Paying tribute to the women killed at École Polytechnique

McGill will be hosting and participating in a number of memorial events for the 30th anniversary of the tragedy at École Polytechnique
The plaque on the exterior wall of École Polytechnique commemorating the victims of the massacre. / Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On December 6, 1989, a gunman entered a mechanical engineering class at the École Polytechnique where he ordered the men to leave. Telling the remaining nine women he was “fighting feminism,” the gunman opened fire, killing six. Making his way through the school, he targeted mostly women during a 20-minute shooting spree before turning his gun on himself.

In all fourteen women were killed (twelve engineering students, one nursing student and one employee of the university) and another fourteen were injured, including ten women and four men.

The Senate Subcommittee on Women issued the following statement to the McGill Reporter:

On Dec. 6, 1989, 14 women were killed at École Polytechnique. They were killed because they were women, and because most of them were students in an engineering program. Thirty years have passed since the murders of these women, and Dec. 6 is again to be commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

The Montreal Massacre is an event we are all called upon to remember. The anniversary of this tragedy is also a time to acknowledge that violence against women continues to be part of our society. Canada is still not a safe country for all women who live here, with more than 50 per cent of women likely to experience violence sometime in their lives, usually before they are 25 years old. For some women, especially those among the most marginalized, these risks are even greater. Societal attitudes and structural policies continue to cause harm or violence especially to single mothers, women with disabilities, Indigenous, immigrant, racialized and trans women. These trends, as well as increasing limits on women’s access to justice and to continuing inequities, may explain why Canada is only at 16th place in the 2018 Global Gender Gap of the World Economic Forum.

We mark this occasion to remember the 14 women murdered and to recommit to ensuring their deaths were not in vain. As we mourn these deaths, as well as those of many women and girls murdered since then, we need to continue to work for women’s equality, for policies that lead to equity among women, and to an end to structural and individual violence against women and girls.

The Fourteen Not Forgotten are:

  • Geneviève Bergeron, 21, was a second year scholarship student in civil engineering.
  • Hélène Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her Master’s degree.
  • Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.
  • Barbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and held a teaching assistantship.
  • Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.
  • Maud Haviernick, 29, was a second year student in engineering materials, a branch of metallurgy, and a graduate in environmental design.
  • Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a second year nursing student.
  • Maryse Laganière, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.
  • Maryse Leclair, 23, was a fourth year student in engineering materials.
  • Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a fourth year student in mechanical engineering.
  • Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.
  • Michèle Richard, 21, was a second year student in engineering materials.
  • Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.
  • Annie Turcotte, 20, was a materials engineering student.

Memorial events and self-care workshop

McGill will be hosting and participating in a number of memorial events and services on December 6, and a self-care workshop offered on December 5, by McGill’s Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE).

  • Self-care Workshop; Thursday, Dec. 5, noon to 1pm.
    Members of the University community wanting to process thoughts and feelings on gender-based violence leading up to December 6, are invited to join the OSVRSE self-care workshop. The workshop will focus on self-care, processing through the arts, and gentle relaxation of the nervous system. Open to staff, faculty and students.  Reserve your spot and get more information online.
  • Commemoration ceremony; Friday, Dec. 6, 10:30 to 11:30am
    A special memorial ceremony will take place on McTavish Street, across from Brown Building, in front of the plaque and tree dedicated in memory of the 14 women who died at École Polytechnique. In case of bad weather, the ceremony will be held in the Engine Centre in Frank Dawson Adams. Get more details.
  • Vigil in Birks Heritage Chapel, Friday, Dec. 6, 5:30 to 7:30pm
    People are invited to come together as a community in order to stand in solidarity with all those who have, and still are, experiencing gendered and sexual violence in their daily lives. Food will be provided following a series of artistic performances. More information.
  • Light beam ceremony on Mount Royal, Friday, Dec. 6, 5:10pm
    On December 6, at 5:10pm, the exact time that the first shots were fired, 14 light beams will shine over the Montreal skyline. As the names of each of the 14 women who were killed are said aloud, a beam of light will be lit in their honour from the chalet on Mount Royal. After a minute of silence, a 150-person choir will sing two musical pieces to conclude the ceremony. Mount Royal chalet, Belvedere Kondiaronk.