Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 75

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on November 25, the world joined hands to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Today, we also commemorate the death of 14 women at l’École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989.

In the endeavour to come to terms with such acts — such terror and struggle — I draw the attention of this chamber to the pain that wears the mask of our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and cousins: violence against women.

Over 30 years ago, when I started working as a lawyer in Vancouver, I was first exposed to the issues of violence against women. I worked with women of diverse backgrounds and circumstances who, at the hands of their husbands or partners, had been physically and emotionally assaulted. I saw the evidence of physical assaults from scars not yet faded. I heard through strained voices of the emotional scars that continued to affect their lives.

In the early 1990s, Prime Minister Mulroney created a panel on violence against women, of which I was a member. At the launch of the panel, I met Ms. Edward, whose daughter had been shot by Marc Lépine at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal.

Why had she been shot? She was shot for wanting to become an engineer. The pain that Ms. Edward carried still haunts me.

When our panel traveled to Eastern Canada, we met with a woman who had been shot in the face by her husband. Her face had been practically destroyed. All we could see of her face were holes where her ears had been, a hole where her nose should have been and a hole where her mouth should have been. The disfiguring of this woman’s face still haunts me.

On a reserve, we visited a young girl who expressed to us how she was repeatedly raped. Her uncle held a gun to her head while raping her. The young girl recounting to us this repeated rape while a gun was held to her head still haunts me.

Honourable senators, Marc Lépine’s treacherous act of killing 14 women, the woman whose face was almost destroyed, and the young girl’s repeated rape are all part of what I live now. Honourable senators all have similar stories. Today, I ask that we remember the women and girls we have lost through violence, and give our support to women and girls who are still suffering from violence.