On December 6, 2017, LEAF recognizes the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. Today offers an important reminder to reflect on the daily realities of women who face gender-based violence. LEAF remembers the fourteen women who were singled out and murdered at the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre because they were women: Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.

LEAF also remembers the many other Canadian women and girls who have been killed because they are women, including those among the at least 1,181 missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls whose lives have been taken as a result of structural racist and sexist violence. LEAF has long argued that the social context of racism, colonialism, and sexism produce conditions of systemic and targeted violence against Indigenous women. The crisis of violence against Indigenous women is a direct consequence of Indigenous women’s substantive inequality.

In 2017, LEAF took action to confront that substantive inequality. It challenged discriminatory myths and stereotypes about Indigenous women, which make them particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence, in R. v. Barton (the Cindy Gladue case) and at the Alberta Solicitor General’s Inquiry into the treatment of Angela Cardinal in R. v. Blanchard. LEAF also argued against the long-standing discrimination against Indigenous women that remains embedded in the Indian Act at the Ontario Court of Appeal in Gehl v. Attorney General (Canada), and at parliamentary committees regarding the proposed Bill S-3, where LEAF urged the government to eradicate all forms of gender discrimination in the Act. LEAF also has national and regional standing to appear before the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and continues to urge the Inquiry to ensure it achieves real results for Indigenous women.

This year’s theme for the United Nations 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is “Leave No One Behind”. This theme focuses on creating a world free from violence for all women and girls, “while reaching the most underserved and marginalized, including refugees, migrants, minorities, Indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters, amongst others, first.” LEAF concurs wholeheartedly that achieving this goal requires “inclusive programmes and policies that address the barriers faced by the most underserved and disadvantaged groups of women and girls” and “inclusive policies and programming that address marginalization, discrimination and chronic deprivation.” LEAF will continue to advocate for changes to Canadian policy and law that address the root causes of women’s inequality, including economic inequality, exclusion, racism and sexism, in order to end violence against Indigenous women and girls, and indeed, all women and girls in Canada.

On this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, join LEAF in its commitment to make Canada a safe and equal place for all women and girls and to ensure that no woman is left behind in the struggle for equality and freedom from violence.

About Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)

Since April 17, 1985, when equality rights were enshrined in sections 15 and 28 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, LEAF has worked toward equality for women and girls. LEAF intervenes in key cases to ensure that when courts interpret equality rights, there will be a systemic improvement in women’s lives. For more information about LEAF, visit www.leaf.ca.