Tragic anniversary special in Miramichi

Posted on December 6, 2009
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The massacre of 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, 20 years ago on December 6, 1989, had an especially horrifying effect on the Miramichi. For Miramichiers, already in shock, it was one more of a rapid sequence of three disgusting, heartbreaking, reminders of violence against women.

Within a period of three weeks, Allan Legere, Jason Black and Marc Lepine were in the headlines.

Legere was finally captured after a series of murders and assaults against the Flam sisters, The Daughney sisters and Fr. James Smith, an elderly priest.

The community was still feeling the conflicting emotions of our relief that Legere had been captured and our remembrance of the horror of his monstrosities. Then, Miramichiers awoke, on another wintry morning, to the news that Rhonda Lynch and her mother Sara had been found murdered in their home.

When the Daughney sisters were murdered there had been rumours and a composite sketch circulated of a possible Legere accomplice. Miramichiers were again grief stricken with the news that two more innocents had had their lives taken and wondered if the terror was to continue.

I remember receiving a call at home from a woman in a panic. She had written a letter to my newspaper expressing her revulsion for Legere. She was desperate for reassurance the letter could be withdrawn fearing possible retribution.

Shortly after that, Jason Black was apprehended, charged, and eventually convicted, for the Lynch murders.

Around that same time, Danny Esson assaulted two young women, killing Tara Prokosh. Another young man viciously attacked and slashed Rita Martin as she walked at French Fort Cove.

So it was that Miramichiers, in a traditionally dark and dreary month, were already hurt, angry, fearful, and deeply depressed when news broke of the Marc Lepine massacre of 14 young women and the wounding of 13 more, at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.

It is difficult to express the feeling all this inspired in some men. It was a shameful reminder that our sex has tendencies to be dangerous, especially to women. A breed of dog with our record of violence and lack of self-control would not be allowed out of doors without restraints. It was not a good feeling.

Some men felt a need to take more responsibility to emphasize to men and women and government that violence against women is never deserved, normal, acceptable or tolerable. A group came together and decided to organize a march of Men Against Violence Against Women.

Oddly enough, the group’s attempts to encourage support from other community groups ran into unexpected resistance. Some churches had to be careful to ensure they were not being lured into endorsing a group with more of an agenda than opposition to domestic abuse. Somehow, for some reason, some people started and encouraged a rumour that only men who were violent would join the march.

Fortunately, with a bit of work, the group was able to defuse most of these concerns. Joe O’Neill, a forest industry executive, with excellent connections in the labour community, helped get significant participation from men in hard hats. Several hundred men took part in the march from Northumberland Square to St. Samuel Roman Catholic Church in Douglastown where various community service groups had tables with information relating to domestic services and safety.

Progress in the subsequent 20 years has not been spectacular. There has not been, however, another such brief span of time when Miramichiers were so overwhelmed by a tsunami of violence against women.

That storm did, in fact, stimulate improvements in justice, social welfare, education and societal expecations to improve the rate of progress.

It remains true that almost all violence begins with violence in the home. We learn what we see. All of us benefit from every improvement in the safety of women and children.

On we go. DAC

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