Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dec. 6, 1989, Violence against women

December 6, 1989. It was a day like many others. I was at home with my then 2-year-old son and my 10-month-old daughter. Nothing of the day would have stood out except for a horrible event that began in the late afternoon.

As we watched the evening news, the drama - the unimaginable - was happening. One gunman, Marc Lapine, had entered Ecole Polytechnique, the engineering school of the University of Montreal. He told the male students to leave. He began shooting the women. By the end of it all, 14 young, bright, promising women had been murdered by a man who resented that they were in the school and not he. Ten women and 4 men were physically injured. And many, many other people, both men and women, were left with the pain of losing their daughter, sister, lover, cousin, aunt, or friend.

The images of the ambulances outside the building, the snow falling in big wet flakes, will always stay with me as I held my own daughter. That same daughter who, 17 years later, was in the building at Dawson College when a gunman opened fire, killing one student. Although she wasn't near the cafeteria where the tragedy occurred, she was in the building and had to be evacuated like thousands of other students. Seventeen years after the Polytechnique massacre, we were again faced with guns and violence in a school, a place where we like to feel our children are safe.

At the time of the Polytechnique, I didn't know if my daughter would grow up to become a lawyer, a business woman, a chef, a teacher - or an engineer. I grew up around engineers. My father taught in the mechanical engineering department at McGill. I know what kind of people, very bright, intense people, study in this field. I know that women were sorely under represented, but it was a man's world back then. And so it was to Lepine too, as he wiped out the lives of 14 young women and forever changed how many Montrealers see the world.

Gun violence in Canada is something that we're often proud doesn't happen here very often. But someone who is going to do horrible things is going to find a way to do it, no matter what. And, Lepine also had a hunting knife - which he also used on at least one woman after she was shot, say news reports.

There have been vigils and there will continue to be vigils in honour of the 14 women who died. But we also can't forget those who survived the trauma, those who lived through seeing their peers killed. We can't forget the families who lost their loved ones. December 6 is a day of remembrance in Canada for all women who suffer from violence. Let's hope that one day, women don't have to be afraid of some men. Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?

  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student