Twenty-five years ago on December 6th, a 25-year-old man walked into École Polytechnique, an engineering school in Montreal Quebec, carrying a Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife. He walked into a classroom on the second floor, and asked that the men and women separate to different sides of the room. He then asked the men to leave the room. Nine women were left behind. He said, in French, that they were all feminists, and then shot all of the women in the room- six died from their injuries.
He then went to other parts of the school, shooting as he went. A total of 14 women died that day, and fourteen others were injured (10 women and four men). He then turned the gun on himself.
The women murdered that day were all young students, at school studying to become engineers. They thought that they had their whole lives and careers ahead of them. This was the first shooting of its type in Canada, and a direct act of violence not only against women, but against the feminist movement.
Two days after the shooting, part of the shooter’s suicide note was released. On it was a list of 19 women’s names. Before listing them, he wrote, in French, “The lack of time (because I started too late) has allowed these radical feminists to survive.” His list included a series of seemingly random women, some more known than others, from politicians to female police officers. It also included Francine Pelletier, a journalist who co-founded a feminist magazine called La Vie en Rose in the ‘80s and worked at La Presse newspaper at the time.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of this event, which has become known as the “Montreal Massacre.” Dec. 6th is also now the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, in order to pay homage those who died that day and to raise awareness to prevent violence against women.
In this the 25th anniversary year of this horrible act of violence, numerous women have brought forth allegations of violence by two high profile men- Jian Gomeshi and Bill Cosby. These well-publicized allegations have once again raised the profile of the extent and seriousness of violence against women and taken it out of the secrecy where it often hides. Our media is abuzz with coverage of these allegations but time will tell if the current profile of violence against women will create lasting positive change in our society.
The Ritual of Remembering has been held each year since the first anniversary of this tragic event and sadly, we must continue to acknowledge the ongoing acts of violence that are a daily reality for women in our province and country.
We hope you will stand in solidarity with us against gender-based violence.
On Saturday, Dec. 6, at 6 pm, a candlelight vigil will be held in Centennial Park, Ganges to honour of the women who died on that day 25 years ago.
Cathy Ford will be present at the vigil to read from her new poem, Flowers We Will Never Know the Names Of. The poem marks the 25th anniversary of the murders of fourteen women students at Montreal’s L’École Polytechnique, on December 6, 1989, a history-changing event. It is an incantation, a chant, a protest, memento mori, an invocation, a prayer for peace organized in fourteen sections.
The choir Women of Note will sing.
Hot refreshments will be available.
All are welcome at the vigil.
Please join us.
Lynda Laushway – Executive Director, SWOVA
SWOVA – Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow