MPP Andrea Hazell’s Remarks on National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

  • Community Update

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Madam Speaker, it gives me great honour to speak today on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Today, our collective presence here signifies a powerful commitment to eliminate gender-based violence from our communities.

It has been 34 years since the murder of 14 young women at the École Polytechnique de Montréal. One year after I arrived, in the country called Canada that is beautiful, 14 young women lost their lives. It just feels like yesterday to me, and this saddens me, to get up to speak about it. We must not forget them. We must never forget them.

Now, let’s recognize the harsh reality: After 34 years, we are still experiencing unfortunately a high number of gender-based violence. Since 2022, there have been 55 femicides in Ontario. The recent tragic event in Sault Ste. Marie—let’s not forget that, October 23—where a woman and three children lost their lives. That shook all of us to the core. These are not just numbers. They are lives that demand our collective action and commitment.

I’ve heard from women’s shelters in my riding that there are no beds and there are waiting lists up to months long. Where do you think these mothers and young women that are waiting for beds—where do you think they are waiting? I know for a fact, and I’ve spoken to many of them, they are waiting in their cars. They are living in their cars while a space in the shelter becomes available.

All women’s shelters across Ontario are facing the same challenges with providing beds for abused women. To me, Madam Speaker, this is an epidemic. Let’s call it what it is. It’s our collective responsibility to bridge these gaps and create a society where safety, equity, justice and freedom prevails for all of us.

I am very close on the ground to gender-based violence. I am taking action. I’ve been taking action since 2020, when it hit home really hard to me. One of my employees—because I’m coming from a small-business background—experienced gender-based violence. I did not walk away. I created a safe space for that employee. I brought her back to Canada. I went through the shelter system with her; it’s an ugly process. I experienced it. If that individual didn’t have someone like me that just supports humanity first, she would not have gotten through the system with her two young children. I followed her through until she got a safe home. The reason why I’m sharing this story: because I believe all of us that are sitting here can look out in your network, can look out in your community and also be involved, because when women and children go through these situations, it takes a village to bring them back to sanity, to life, to a good life that we all are sharing in this chamber today.

I’m going to say this again: We must collectively forge solutions that establish safety, equity, justice and freedom for all.

Let us not forget the importance of the four Rs. I want to educate you a little bit today, because I did not see it with my employee, and I did not see it with a lot of my friends. It goes unnoticed until they end up not living, and that’s when we know about it. Let’s get educated. We need to recognize and report. We need to record, and we need to refer to the cases of women and children abused. Check on your neighbours. Check on your friends. You have daughters; check on them. Check on every female who you know who is around you and in your network, because who is experiencing gender-based violence—guess what? It’s an embarrassing moment for them to speak about it. They do not speak about it.