How Do We Remember?


December 6th is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.  We take the day not only to remember the fourteen victims of the Montreal Massacre but to remember all women who have been killed by men.

It’s a time for reflection and for action.

Did you know that Hamilton has a memorial to the victims of 1989 Montreal Massacre?

If you visit the west side of City Hall in Hamilton, near the corner of Main Street and Bay Street, you’ll find a rock with a plaque remembering the women who were killed on December 6th and also remembering all women who have been victims of violence.

The amazing project and book Remembering Women Murdered by Men: Memorials Across Canada by the Cultural Memory Group says this about the City Hall Memorial:

Shortly after the murders in Montreal, our of “grief and frustration,” Donelle de Vlaming, then president of the board of directors of the Women’s Centre of Hamilton, posted notices around town for women who wanted to “do something”. About eight to ten women came to the first meeting…  They came to form the December 6th Committee…

The committee arrived at an evocative vision: to plant a gravestone in a wild flower garden tended by women.  They took this proposal to city council, borrowing the slogan “First mourn, then work for change” to articulate their intention…  The women were jubilant at the authorization of their project. In the words of Renate Manthei, co-ordinator of the December 6th Committee, this location is “central to the city… a place of power…to be present there means women have a presences in a place they might shy away from.”

The dedication ceremony attracted nearly 200 people.

The Women’s Centre also has knitted the memorial a hug!

IMG_8694Jennifer Rollings, Peer Volunteer Coordinator and Clinical Counsellor at the Women’s Centre explains:

In 2011, the December 6th Memorial committee in Hamilton reflected on its chosen theme of “We Remember…” and decided to send a message to the community that we remember the fourteen women murdered on December 6th, 1989 and all other women affected by violence. We remember that women are still not treated equally and we still have to work to end violence against women. We thought about the cold, rough memorial rock at City Hall and wanted to wrap it in love and warmth for the winter. The Women’s Centre Knitting Group and staff created swatches adorned with roses that covered the rock, showcasing its plaque about December 6th. It was installed on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, with a quiet ceremony and it became a bright spot in the downtown landscape until after December 6th.

Hamilton not only has the boulder and plaque at City Hall.  Hamilton memorials to women who have been murdered by men include the Marlene Moore memorial tree, Nina de Villiers memorial rose garden, a memorial rock at McMaster University, and the City Hall memorial.

Unfortunately, these memorials quite often go unnoticed in our communities.  People either don’t know they exist, can’t find them or the language on the plaque doesn’t entirely make clear what we are remembering.  The Cultural Memory Group wrote this of how we remember women murdered by men in a 2007 article on the Canadian Women’s Health Network’s website:

Astonishingly often, these monuments are simply not seen.  City councils tuck them into marginal locations, funding bodies shunt them to the bottom of the agendas, plaque-writers dedicate them in codes that wedge words between silences.  Memorials protesting a central scandal of our society occupy the most tentative positions in our public space.

It is time to make these memorials newly visible on a national scale, to celebrate the efforts of the women who created them against all odds and to explore their contribution to the struggle against violence against women.

How do we remember both the victims and survivors of violence against women in our community?  How would you like for us to remember?


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