Protesters marched through Montreal’s Plateau borough Friday afternoon to denounce what many described as a “pandemic” of violence against women, after a slate of recent killings.
Eight women have been killed by current or former intimate partners in Quebec over the past eight weeks.
The Montreal protest, which stretched more than six city blocks at times, was one of 20 scheduled to take place across Quebec today.
“Enough! Not one more!” the protesters chanted as they made their way through the city.
Manon Monastesse, the executive director of the Quebec federation of women’s shelters, said the number of deaths in recent weeks is disturbing, noting the province tends to record 12 femicides over the course of a normal full year.
“In Canada, a woman is killed every two days by their intimate partner or ex-partner,” she said before the protest. “We’re also facing a pandemic, but it’s a shadow pandemic. We’re not addressing it directly and openly.”
Monastesse, one of the organizers of the event in Montreal, said the 36 shelters in her organization are at 97 per cent of their capacity.
She said the effort to fight violence against women will need serious action from the provincial government, pointing to several government reports that outline steps that need to be taken to fight violence against women.
“We need a clear response and not just talking,” she said.
Fighting violence against women will also take broader social change, she said, adding that she was pleased to see many men in attendance at the protest.
Catherine-Sophie Paquette, who was among the protesters, said she’s tired of women being killed and wants people to realize how serious the situation is.
“I’m tired of women getting degraded and people saying that we’re exaggerating, because we’re not,” she said.
Paquette, a high school student, said solving the problem starts at a young age, with education.
Alexandra Pierre, the president of civil liberties group the Ligue des droits et libertes, said Quebec still doesn’t have adequate sexual education classes – classes that she said she believes could be used to teach about equality in relationships.
But Pierre, who spoke at the protest, said violence against women doesn’t happen in isolation, it’s a reflection of broader social issues.
“There’s still systemic discrimination against women in Quebec,” Pierre said in an interview after the protest.
Selma Kouidri, the executive director of the Institut National pour l’equite, l’egalite et l’inclusion, a group that works with people who have disabilities, said it can be more difficult for women who have disabilities, immigrant women and racialized women to leave violent situations.
Kouidri, who spoke at the protest, said shelter services are often not adapted for women with disabilities.
“Many women with disabilities, especially immigrant women, are afraid of the system,” she said in an interview after the protest.
She said abusers will often tell women with disabilities that they will lose their children if they leave – a fear that can be exacerbated if they are also immigrants.
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