UCalgary News files
Dec. 6, 2022
Honouring the Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
Dec. 6, 1989 is an infamous day in Canadian history. On that day, 14 women were murdered at L’École Polytechnique in Montreal. This horrific event still ranks as one of Canada’s deadliest shootings. The women targeted that day were university students and employees who lost their lives due to gender-based violence.
The University of Calgary honours the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women each year by hosting an annual ceremony. The event honours the women who lost their lives that day, serves to educate the community and highlights the ongoing need to end gender-based violence.
Our actions here can change the world
Dr. Laleh Behjat, PhD, P. Eng., a professor in the Department of Electrical and Software Engineering in the Schulich School of Engineering, is aware of the detrimental affects gender-based violence can have. Behjat holds the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (Prairies), an organization that’s empowering women to be change leaders through the Wise planet initiative. Behjat will speak at the ceremony.
Originally from Iran, Behjat became aware of the Dec. 6 shooting a few years after it happened but was nonetheless impacted by it. After all, she pursued a career and a profession that the murderer intended to hold women back from succeeding in.
“I could see myself in that classroom,” she says. “I come from a place where violence against women is a norm and is used as a political tool. So understanding that [the ceremony] is about remembrance and also about taking actions for changing how the world sees women and the potentials that don’t come to full bloom because of the violence they experience.”
It’s important for Behjat to be a role model for other aspiring women and to work for change to end gender-based violence. Yet, she notes it has gone beyond the binary of just men and women to include gender, race and even Indigeneity. Today’s campuses and classrooms are very different from even 20 years ago. She believes the key to progress is that people see themselves as change agents.
“[We need to empower] students to know that they are the ones building the future and our future should not look like our past,” she said. “[The future] can be much better, much more inclusive, equitable and just.”
The Dec. 6 ceremony
The ceremony’s second speaker will be Dr. Penny Werthner, interim provost and vice-president (academic). The event’s hosts will be Masume Akbari, vice-president student life from the Graduate Students’ Association and Nicole Schmidt, president of the Students’ Union. The School of Creative and Performing Arts will provide music during the ceremony.
A candle-lighting ceremony will be led by Campus Security and a moment of silence will be held at 12:40 p.m. to honour the victims of Dec. 6 and others who have suffered gender-based violence.
“We are so thankful for the support that our community and the university provide to this important ceremony,” says Verity Turpin, vice-provost (student experience).
“While we have a long way to go to end gender-based violence, with the support of our community we can continue to teach, learn and advocate for each other, and offer hope to people suffering from gender-based violence.”
Candle sales support important programming
The Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) will be selling handmade beeswax candles to help fund vital programming to end gender-based violence. The candles were made by campus community members including students, faculty and staff, and they’ll be sold for $5 a pair. Pickup can be conveniently arranged through curbside delivery on campus. For more information, visit the candle sale page on the WRC website.
The ceremony will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 12:30 p.m. in the main Engineering Atrium (ENG 122). The ceremony is open to the public. Read about the event.