Remembering the Women of the Montreal Massacre: How Have We Changed?
By AllenS (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On December 6, 1989, 14 women were killed at the École Polytechnique of Montreal by a deranged man who claimed he was fighting feminism. l was in high school that year and the story shook me to my core. I had never known that people could hate you because of your sex.
Once I'd processed the horriffic events, I felt certain that we would learn from this. In history class they'd taught us about successful civil rights movements, of women getting the vote, of minorities being given access to jobs they'd previously been denied. And I remember thinking that we would be able to put gender-based hatred behind us, that progress was linear, that society was always improving.
But here we are 23 years later, reeling from the October shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year-old Pakistani girl who was targeted because she, like those women in Montreal, was seeking an education, one she felt was a right for all girls. And I can't help but think that December 6 is a day we need to both remember those victims, and remind ourselves that any progress we've made as a society took a lot of work. Any change we want to see will take bravery and action, because violence against women won't phase out on its own.
Finally, I wanted to share a beautiful message from my friend Buffy Childerhose who had this memory to share:
I vividly remember when I learned about the massacre, a slow unfolding of news that began with whispers circulating around the school and seeing girls at a distance suddenly burst into tears. I didn't know which school had been hit and I remember calling my sister's dorm at Concordia and being furious that I could only get a busy signal.
I was horrified, but a little numb. A handful of days later, as I sat in the cafeteria at school, I counted out fourteen women and realized when I transposed it from a cold number to a group of warm, breathing girls -- girls eating lunch, girls laughing, girls with favourite colours and parents and bikes and friends -- that 14 was a lot of people. Fourteen was a greater number than the number of people I loved in the entire world. Yet it doesn't seem that much in crude digits. Which is why I like the list of names you'll see pop up all over your feeds today. This list generates a sense of scale and loss that the number 14 doesn't communicate. December 6th is just an empty date until I see those names. And then I do, indeed, remember.
• 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
What do you remember about December 6, 1989?
Could The Shooting of a Schoolgirl Prove a Turning Point for Pakistan?
International Day of The Girl: Malala's Message
Understanding Online Violence Against Women -- One Troll at a Time
Moms We Love: Making a Difference
Beverley Wybrow: Helping Teen Girls Avoid Abusive Relationships