On Dec. 6, 1989, a 25-year-old man walked into the École Polytechnique de Montréal armed with a rifle. Fourteen women, including 13 engineering students, were killed that day, simply for being women. That day was an awakening for Canadians as well as people around the world, and made feminists out of many.
Over the past 27 years, people have rallied together to fight gender-based violence, and there have been some great victories.
This year saw the launch of a national inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, something indigenous communities have been campaigning for since the 1990s.
As well in May, the provincial government released new regulations that require colleges and universities to accommodate survivors of sexual violence, including the adoption of a sexual violence policy.
Ryerson began drafting a sexual violence policy in 2014, and in October 2015, Farrah Khan, a well-known activist for ending violence against women, joined the university as the co-ordinator of the office of sexual violence support and education.
While Ryerson is taking steps to better address sexual violence, this issue continues to be a struggle on university campuses across the country.
In November, the Dalhousie Student Union had to shut down its sexual assault support line because of funding issues. The line had only been operating for a little over a year, but it had to be pulled because the university wouldn’t cover the costs.
York University’s own sexual violence policy was also under fire last month. A student who had filed a human rights complaint against the university after she was sexually assaulted by another student, reported that the school’s new guidelines for responding to sexual violence weren’t good enough.
But at Ryerson, the university has spent the past year reviewing the first draft of the sexual violence policy, working to include the voices of as many students, staff and faculty as possible.
The revised policy was originally scheduled to be presented to the Ryerson Board of Governors for its approval at the Nov. 24 meeting. But Ryerson is taking an extra month before the policy will be presented, in hopes of gathering even more community feedback over the next week, especially from students.
Extra steps such as this show that Ryerson is working to create a campus that is committed to combating sexual violence and gender-based violence, and being a place where survivors feel supported. That’s something we should all be striving for.