Thousands March to Put an End to Rape Culture

#StopCultureDuViol Takes Over Downtown Montreal

  • Protesters gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin downtown to show their support to victims of sexual assault. Photo Katherine Delorme

  • Eight women on Wednesday took the floor to talk feminism and publicly support Alice Paquet after she recently reported that liberal deputy Gerry Sklavounos sexually assaulted her. Photo Katherine Delorme

More than a thousand Montrealers took to the streets on Wednesday night to denounce rape culture.

Protesters gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin downtown to show their support to victims of sexual assault.

The event, which happened simultaneously in Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Rouyn-Noranda, Saguenay and Gatineau, is partly the result of a general despondency after Quebec City police received 14 complaints—four of them reporting crimes of a sexual nature—from students living in the residences of the Université Laval.

The reaction of the university’s rector, Denis Brière, made headlines after he declined to speak publicly about the situation as the investigation continues.

Eight women on Wednesday took the floor to talk feminism and publicly support Alice Paquet after she recently reported that liberal deputy Gerry Sklavounos sexually assaulted her.

The eight speakers at the gathering included Mélanie Lemay, co-founder of the Quebec against sexual violence movement, Emilie Nicolas, president of Québec Inclusif, journalist Sue Montgomery, district councillor Marianne Giguère of Projet Montréal, Mélanie Sarroino and Marlihan Lopez, from Quebec’s coalition of sexual assault centres, and Natasha Kanapé Fontaine, from the Stop Rape Culture movement.

In the wake of Paquet’s declaration at the vigil held in support of survivors at Université Laval on Oct. 19, the young woman suffered backlash, as some doubted her accusations based on elements of her past.

As well as declaring support for Paquet, the speakers questioned the choice of Val-d’Or police force to begin judicial proceedings against Radio-Canada after they published an investigative story on the town’s sexual abuse of Indigenous women by some officers.

Viviane Michel, president of the Native Women of Quebec, expressed anger that the police became the victims in the some of the public’s eye.

“Their testimonies [are] being discredited after they dared to speak up in public,” Michel said. An Inuit song followed Michel’s speech as a symbol of collective action against rape culture.

The demonstration on Wednesday followed the pace of the “We believe you” slogan along Ste. Catherine St. street to stop at Place-des-Arts, where people joined into a huge circle as a sign of unity against rape culture.

Luna Kim, an attendee at the demo, is a survivor of sexual assault. She held a sign stating this fact.

“It’s a shame that there is so little sanction for those who commit those crimes, not only men, but also women,” the Cégep du Vieux Montréal’s student said. “I’m here for my own experience of rape, and to denounce the act. For all of those who can’t speak, I do.”

Tamy Emma Pepin, producer of a documentary travel series, hosted the speeches and the post-demonstration show at the Club Soda auditorium. The young woman got involved in the organization process with singer Ines Talbi and Nelly Brière, a lecturer and expert on social media.

Pepin was pleased to see such a diversity of people taking part in the movement. Getting men to join the conversion is also essential, she added.

There’s one word Pepin wants to keep from such an event: solidarity. “I really feel that right now there is momentum which made everyone come together to make a change, to walk towards education, conscientization and pressure on governments so that someday things can evolve,” the self-identifying militant feminist said.

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