By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
There were over a hundred people at the Marché de la Gare in Sherbrooke on Friday afternoon, as protesters gathered to denounce a string of femicides in Quebec.
The large crowd, carrying banners, pickets, megaphones and a unified voice, marched through the downtown area, demanding the provincial government step up after eight women who died over the past eight weeks were linked to domestic violence.
The protest lasted more than three hours. The Sherbrooke Police Service blocked off portions of the city to allow safe circulation as the march made a pit stop at the Palais de Justice before concluding in front of town hall.
Angelika Homere, project manager at the Centre des femmes du Haut-Saint-François La Passerelle, a women’s intervention and learning centre in Cookshire-Eaton, gave a speech prior to the march. She called out the government’s inaction towards a grave situation.
“We don’t have to be afraid when we go to denounce domestic violence because it’s wrong and at the same time we need to educate men, also, because we both have a role,” said Homere.
According to Homere, the latest provincial budget once again overlooked women’s and children’s shelters and learning centres. The funding announced for these organizations is a fraction of what they asked in support from Quebec.
“I hope that the government takes this seriously because right now there’s nothing,” said Homere.
Last week, the Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes was critical of the government for showing a lack of commitment towards improving resources for abused women. Many shelters struggle to help people due to limited space.
The citizens’ collective La Bande Féministe (b.a.F.) are also frustrated with the budget. The Record spoke to three members of the b.a.F who wished to remain anonymous. They preferred to be called Les Trois Madeleines. They said the government continues to ignore women.
“Women are completely invisible in this budget, and with the crisis going on now we’re at the front lines, we’re nurses, first responders, cashiers, and there’s nothing for us,” said one of the women in the trio.
There is a link between poverty among women, access to shelters, and security for women, the three women explained. If the government is unable to understand that a link exists, then they will continue to overlook this issue, they added.
The government puts money into male dominated sectors, one of the b.a.F. members said, like construction and technology. And when issues of domestic violence are presented in the National Assembly, there is little to no follow through to fix them.
Sherbrooke MNA Christine Labrie recently accused Premier François Legault of failing to implement any recommendations made in an expert report for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Labrie said Legault has broken his promise to Quebecers.
“At a certain point we’re trying, there are women in the National Assembly, in Ottawa, uniting our voice, but our system doesn’t listen to us,” said another b.a.F. member.
One of the Trois Madeleines sarcastically added that it will take a big bang type of event for women to finally have their voices heard. ConcertAction Femmes Estrie communications agent Marie-Danielle Larocque said it’s a systemic problem that needs to be addressed.
How many femicides need to happen before the government decides to take action, she asked in an interview. The pandemic has increased violence towards women, Larocque continued, they stuck inside with their abusers and shelters are completely full.
Quebec claims it is taking a serious look at domestic violence in the province, but it isn’t enough to just denounce it, she said, there needs to be more funding and education. She wants to see everyone continue putting pressure on the government.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Larocque. “This is a crisis, the government needs to consider this a public health crisis, too. Domestic violence concerns everyone, not just women and everyone needs to be part of the solution.”