On December 6, 1989, 14 women were killed at École Polytechnique in Montreal by armed student, Marc Lépine.
At the engineering school, the women were separated from their male colleagues by the shooter, who also injured 10 others in his “fight against feminism,” a targeted attack that shook the nation. Lépine killed himself following the mass murder, leaving a suicide note that blamed feminists for ruining his life.
Thirty years later, Canada still remembers, as December 6 is observed as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Here in Kingston, a number of events are taking place in remembrance of the 14 young women who lost their lives in the misogynist massacre.
Today, we remember:
The first memorial service will take place at Queen’s University beginning at 3 p.m. in the atrium of the Integrated Learning Centre (ILC) of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.
“[The] tragedy continues to have profound consequences in the lives of those who survived the attack, the friends and loved ones of those who were lost, in the engineering professions, and in engineering education,” The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science said in a post on Facebook about the memorial. “So, today we honour those women, and all women who have endured gender-based violence and discrimination. We reaffirm our individual and collective responsibilities to continue working to effect positive change. We remember.”
HIV/AIDS Regional Services (HARS) Kingston is hosting a memorial candlelight vigil at Sydenham Street United Church in downtown Kingston. Doors will open for the event at 5 p.m., with the vigil beginning at 5:30 p.m. The sombre service will act as a means for the community to come together in honour of the 14 women who died 30 years ago, but also in solidarity to collectively stand against gender-based violence and discrimination.
“Thirty years ago, on Dec. 6, 1989, at approximately 5 p.m. Eastern time, what should have been a joyful celebration of camaraderie and the end of the school semester, turned into a tragedy,” HARS said in a Facebook post regarding the event. “A man entered a classroom at École Polytechnique de Montréal with an assault weapon. He ordered the men to go to one side of the room and the women to go to the other. He targeted the female engineering students and killed them. The tragic murder of 14 brilliant and creative women, beloved sisters and cherished daughters, sparked a deep outrage among the population.”
The Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) hosts a vigil annually on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, but this year’s vigil will include a special act of remembrance. RMC will join 13 other Canadian universities to host a nationwide vigil. From approximately 5:10 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Kingston skyline will include a single beam of light streamed from the RMC parade square. The beam will be one of 14 shining from universities across the country, synchronized with the beams shining over Montréal from the top of Mount Royal.
As the college does annually, all flags on campus are flown at half-mast from sunrise to sunset. The vigil at RMC will “bring together students, staff, faculty and members of the community,” and include the reading of two poems – one in French and one in English), according to a press release from the college. Additionally, 14 officer cadets in uniform will come forward to read one of the names of those who died.
“Each officer cadet will symbolize the promise lost that tragic day 30 years ago in Montréal and stand as testament that today’s youth do not forget those who died,” the college said.
The ceremony will conclude with a minute of silence and reflection. The public are welcome to the 30-minute vigil on the RMC parade square, which will begin at approximately 5:10 p.m. Parking will be available, and those attending are asked to arrive by 5 p.m.
“The women of École Polytechnique died because they were women. Each beam of light is a symbol of the strength we find in standing with all Canada’s post-secondary institutions in defence of ideas and intellectual growth and against misogyny, sexism and hate. The coordination of the lights, which correspond to each woman who died that day, reminds us of them, but also that we need to work together to end gender-based violence,” said Dr. Erika Behrisch Elce, an associate professor with RMC’s English, Culture and Communication Department who has played a lead role in organizing Polytechnique memorials at the college.
“It is an honour and a responsibility for RMC to participate in this important national event. We are a small university, but we produce leaders who have a potentially huge impact on the world. Our annual commemoration of the École Polytechnique tragedy is just one expression of our commitment to push back – always – against prejudice and ignorance.”