Violence against women and Valentine’s Day

Heart-shaped balloons, chocolate and teddy bears are all part of Valentine’s Day’s trademark. We usually take this as an opportunity to spend some quality time with loved ones, or with ourselves. 

In June 2017, the University of Calgary released the results of a study on the connection between sporting events, holidays and domestic violence. The study revealed there is an increase of calls to authorities regarding domestic violence on numerous holidays, including Valentine’s Day.

As the holiday frenzy dies down, I wondered: how does Valentine’s Day affect women who are survivors of domestic violence? How were they possibly feeling on Feb.14?

Following the passing of two women, Jaël Cantin, a mother of six, who was murdered by her husband; and 22-year-old Marylene Levesque, who was murdered by a client, I read horrible comments made about the victims on social media. People partly blamed Levesque for her death because she was a sex worker.

This made me realize that we must address domestic violence and femicides more than we currently do. The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability revealed that in 2015, women murdered by their partners counted for 45 per million population, which is five times more than the rate of men killed by their partners.

Femicide is defined by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability as “the most extreme form of violence and discrimination against women and girls.” Femicides are primarily perpetrated by men.

We should see a lot more prevention measures about crimes against women, such as programs in schools about healthy relationships and gender equality, a lot more commercials about the issue, etc. The media must report on such tragedies. But what comes after awareness? Are we making a difference? Are we looking to change things?

A lot of women who report domestic violence to the authorities feel as though they are not taken seriously or do not have the support they need. Because of this, they are less likely to ask for help if their partners commit another assault.

This must stop. Our society must ensure a safer environment to allow women to speak up. We have to stop blaming and shaming women for something they cannot control. Parents and schools must educate children and teenagers, but mostly young boys on how to treat women respectfully. We must teach the importance of healthy relationships

As a society, it is our responsibility to come up with firm ways to learn how to prevent violence.

Just like self-defence is taught to women, we should continue to teach the importance of consent and the consequences of violent behaviours. This education should not only apply to men, but to everyone. Giving special attention to proactive measures such as consent training will empower people in terms of understanding the effects of domestic violence and consent in a fair way, rather than implying that reactive measures like self-defence, are the only ways to handle the issue.

Women need emotional and legal support. They should be able to feel secure and loved by their partner without any fear.

Valentine’s Day is not just about flaunting our idea of a ‘perfect relationship.’ It’s also about acknowledging the women who are suffering behind closed doors.

As we all enjoy the day to celebrate love, we also have to remind ourselves of the negative impacts that Valentine’s Day may have on women in an abusive relationship. Let’s not just talk about domestic violence, let’s find a way to change the way things are. 
Photo: Sasha Axenova


Editorial: STM inspectors don’t need more power

You’ve all probably heard the running joke about STM inspectors being failed police officers. It’s hard not to believe this when we see some of them strolling around metro stations, holding their batons and glaring at innocent travellers intimidatingly. Even though this joke implies that STM inspectors hold powers similar to SPVM officers, it’s important to note they don’t. And we at The Concordian think they shouldn’t be given more power than they already have.

On April 3, the STM board of directors passed a resolution saying it wants STM inspectors to be special constables, according to CBC. This means they’d need more than their current 14-week training. They’d also be allowed to access data that is kept for police officers, and they would become accountable to the Bureau of Independent Investigations.

As of now, STM inspectors have the power to ask for identification, issue fines for not paying the metro fare and restrain those who break the law until police officers arrive, according to the same source. But, funnily enough, one of the powers they don’t have is the power to use brutal violence to subdue someone who’s allegedly broken the law. We’d think otherwise, though, by looking at some STM inspectors’ history of unnecessary violence against alleged law-breakers.

Just last month, a video circulated in which two STM inspectors aggressively attempted to detain a black man, 21-year-old Juliano Gray, who didn’t pay his metro fare. The video shows the inspectors on top of Gray at the Villa-Maria station. They swing their metal batons several times while Gray screams, “That hurts!” and “I stop!” in French. At one point, Gray’s head is near the oncoming train, and the officers still don’t let him get up. Gray eventually ran away from the inspectors and is now seeking justice with Montreal’s Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR).

Because of the violent incident, Gray said he sustained injuries that stopped him from continuing his job as a part-time dishwasher, and that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress, according to the same source. CRARR is calling for an independent external inquiry into the situation, and for officials to possibly press charges against the inspectors.

We at The Concordian are shocked and disturbed by the STM inspectors’ use of violence to detain Gray. Just because someone doesn’t pay a $3.25 metro fare, doesn’t mean they deserve to be brutally beaten. It was unnecessary, excessive and damaging. We believe the inspectors must be held accountable for their actions.

There is already a history of abuse of power when it comes to STM inspectors—this video just proves how dangerous it could be to grant STM inspectors more police-like powers.

The STM Chairman of the Board of Directors Philippe Schnobb has said the goal of giving inspectors more power is to provide a “better customer experience” according to CBC. While the board doesn’t want to arm the inspectors, giving them more power would let them intervene when people complain about bothersome passengers.

We at The Concordian don’t think STM inspectors need to be given more power to provide a “better customer experience”—the metro is not a shopping mall, nor are we there for the sake of the experience. We just want to know that we are safe, and that our metro rides won’t be hindered by unnecessarily dangerous situations.

If one takes a look at other cases where STM inspectors have abused their authority, it’s hard to support the idea of giving them more power. Instead, perhaps their 14-week training should be extended, and the idea of de-escalating dangerous situations should be promoted. We at The Concordian support the idea of STM inspectors using their voices before violence when it comes to dealing with problems.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee




“Boys will be boys” encourages predatory behaviour

The recent allegations against Brett Kavanaugh highlight a deeper issue

On Sept. 27, Christine Blasey Ford testified against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about an alleged sexual assault. After Ford went public, two other women came forward with similar allegations. As a result of the accusations, Ford’s world has been turned upside down. It wasn’t long before Ford, a college professor living in California with her husband and two sons, started to receive death threats.

Victims of sexual violence face an immense amount of pressure when coming forward. The way they’re treated and oftentimes ridiculed is a clear indication that people don’t grasp how serious sexual violence truly is. The alleged assault took place 30 years ago, back when Kavanaugh and Ford were teenagers. But this story is still relevant today. Much of the blame is being placed on the fact that they were young and intoxicated, raising the notion that “boys will be boys,” which places teenage girls in a very despairing position. Present in this problematic societal norm is the concept that men can do what they want and women should succumb.

This notion is even rooted in every girl’s education; if a boy is mean to you, it’s because he likes you. The idea that masculine violence is natural, and therefore should be excused, is a problematic idea that continues to exist even in adulthood. Boys become men, and women, whatever their age or social status, are still expected to accept and endure masculine violence as a sign of affection, as something they should be grateful for. Kavanaugh’s defenders have tried to downplay the severity of the accusations, implying that what happened in high school somehow matters less.

“Isn’t it strange how every woman knows someone who’s been sexually harassed but no man seem [sic] to know any harasser?” tweeted singer Zara Larsson last year. This question in itself is an explanation for how our society operates. Women experiencing sexual violence in their everyday lives has become the norm.

Many men are raised with the idea of legitimate ownership over women and their bodies. This idea becomes even more apparent when men are in positions of power. On the other hand, women are taught to believe that their sexuality is frowned upon. Half of the world’s population is continually shamed for what they wear, how they talk, and whatever else is deemed inappropriate by society.

There’s an obvious problem when addressing how systems of power operate in the professional world. The conversation concerning sexual violence begins with consent. When discussing sexual violence and sexual harassment, there’s a lack of clarity in what constitutes the two.

Don’t get me wrong––both types of acts are horrific and must be condemned. But I’ve noticed that depending on a person’s circumstances, sexual harassment is often undermined because it really has to do with how something makes you feel. What constitutes as sexual harassment can be different for different people, which makes it harder to recognize and condemn it––what one person might feel is harassment might not be felt that way by someone else.

Ultimately, predatory behaviour can be hard to recognize, but even when it’s in our face, we feel hesitant in calling it out because of normalized behaviours and boundaries. As members of our society, we are all responsible for how we call out predatory behaviour. Unfortunately, as shown by the allegations against Kavanaugh, we’re still living in a time where survivors of sexual violence are not immediately believed and are doubted. When something of this nature happens to a survivor of sexual violence, they are reminded that they are not in control, which is extremely upsetting.

Oddly, sexual consent only comes up in conversation when it has already been violated. People’s actions during their adolescent years may not define who they become as adults, but they can permanently change the lives of others. We must remember that.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


The Night You Leave the Door Unlocked

The Night You Leave the Door Unlocked

I slip to my ceramic tub,
the clawed feet curl hard.
I fantasize about a stranger

strolling into the apartment and robbing
your dressing drawers. I leave
angry at my shower head.

When you wake me too early
on purpose, I shiver
for your benefit.

You remind me of the kitchen corner,
how weak I am from the anemia,
that I let the bed sheet air-dry because I like it rough.


Rape culture in our own backyard

Sparks are flying in India after the country was left in shock and disgust following the gang rape, brutal beating and subsequent death of a young Indian student.

Many are quick to criticize India and its so-called rape culture, yet they seem to forget that this mentality isn’t sedentary, it travels far and wide. It isn’t one country’s problem — it’s our problem as well.

Let’s take a look at North America. One in six American women and one in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

According to a 2004 Statistics Canada General Social Survey, only one in 10 women report sexual assault to the police. Why? The same survey states 58 per cent of women thought it wasn’t important enough.

Now tell me, what backwards society do we live in where a sexually assaulted female is conditioned to believe that what happened to her is “not important enough?”

I’ll answer my own question.

A society filled with victim blaming and slut-shaming from both genders that makes me cringe. A society filled with those who claim a woman is “asking for it” by the way she dresses. There is no way to invite rape because the opposite of rape is consent.

It’s where we see examples of children who become sexual offenders. According to an article published in The Telegraph last year, a slew of elementary school students were arrested in the United Kingdom for sexual assault and “suspected rape.”

It’s a culture desensitized to such a brutal act of power and control that we don’t even realize how pervasive it is. Where pornography glorifies rape, and the media portrays violence as sexy and sex as violent.

It’s a society where young women have to worry about walking home after supper, putting up with drivers slowing down to catcall and shout out profanities.

It’s a country where a Canadian woman is sexually assaulted every 17 minutes, according to the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

Julie Michaud, an administrative coordinator for the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, believes that a real tolerance has blossomed towards people trivializing rape.

“The fact that rape and sexual assault are unfortunately much more common than they should be doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be seen as a big deal,” she said.

It isn’t just bad people who rape. We like to cast villains in life to make things simpler, but in most cases it’s the people we trust. While women are standing up, men also play a large role in making change.

“It’s not enough to be a guy that doesn’t sexually assault, they need to take an active role,” said Michaud.

I don’t want to raise my future children in such a small-minded and frankly dangerous culture. I want them to be open and free, and not worry about their innocence being stolen. We cannot put all the blame on our justice system for not being tough enough while we sit back and breed these characters.

So, don’t put up with the demeaning comments and remarks. Don’t encourage the trivialization of a severe issue. Don’t be so smug when criticizing other countries for their shortcomings. Promote respect and healthy relationships. Enough is enough.

The Gender Advocacy Centre is campaigning for a Sexual Assault Centre for victims of abuse. If interested in volunteering, visit


That’s no way to treat your best friend

Quebec came in second to last in a recent ranking of Canadian animal protection laws. Photo via Flickr

Roo’s body was covered in blood. She had been beaten with a lead pipe, stabbed five times with bits of broken ceramic cutting into her body.

She was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Doctors didn’t know if she would survive the night. But she did. Her assailant had been caught, and would be prosecuted and sentenced to six months in jail.

After all, Roo is just a three-year-old pug.

This is the biggest sentence regarding animal cruelty in Quebec’s history. Geoffrey Laberge has been accused with five counts of animal cruelty. According to CTV, the crown and the defence are suggesting a sentence prohibiting Laberge from owning an animal for the next 25 years.

In a recent report published by the Animal Legal Defence Fund, Quebec came in second to last in the ranking of Canadian animal protection laws. According to the ALDF, Quebec is “one of the best provinces to be an animal abuser.” How heartwarming.

If this isn’t a wake-up call for the government to enforce stricter rules regarding animal abuse, then what is? Animal abuse is a cruel, violent and an absolutely unnecessary form of aggression.

A society can usually be judged by how well they take care of the weak. This includes the elderly and the young but should also include animals.

Animals don’t talk. They can’t go to the police and ask for protection. They can’t just pack their bags and disappear in the middle of the night. Animals are loyal and are our companions. If Quebec doesn’t adequately defend the weak in our society, then it stands to reason that they do not consider pets to be creatures of value.

Animal abuse is horrible enough on its own. However, it can also be a warning sign of deeper and darker forms of violence.

In an article published by the Humane Society, it states that the National School Safety Council, the U.S. Department of Education, the American Psychological Association, and the National Crime Prevention Council all agree that animal cruelty is a warning sign for at-risk youth.

The article also mentioned that Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert DeSalvo and many other confessed murderers and school shooters had committed acts of animal cruelty in the past. Montreal’s Luka Magnotta was also suspected to have been abusive towards animals. And we all know what that led to.

I believe cruelty to any innocent creature is morally wrong. If Roo had been a child, Laberge would have been in prison for a lot longer than six months. But since Roo is ‘just’ a dog, her attacker won’t be locked up for longer. If people can convince themselves that this form of violence and cruelty is acceptable in our society, there’s a problem. Part of the problem is that the government is allowing such violence by being so lax with the punishment.

Just because Roo stands on four legs instead of two does not take away from the fact that Laberge beat an innocent creature with a lead pipe before stabbing it five times.

Why? Maybe because she was barking too loud. Or maybe she gnawed on the wrong chair leg. But if Laberge was okay with administering such violence on a helpless creature, then what’s to say he, or others who have committed such crimes, wouldn’t inflict such pain on a person?

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