Vigil against feminicides

Back to the news
31 January 2020

Here is the text written by a community worker from La Méridienne for this vigil.

Speech – Vigil against feminicides

My name is Sophie, I am a social worker at La Méridienne, a shelter for women victims of domestic violence and their children.

If we are reunited today, it is after a tragic series of feminicides. This is following the close deaths of Marylène Lévesque, Jaël Cantin, Astrid Declerck, Dahia Khellaf and Annie Koneak. Four of them were murdered by their partner or ex-partner, one of them was killed by a man who had just served a sentence for the murder of his ex-partner in 2004. If we count, from the Polytechnic school attack in 1989, until last December 6, 1128 women were murdered by their intimate partner or ex-partner in Quebec. If we add Jaël, Astrid, Dahia and Annie, the count is 1132. That is without counting the other forms of feminicide, as in the case of Marylène.

I work with victims of domestic violence. I see those that we do not see in the media, I see the tragedies that we have narrowly avoided. If we are terrified to see the number of homicides that there are currently, well I can tell you that this is only the tip of the iceberg of an even bigger problem than the ‘what you can see’. You cannot imagine the number of tragedies that are narrowly avoided, the number of breakups that almost turned into a nightmare, the number of women and children who go into hiding every day out of fear for their safety, out of fear for their life.

In shelters, this is an everyday reality. It is not for nothing that the shelters are overflowing. With us, in the busiest periods, the occupancy rate can easily climb up to 130%. And that is for women who seek help. Because not all victims of domestic violence seek services. In fact, if we rely on the fact that a quarter of women in Canada experience or have experienced domestic violence, we can easily assume that most victims will never call on services, that they will prefer to manage by their own means.

When the number of women affected is so large, by something that happens in privacy, out of sight, it becomes clear to me that the private is political.

So how do we do?

Because I see them, all those who do not denounce; I see them, the police officers who trivialize when we ask for their accompaniment; I see them, the failures of the 810 and the prohibitions of contact which are never respected; I see the charges reduced just before the trial, because of the practice of plea bargaining; I see them accusing them of parental alienation to mask the violence; I see them as failures of the system.

For the past few weeks, I have been hearing various proposals, I have been hearing about tougher sentences, anti-reconciliation bracelets… I am happy to see that attention is being paid to the problem of domestic violence and to the way in which the services corrections are managed, however, I would also like to issue a warning against the use of strictly repressive measures. Several women tell me that they do not want to call the police or file a complaint because they do not want their partner to go to prison. I therefore fear that the implementation of purely repressive measures will have the effect of keeping women even more from filing complaints and appealing to resources.

In my opinion, we must certainly review the way in which police forces deal with the problem of domestic violence, as well as how the justice system operates with a view to ensure the safety of victims and so that the system causes them the least possible disadvantages. Also, it’s not very fashionable to talk about it, but I believe in the power of prevention, to get to the root of the problem, that is to say to talk about gendered socialization, sexism. I believe in a health system where all professionals are able to detect and recognize violence, I believe in a society where the use of violence is discouraged and I believe in a society where the safety of women and children is put forward.

Now, faced with the urgency to act, faced with the proposals of the Federation and the Regroupement of women’s shelters, I ask you the question:

What are we waiting for ?


Some women residents of Sherbrooke hold a vigil against feminicides


A few weeks earlier, Dahia Khellaf, 42, and her two sons were killed in their Montreal residence.

On December 6, a group of women mentioned that 1,128 women and children had been murdered by a spouse or ex-spouse in Quebec since the anti-feminist attack perpetrated 30 years earlier at the École polytechnique de Montréal.

“It’s enough,” proclaim committed Sherbrooke women who organized a vigil in Sherbrooke Thursday evening in front of the courthouse so that their message resonates.

In the past five weeks, four women have been murdered in Quebec: Astrid Declerck in Montreal; Jael Cantin in Mascouche; Annie Koneak in Kujjuaq, and Marylène Lévesque in Quebec.

« The goal is to commemorate the memory of women murdered in recent months in Quebec, but also in Canada and elsewhere in the world. […] We wanted to show our solidarity and tell women who are victims of violence to denounce it,» explains Marie-Danielle Larocque, spokesperson for the Collective Sherbrooke Féministe, the group responsible for the event which brought together citizens, but also the organizations La Méridienne, IRIS Estrie, the Collective for Free Choice and the Federation of Cultural Communities of Estrie. 

According to data from the canadian Feminicide Observatory for Justice and  Accountability, a woman is murdered every 2.5 days in Canada.

« It’s indicative of the violence that still exists in our society », emphasizes Mrs. Laroque.

« Femicide generally affects women who are at the crossroads of oppression, so we can think of trans women, sex workers, immigrant women… The killing of the woman or the girl because they are a woman and daughter is the ultimate control in a continuum of violence against women, often domestic violence », continues the woman who works with the organization ConcertAction Femmes Estrie.

Quebec goes into action mode 

In an interview published Thursday by La Presse, the Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Isabelle Charest, says she wants to tighten security around victims of domestic violence in order to prevent violent crimes. The interview she gave mentioned in particular an increase in funding for shelters, the imposition of electronic bracelets and the possibility of making it mandatory for doctors to report suspected cases of domestic violence when a patient comes to the emergencies with lesions, for example.

This announcement comes after the death of Marylène Lévesque, killed by a man who had been convicted of the murder of his spouse in 2006 and who had been on day parole since March 2019.

Although Ms. Larocque welcomes this news, she believes that the government and society will have to do more to stop violence against women.

« Beyond money, we have to work upstream on education. We still have a patriarchal society where inequalities between men and women persist. We have to look at measures at the structural level. It takes prevention, awareness to be able to recognize the violence around you, whether it is spousal, sexual, economic or systemic, » summarizes Ms. Larocque.

Vigils similar to those in Sherbrooke were held in other cities Thursday evening, including one in front of the National Assembly. They all aimed to give participants the opportunity to express themselves, in particular by delivering testimonies and making demands.


Eastern townships shelters are overflowing. « So much the better if the government announces an increase in funding for shelters, but right now there is a crying lack of places », says Marie-Danielle Larocque of ConcertAction Femmes Estrie.

Already at the beginning of 2019, the organization denounced the situation in several media. The average occupancy rate for shelters in Estrie varies between 87% and 143%.

« Nothing has changed since », laments Ms. Larocque.

According to ConcertAction Femmes Estrie, the wave of denunciations caused by the #Metoo movement and #aggressionnondenounced would explain the increase in requests in these establishments.

« Houses are overflowing and there are more and more specific requests, particularly from immigrant women. To be able to help them, we need someone to help us with the translation to carry out the intervention, but also to accompany these women in their reconstruction process when they go looking for a job or housing example. Translation in this whole process requires funding », gives the example of the speaker.

« On some occasions, shelters have to outright refuse to offer help to certain women. Despite this, however, they are always referred and never left to their own devices », specifies Ms. Larocque.

« And the problem is not just limited to the number of places available. In the regions, if you don’t have transportation, it’s difficult to get out of a situation of domestic violence. You can even find yourself in a situation of homelessness if you cannot afford transportation », she continues.

« Managing all of this is complex […]. You have to take that seriously. The government will have to put the issue of violence against women at the center of its concerns and treat it as a public health problem », she insists.



You liked this article?
Share it!

Quick exit Clear Private Data