Marc Lepine murdered 14 women, and injured 14 more, during an attack at an engineering school affiliated with the University of Montreal. Many have characterized the massacre as an anti-feminist attack representative of wider societal violence against women, with several witnesses claiming to have heard Mr. Lepine stating he was “fighting feminism” throughout the attack. 

Two years following the attack, the federal government designated Dec. 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. As such, a memorial has been held in Orangeville ever since. Speaking to the Citizen, Norah Kennedy, Executive Director at FTP, explained why the event is so important to those working at our local women’s shelter.

“For us, the action part of the day is just as important as the commemoration and memorial part. This is a two-piece, two-pronged issue. First, we want to take the time to remember that horrific day in 1989, because it was such a blatant demonstration of misogyny and hatred against women. It was violence against women at its very crux,” Ms. Kennedy said. “We want to honour and remember those women, who were so young, and who lost their lives because they were women. But we also want to use it as a day to remember all the other women who have been killed because of violence throughout the years.”

In recent years, the vigil has been held outside the FTP office on Bredin Parkway in Orangeville, but, with this being something of a milestone anniversary, Ms. Kennedy wanted to open the memorial up to the wider community and bring more awareness to the event. As such, the memorial was held, this year, outside Orangeville Town Hall. 

“That was a very deliberate move,” Ms. Kennedy explained. “For many years, we’ve held the vigil on the doorsteps of FTP. This year, we wanted to do things a little differently. We chose to have it at Town Hall because we wanted to increase (the presence of the event), but we also wanted to make the point that the issue of violence against women does not belong to the women living at our shelter, and it does not belong to the women and men who dedicate their lives to working in the field. It belongs to all of us.”

She added, “The awareness and education needs to start at places like our seats of power. Our Town Halls, our education system, our health care system, our policing services. This is all of our issue to deal with. It’s not just a women’s issue, and it’s certainly not just an issue that belongs to the women who have experienced it, or are working in it every day.”

Thus far in 2019, 37 women in Ontario have lost their lives as a result of femicide – the act of a man killing a woman on account of her gender. 

While there were no deaths recorded in Dufferin County or Caledon this year, Ms. Kennedy noted fatalities had been recorded in Brampton, Markham and Collingwood. These instances, she says, are happening “close to home”. 

“It’s terrifying. The thing that strikes me most, is that when women are killed, the vast majority of the time it’s by somebody they know, they trust and they love. A family member, partner, spouse… When we’re talking about our day of action, it’s not enough to just talk about policing and dealing with crime, because this starts at the heart of our relationships and our connections with other people.”

With that said, Ms. Kennedy introduced a ‘Courageous Conversations’ component to the day, which encouraged individuals to talk about the issues that may be contributing factors to incidents of violence against women in our community. 

The session lasted for approximately one hour, and was “extremely powerful”, according to Ms. Kennedy. Approximately 55 individuals participated in brief sessions that centred around topics such as the local housing crisis, access to health care and social services, and the shelter model currently in place at FTP.

“Each table had a designated conversation starter and facilitator. One of those sessions was surrounding housing, and the conversation start was that the FTP shelter is always full, and one of the reasons it’s always full is because we can’t move women on, because there’s nowhere for them to move on to. They can’t afford houses in this community, and there aren’t any apartments that are affordable, so they’re here for longer periods of time, which creates a backlog at our front door,” Ms. Kennedy said. “For the women who need to get in here, who may be at risk, we’re having to problem-solve and find other solutions because they can’t get into the shelter, because the shelter is full.”

The problem, it would appear, isn’t getting any better here in Dufferin County and Caledon. Ms. Kennedy noted FTP currently has extensive wait lists for counselling services, and she doesn’t recall the last time there was an open room at their shelter. From April 2018 to April 2019, the organization housed 73 women and 45 children at its emergency shelter, and placed an additional 11 women and 9 children in second-stage housing. More than 3,200 calls were answered through the organization’s 24-hour support line, while 343 women received woman abuse counselling over the course of the year. 

Ms. Kennedy talked about the vicious circles some of the women who reach out to FTP for assistance find themselves in. Because of the lack of affordable housing in the community, many women find themselves returning to a potentially dangerous environment, while others turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of release from their everyday struggles. No matter the issue, Norah admits it’s an ongoing struggle at FTP to narrow down exactly what kind of supports an individual may require.

“I would say the major trends in our community – some of the biggest challenges are centred around our housing issue, trauma, and formed services for mental health and addictions. The issue we’re facing is having the capacity to deal with the complex needs of the women coming to us,” she said. “Because they’ve dealt with some awful things in their lives, they will cope in different ways. Some turn to substance abuse, and the things we’ve heard about happening definitely take a toll on one’s mental health.”

She added, “For us, it’s about having the capacity to support women where they’re at in their journey, be compassionate and be able to give them the supports they need to heal.”

When asked what it will take to make an impact here in Dufferin-Caledon, and to potentially see a decrease in the demand for services at FTP, Ms. Kennedy concluded that it starts, and ends, with education.

Last year, FTP presented its youth education program to 1,663 students in the region. The organization has been offering its programming, designed for students between Grades 5 and 8, to both public and catholic schools in the region for almost 15 years.

“At the end of the day, it all starts with awareness and education. It all boils down to having respect for one another, and being kind,” Ms. Kennedy said. “One of our presenters shared a story recently. He was in downtown Toronto to see a play and a  young man, maybe in his 20s, approached him and asked if he was the guy from FTP that talked about equality. This man said he still looks back on those days and remembers those teachings, so it shows that we are making a difference. This is where change begins – through our youth.”

Further to that point, Norah called on any member of the local community to put a stop to the type of things that can perpetuate violence against women.

“It’s about standing up and saying it’s not appropriate when you hear a misogynistic comment, or a sexist joke being told. People may not realize that those type of things fall on the spectrum (of discrimination against women),” Ms. Kennedy stated. “Often, they’re not intended as anything, but it creates an impression that people around you, especially youth, can take on. It can create an impression that women are not as valuable as men, and that’s the key piece that needs to start changing.

For more information on services and programming provided at FTP, visit

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