December 6: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Dec. 6 is Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This day observes the anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre ( a brief history here), and is a day for people throughout Canada to reflect on the ongoing social impact of violence against women.

One common symbol of respect on this day is a red rose and another is a white ribbon. Every Dec. 6, all flags on Ontario Government buildings and Canadian Government buildings fly at half-mast in remembrance of the women Lepine murdered.


A red rose and a white ribbon are both common symbols of observance for Dec.6. The red rose is connected with the YWCA’s Rose Campaign, and the white ribbon with the organization White Ribbon. While these can be officially obtained through either organization, both symbols are widely recognized in and of themselves, and anyone can make their own ribbon, purchase a single red rose, or wear and share images of either symbol by any means available.

How can I participate?

  • Throughout Canada, many community organizations host vigils and local events on Dec.6. Check the websites of your local YWCA, women’s shelter, rape crisis centres and anti-violence organizations for details on what might be happening near you.
  • You can donate to somewhere in your area that provides support services for women who are victims of violence, or see if there’s a way for you to volunteer.
  • YWCA-Dec6-Eng

    An image from the YWCA’s Rose Campaign. The campaign site has tools and resources for raising awareness about violence against women and girls. This Dropbox for the 2013 campaign has additional materials.

  • When you’re in public spaces on Dec.6 (and other days), you can choose to be visible in your support—provided you feel safe to do so—and to wear a red rose or a white ribbon.
  •  If someone asks you why, consider taking a moment to explain the significance and to challenge the silence around violence against women.
  • Dec. 6 falls within the international 16 Days of Activism campaign to end gender-based violence. Sharing information through your networks online is one way to be a part of encouraging sensitivity to violence against women and girls.Here are a few places you can find information to post:
  • Follow the hashtags #Dec6 and #16days on Twitter.
  • YWCA Canada has action toolkits available that include listings for resources and anti-violence organizations.
  • Visit our Domestic Violence Strategy page to learn about gender and domestic violence in Canada

Most of all, when Dec. 6 and the 16 Days campaign passes, remember that your participation remains needed in creating change all year round, and that violence against women affects everyone.

History of the École Polytechnique massacre

On Dec. 6, 1989, 25-year old gunman Marc Lépine separated the female engineering students from the male students at École Polytechnique, and opened fire on the female students, reportedly just after shouting “You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.” On that day, Lepine killed 14 women, and shot 13 other people.

By name, these women are:

Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968)
Hélène Colgan (born 1966)
Nathalie Croteau (born 1966)
Barbara Daigneault (born 1967)
Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968)
Maud Haviernick (born 1960)
Maryse Laganière (born 1964)
Maryse Leclair (born 1966)
Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967)
Sonia Pelletier (born 1961)
Michèle Richard (born 1968)
Annie St-Arneault (born 1966)
Annie Turcotte (born 1969)
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958)

The CBC digital archives has news footage and interviews from around the time of massacre.

Violence against women in Canada

Dec.6 is a day of remembrance for victims and survivors of violence, but also one for action on prevention and awareness of violence against women. In Canada, 50% of all Canadian women have experienced physical or sexual violence.

While these figures are sobering in and of themselves, it’s important to recognize that in some populations, these figures are disproportionately much higher. Gender-based violence intersects with other forms of violence like: colonization, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and many others.

In 2013, the RCMP reported that there are 1,181 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. In 2015, the report was updated to reflect 19 more murdered women, and 17 more missing; though even these figures are not considered to be comprehensive.

Do you know someone who may need help in Ontario?

 The Ontario Women’s Justice Network has compiled a list of resources.

Colleen Westendorf

About Colleen Westendorf

Bilingual digital communications specialist at LAO, Colleen has previously worked for CBC/Radio-Canada and the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Colleen grew up in Vancouver, spent three charmed years in Montreal, and is now glad to call Toronto home.