By Вen Li
Eleven years ago, gunfire echoed at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal when Marc Lepine killed
14 female students. The victims of the 1989 shootings were honoured at a Dec. 6 service at the Nickle Arts Museum.
The ceremony was attended by over 200 people from the university and the community who gathered to remember the tragic events from 11 years ago.
"The Federal government named it the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, chosen because of the tragedy that took place in Montréal on Dec. 6 ," explained Ceremony co-chair and Students’ union Vice-President Events Alix d’Archangelo. "This was a Canadian incident and I think it’s one that people can relate to because it happened on a campus… I don’t ever want the reason Dec. 6 was chosen to be lost."
Ceremony co-chair Barbara Burggraf echoed d’Archangelo’s sentiments.
"I think that in order to take action against violence we need to remember," said Burggraf. "The most important thing is that this is a national day of remembrance."
To remember the victims of the massacre 14 candles were lit, followed by a moment of silence and an offer of healing. According to Burggraf, some of the candle holders, including community outreach leaders, members from campus organizations and student leaders, symbolize those involved in the incident 11 years ago.
Remembrance was also one of the themes expressed in a poem entitled December 6, 1989, After the Shooting Deaths of Fourteen Women by award-winning author and Mount Royal College creative writing professor Richard Harrison, read by Teresa Posyniak at the ceremony.
Other speakers on the subject of remembrance included women’s studies professor Barbara Crow and social work professor Leslie Tutty, who posed the question, "Why are we remembering?"
"Why do we remember the 14 young women murdered in Montréal? We remember because they might have been our daughter, sister, friend," said Tutty. "This was the first incident in Canadian history and perhaps history around the world when a group of people were targeted and murdered simply because they were women. This must not happen again."
Prevention of violence was the subject of SU President Toby White’s remarks regarding 14 steps for change.
"These are 14 ways in which both men and women can work together to effect positive change and create a society in which women are safe from violence," said White. "I encourage you all to reflect upon them."
Most of the 14 points focused on changing attitudes towards gender and taking action by contributing to causes that seek to reduce violence.
"We must challenge society’s and our own assumptions and attitudes about gender roles and power," said White. "Take action, don’t wait for someone else to do the work; every small step counts towards eliminating violence."