When she first heard about the 14 students, all women, who were gunned down in their engineering class at l’École Polytechnique, Michelle Jay remembers where she was.
She was a student herself at UPEI on Dec. 6, 1989.
Jay imagined what it was like to be in that class room when the shooter came in with his gun and told the men to leave and the women to stay.
“It was a horrible event for Montreal, but it was also indicative of violence that affects women all across the country. It was truly a shocking event.”
It is still shocking for Jay, but looking back now, it was a poignant time for her and for the women around her.
“Later that same year, we had heard a couple of stories of sexual assaults around campus, so a little bunch of us advocated for a women’s centre.
“Because women (were not) safe ... we needed to talk to about the threats and how women aren’t being treated equally," she said, adding that a women’s centre eventually opened up and operated for many years because of their efforts.
Now, as the program co-ordinator for the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Jay continues to help work toward ensuring a better world for women.
On Nov. 5, the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women hosted an evening pinning bee to prepare ribbons and bookmarks for its Purple Ribbon Campaign Against Violence Against Women.
The pinning bee was held at the Confederation Centre Public Library with the 2019-2020 theme of “SUPPORTING SURVIVORS—Support the person. Involve the community. Right the world.”
This year will mark the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
“It is a day to be really, really sad,” said Jay.
The advisory council holds a vigil each year at Memorial Hall of the Confederation Centre of the Arts for women who have been murdered by gender-based violence.
Around 30 people, all women and girls, were at the library, helping with pins and ribbons.
Annually, volunteers cut more than 17,000 ribbons and pin them to information cards to be distributed across the Island.
The purple ribbons are worn in honour and remembrance of the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre and the 10 women murdered on P.E.I. since 1989 by someone who knew them, said Jay.
“We also wear purple ribbons as a call for justice for the thousands of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in Canada,” she said.
The final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murder Indigenous Women came out on June 3 of this year, and it could not provide "a reliable estimate of the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA persons in Canada".
“We continue to strive as (a council) to make a difference and make a change to improve the lives of women everywhere.”
Anna Sophia Ledwell-MacInnis, 12, has been coming to the pinning bee with her mom since she could remember.
“It is important for the community to get together and learn about things like this,” she said.
Anna Sophia said all people should keep fighting to remember women who have died because of gender-based violence and change the future for girls like her and women like her mom.
She plans to keep coming back as long as she can.
“Because if there is not a community effort, then nothing is going to get done. This is important for everybody.”