20 Years After The Montreal Massacre We Still Remember

7 years ago

Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.

It was 20 years ago today, December 6, 1989 that Marc Lépine walked into École Polytechnique in Montreal with one intent - to kill women. That day he succeeded in killing the 14 women named above and today we remember them.

I've written about the Montreal Massacre before and why it's important to remember the names of these women and why I hate that we all remember Lépine's name. I've written about being conflicted about Polytechnique, the movie about that day that was released earlier this year (I still have not watched it). Contributing Editor Her Bad Mother remembers December 6 as the day someone came to kill all the women.

I am really just old enough to remember December 6, 1989. I was 10 years old and the next eight years of school were marked with remembrances in the school announcements and moments of silence. Then I went off to university in Montreal and was there on the 10th anniversary of the École Polytechnique murders. Every emotion was magnified - sadness, anger and fear - because suddenly it could be my campus. Or it could be my best friend's campus in New Brunswick. I don't think I was ever more aware that she was a female engineering student than that week. That was when the faces of the women that were murdered became those of my friends. Now they are the faces of the young women I see on the bus here in Ottawa heading off to Carleton University and something else strikes me - I don't know that I've ever appreciated before just how young those women were.

The impact of that day reverberates through our society. It changed the way the Montreal police operate in these situations. The police has arrived on the scene before Lépine turned the gun on himself but they waited to establish a perimeter, meanwhile Lépine raged on and killed several more women. Police procedure was highly criticized and it was changed. They no longer wait to establish a perimeter and these changes are often credited with minimalizing the causalities during the Dawson College shootings in 2006.

Faye Hicks was a young tenure track professor at the University of Alberta in 1989. She's seen a dramatic shift in the way women are treated in engineering since that day. She honours and remembers the victims of the Montreal Massacre.

The men at École Polytechnique were criticized for calmly allowing the separation for the men and women but good men were destroyed that day as well. One young man, Sarto Blais, was so overcome with grief and guilt that he committed suicide a few months after the massacre. A year later his parents did the same. In MacLean's the survivors remember and one man, Rolando Rifiorati, said it never even occurred to them that the women were being exclusively targeted.

It never occurred to Rifiorati at the time that Lépine was targeting only women. He first thought he was after the men when he separated the males and females into two groups.

At the Canada Moms Blog Earnest Girl wonders what do we tell our boys about the lessons from École Polytechnique.

Looking back at the Montreal Massacre through the lens of motherhood, I wonder if the candle we hold aloft today in memorial should burn brightest for hope: that in the generations which will follow ours, boys together with girls will know how to kindle the flame that lights the path of mutual understanding.

Lépine's mother Monique Lépine was a victim that day a well. She lost her son that day, but she also had to deal with the fact that her son took the lives of others.

"We don't raise children to become killers, you know, but sometimes it's out of our control," she contends.

Today I remember the victims of December 6, 1989. I remember the fourteen women who were murdered:
* Geneviève Bergeron 21, civil engineering student.
* Hélène Colgan 23, mechanical engineering student.
* Nathalie Croteau 23, mechanical engineering student.
* Barbara Daigneault 22, mechanical engineering student.
* Anne-Marie Edward 21, chemical engineering student.
* Maud Haviernick, 29, materials engineering student.
* Maryse Laganière 25, budget clerk in l'École Polytechnique's finance department.
* Maryse Leclair 23, materials engineering student.
* Anne-Marie Lemay 27, mechanical engineering student.
* Sonia Pelletier 23, mechanical engineering student.
* Michèle Richard 21, materials engineering student.
* Annie St-Arneault 23, mechanical engineering student.
* Annie Turcotte 21, materials engineering student.
* Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz 31, nursing student.

I remember Sarto Blais. I remember the nine women and four men who were wounded and survive. I remember the other students and staff of École Polytechnique and their families whose lives were forever changed. I remember and I give hope for a day in which this will never happen again.

Contributing Editor Sassymonkey also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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