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Citizens march in Pointe-aux-Trembles in solidarity with victims of domestic violence

As the toll of femicides increases in Quebec, activists are calling for immediate action.

On Saturday, Sept. 16, approximately 50 individuals, of all ages, gathered at the Maison des jeunes de Pointe-aux-Trembles to begin their march in solidarity for the victims of domestic violence. The event was organized by Centre des femmes de Montreal-Est/Pointe-aux-Trembles and led by Dorette Mekamdjio, the director of the organization.

Spanning three kilometres, the march garnered the attention of many including drivers passing by who honked their horns in support, local business owners and community members who came outside to cheer on protestors and several political figures, including the mayor of the Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles borough, Caroline Bourgeois, and the Minister Responsible for Social Solidarity and Community Action, Chantal Rouleau.

The message of the event was clear: Enough is Enough!

“Today we are walking for [the victims of domestic violence] and to tell those who are living in this hell that they are not alone and we are there for you,” explained Bourgeois, “I am here to walk with these women and men who are saying, ‘No!’ to violence against women.”

What is the situation in Quebec?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has observed a spike in domestic violence. A 2021 report from Statistics Canada revealed that there were 127,082 victims of police-reported family violence, an increase from the years prior. Quebec, particularly, observed the largest spike with a 23 per cent increase in cases.

A 2022 study conducted by three medical students, Ariane Pelletier, Alycia Therrien, and Marie-Aude Picard-Turcot, from Sherbrooke University acknowledged the connection between COVID-19 lockdowns and the spike in cases of domestic violence, suggesting that strict public health measures were to blame.

Though pandemic restrictions have since loosened, this sad reality remains unchanged. Just last month, SOS Violence Conjugale reported three additional deaths. On Aug. 19, Robyn-Krystle O’Reilly was killed by her partner in Wickham. Just days later, on Aug. 26, two boys were murdered by their father in a post-separation context.

Yet, as the crowd chanted during Saturday’s march, community members are determined to not give up. “Conjugal violence has to stop,” expressed Patricia Higgins, vice president of the Centre des femmes. “We live in Canada, a free country, and there are resources available for women and I want to be part of that,” she added. Since retirement, Higgins has dedicated the last ten years to the cause.

The first step of producing meaningful change is by informing the public, said Roxanne Millet, an advisor for Prévention Pointe-de-L’Île, a local organization that seeks to prevent crime and promote safety. “We want to spread awareness to as many people as possible, whether that be our sister, mother, cousin or a friend. Right now, [conjugal violence] can happen to anyone so we have to be aware of that reality and be alert of signs that a person may be experiencing abuse,” she added.

The Next Steps

Meanwhile, more resources to help victims are being implemented. Last November, Le Centre des Femmes de Montreal-Est/Pointe-aux-Trembles with the help of politicians like, Rouleau, began constructing La Maison Gisèle-Pomerleau, a home for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

This initiative, sharing the name with a Montreal activist who fought for feminine issues and passed away in 2021, has since received 11.7 million dollars by the City of Montreal which will be invested into building 20 new affordable homes for victims of domestic violence.

“This is important because once a women and their children leave an abusive relationship […] they find themselves in a refuge but afterwards they need to build themselves back up, explained Rouleau, “second-stage housing allows women to return to school to receive a diploma or to reintegrate into the workforce.”

While the fight against domestic violence is ongoing, activists remain hopeful. “I am always optimistic because overtime we see that changes do happen but we never need to let out guard down,” said Rouleau.

Interviews from Millet, Bourgeois, and Rouleau have been translated from French.

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