McMaster community remembers those lost to gender-based violence

A red dress hanging from a tree outside University Hall.

The university community commemorated the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women at a number of events and observances.

The McMaster community commemorated the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on Dec. 6. This is an annual observance that honours the memory of the 14 women killed at École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989, and all those impacted by gender-based violence, including the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, trans and Two-Spirit people.

Here is a look at some of the commemorations organized by the university’s Dec. 6 committee of students, faculty and staff:

A red dress hanging from a tree on campus..
Red dresses were hung across campus as part of the REDress Project.

Across campus, red dresses were hung on trees, poles and other fixtures as part of the REDress Project, an installation by Winnipeg-based artist Jaime Black, started in 2010. Originally placed in downtown Winnipeg, red dresses have since been displayed in installations across the country as a way of drawing attention to the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

A purple flag with white letters that read "End Gender-based violence" hangs at half-mast at the top of University Hall
The Wrapped in Courage flag was raised at half-mast above University Hall on Dec. 6.

A purple flag flew at half-mast on University Hall, in recognition of the Wrapped in Courage campaign. McMaster is a proud community partner of Hamilton’s Woman Abuse Working Group (WAWG), which is helping lead the campaign in focused on ending gender-based violence in our community and beyond.

five women drumming on stage
The panel discussion event opened with a drumming circle led by Michelle Rivers, who is Anishinaabe of​ Nipissing First Nation, and Tekenikhon Doreen, who is Mohawk of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. 

More than 60 people came to a lunchtime panel discussion on gender-based violence, Conversation for Change, at L.R. Wilson Concert Hall, including President David Farrar, Chancellor Santee Smith and Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Susan Tighe.

Four women sitting on stage in front of a massive screen that reads: Conversation for Change
From left: Mechanical Engineering and Management student Angela Lewis, McMaster Women in Engineering Society co-president Sarah Woods, Social Work PhD student Maddie Brockbank and Engineering professor Kim Jones at the Conversation for Change panel discussion.

Mechanical Engineering and Management student and EDI Resource Coordinator for the McMaster Women in Engineering Society, Angela Lewis, emceed the event, which was livestreamed.

“Who’s in your space makes a big difference in how welcoming and safe you feel in that space,” noted panellist and engineering professor Kim Jones.

“We have to think about who’s included, respected, othered and excluded. Violence starts with disrespect, with othering, and not feeling like someone belongs. It’s a continuum that can have tragic consequences,” said Jones, who is the chair of the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering.

“Seeing protests and people in real time demonstrating and doing important work, you feel real solidarity happening. That’s exciting and moving. As much as there are moment of feeling really heavy in this work, I see moments of hope, imagining futures we haven’t seen yet.” – Maddie Brockbank, PhD candidate and Vanier Scholar in the School of Social Work

two women seated on stage, one is talking into a mic
Maddie Brockbank watches as Kim Jones shares her insights at the Conversation for Change event on Dec. 6.

“Allyship and activism are ongoing. It’s not the responsibility of people with lived experiences to do this work. It should be a collaborative effort. It’s important our allies are engaged and thinking about what it means to be an ally, challenging systemic barriers and standing up together.” – Sarah Woods, Level IV Chemical Engineering & Management student and Co-President of the McMaster Women in Engineering Society

The event concluded with the reading of the names of the 14 women who died in the Montreal Massacre and a moment of silence.

A rose on a stone with a memorial plaque outside L.R. Wilson Hall
The memorial walk is an opportunity to show solidarity and allyship for all the women and trans folks impacted by gender-based violence. This memorial is outside L.R. Wilson Hall.

Following Conversation for Change, a group of McMaster students, staff and faculty embarked on a Memorial Walk across campus. A rose was placed at each memorial site and members of the pan-institutional Dec. 6 planning committee shared history or important facts with the group.

There was also a fire and tobacco offering at the Indigenous Student Services outdoor space.

Dean Heather Sheardown, Faculty of Engineering, shared her reflections on this day of significance.

If you or someone you know needs support, here are some resources for the McMaster community.