Nineteen years ago, on Dec. 6, 1989, 14 women were killed at École Polytechnique. They were killed because they were women, because they were students in an engineering program. What has come to be called the Montreal Massacre is an event we are all called upon to remember: violence against women continues to be part of our present.
Dec. 6 is commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women so that we will remember the women murdered and recommit to ensuring their deaths were not in vain. As we mourn the 14 deaths in 1989, as well as the too many women and girls murdered or abused 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. Canada is still not a safe country for all the women who live here, with more than 50 per cent likely to experience violence sometime in their lives, usually before they are 25. For some women, those most marginalized, these risks are even greater.
Recently, we were reminded of how far Canada is from the goals of being a safe and equitable place for women when the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women issued its report on this country and underlined the harms done especially to single mothers, women with disabilities, indigenous and immigrant women, by cuts in social assistance programs. We were also reminded of the increasing limits on women’s access to justice and to continuing inequities that have moved Canada from 18th to 31st place in the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum.
So, while we remember the women who have died and re-commit to taking action because Canada is not yet a safe country for women, we need to recall that violence against women comes from social policies and political decisions, as well as the acts of individuals.
Abby Lippman is a professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health and the Chair of McGill’s Senate Subcommittee on Women.
The annual memorial for the École Polytechnique victims organized by the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students Society will take place Saturday, Dec. 6 at 1 p.m. at the Birks Chapel, 3520 University St. The memorial will include speakers on gendered violence and a musical performance by the A Capella group Effusion.
The Fourteen Not Forgotten will also be remembered at a ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 6 at noon at the Université de Montréal.
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 engineering student specializing in engineering materials.
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, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.