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Response to violence against women shows how far we still have to go

It’s 2020, you think this would be over by now


It took 30 years for the Polytechnique massacre to be officially recognized as an act of violence against women and femicide. When 22 people were killed in Nova Scotia the RCMP skirted around the notion that the killer's actions were spurred by misogyny.

When we learned that the first victim of the attack was GW's partner—who survived—RCMP used language that labelled her as a catalyst for the deaths.

When The Coast published two articles quoting or written by feminists and advocates for the prevention of violence against women in light of the April killings, people took time to dismiss the claims. 

These pieces, ‘Call it by its name: Misogynist violence’ and ‘From day one, advocates knew shooting was linked to domestic violence’, along with providing an often-overlooked perspective, show the importance of believing women.

We know the importance of believing women.

Yet in the comments and shares across social media, we were shown how much work is still left to be done.
Via Twitter
  • Via Twitter

So when it was reported this week by CBC, the Canadian Press and the Halifax Examiner that a woman had reported the Nova Scotia gunman’s misogynist behaviour to police years ago, it's hard to say people were surprised. Disappointed and furious, yes, but even now the insistence on discrediting claims of violence against women are evergreen.

‘Boe,’ who was the gunman’s neighbour in Portapique back in 2004, says one night she saw clear proof domestic violence was happening.

A comment on The Coast's Instagram post.
  • A comment on The Coast's Instagram post.
“They weren’t even in that house for a year when [GW’s partner] ran over to my house one day saying that Gabriel was beating her up and she was scared. She wanted to hide somewhere because he had blocked her car with his truck so she couldn’t get out,” she told the Halifax Examiner.

In the summer of 2013, when another incident occurred, Boe reported it to police. But nothing happened.

“The RCMP basically said, ‘the only way that we can actually get the information on this and prove it … like for her being beaten and strangled and stuff like that. She has to say it.’ And there’s no way that she would do that,” Boe told the Examiner.

On May 13, Premier Stephen McNeil addressed domestic violence in his daily C-19 briefing. “We are seeing too many of our daughters and sisters living in violence and fear and staying there because of their children or staying there because of the fear of their lives, and we need to have an open and frank conversation about how do address this issue in our province,” he said.

Although McNeil gave no specific announcement, he said domestic violence is “completely unacceptable” in this day and age, and alluded to a future announcement. “We need to create a network to give them a way out that feels safe and secure so that they can rebuild their lives,” the Premier said.

But feminists know this happens all the time. Women report violence, it gets media attention for a few weeks, but eventually, it gets overlooked, denied, and dismissed.

A comment on
  • A comment on
“Studying a problem endlessly without actually doing anything about it is not going to change,” Linda MacDonald of Nova Scotia Feminists Fighting Femicide told The Coast in April.

McNeil admitted Wednesday in response to a question that Nova Scotia likely isn't doing enough to prevent domestic violence.

"You're never doing enough if women and girls are living in fear," he said.

If your post is included here, thank you, dear reader, for showing folks around the world how much work is still left to be done.


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