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14 Women Massacred In Montreal 22 Years Ago Today

14 Women Massacred In Montreal 22 Years Ago Today

22 years ago, I was a 19-year-old University student in Halifax. As I went into the residence cafeteria for supper, the room was buzzing. People had been shot at École Polytechnique in Montreal. Students. Details were sketchy, but some were dead. Some were injured. So far, all women.  We sat, shocked and horrified and scared. How could this happen in Canada?

This was before the days of the internet, before information flew out in the blink of an eye. So it was hours, days even, before we learned that 14 students were dead. All were women.

The gunman was a troubled man from a difficult background named Marc Lepine. Lepine’s own father had been contemptuous and abusive towards women, and Lepine apparently carried much of that into his own adulthood.

On that day in 1989, Lepine walked into the Ecole Polytechnique and into an engineering classroom with a .22 calibre rifle. He separated the women from the men, then told the approximately 50 men to leave the room.

They did.

Lepine opened fire systematically. Six of the nine women in the room were killed, the rest injured. He then went on a rampage through the building, opening fire wherever he saw the opportunity before turning the gun on himself. In the end, 14 women were dead, ten women and four men were injured, and Canada would never be the same.

It was many months before we learned of the letter Lepine carried, blaming feminists for ruining his life. He also reportedly listed nineteen feminists he wanted to kill.

The Government of Canada created a long gun registry in 1995 directly in response to the Montreal Massacre. Lepine’s unregistered yet easy to get, legal weapon killed 14 women. The Conservative Government of Stephen Harper is scrapping that registry, saying that it is useless and “criminalizing farmers” who use the weapons for presumably non-murderous purposes.  Perhaps they believe that 22 years is long enough for people to forget the Montreal Massacre and the women who died at Lepine’s hand. But the people of Montreal aren’t buying it: and members of the Conservative government are not welcome at today’s memorial services.

Today, the 14 women who were killed would be just like me. 40-something. Established in their careers, or not. Maybe partnered, maybe mothers, maybe happy, maybe less. Maybe some would have travelled the world, or maybe they’d never have left Montreal. Maybe they would have died of some other reason or maybe they’d be living til they were 90. We will never know, because a man chose to blame them for the ruin of his own life and to make them pay by ending theirs.

And for the sakes of those 14 women, and for all the other women who die because men think they don’t deserve their own lives, we must continue to fight for women’s rights everywhere.

 

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Photo Credit: Bobanny on Wikimedia Commons

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42 comments

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6:09PM PST on Jan 6, 2012

Agreed Shannon. We must continue towards equality, because women bring a lot to the table. We are roughly half the population and thus, statistically (but also obviously) carry half of all human talents and abilities. There is never an excuse for bias or bigotry - we should all be judged/graded on our productivity and capabilities never our sex, race or religion.

10:03AM PST on Jan 3, 2012

I didn't know anything about that sad event in Canada. I must tell you I am still in shock, could never imagine something like that could have happened in Canada. It seems to me very positive that laws were inforced by then, I think that was great, learning from the mistakes, that is why I cannot understand that someone wants to change that. I really hope that something positive for the whole country can be taken from the tragic deaths of these young women.

2:03PM PST on Dec 12, 2011

This moment in history has stayed in my thoughts and hearts. I always have a moment of silence on this anniversary.

It was a time that my innocence was lost and that I needed to be strong and stop going out with a man that was mentally abusive towards me - I am sure that physical abuse was not far off.

People need to take responsibilities for their actions and stop blaming others for problems in their life.

12:38PM PST on Dec 10, 2011

So sad to read about his event, but it's good that people remember those that fell victim at the hands of a women hating man. If politicians always used the excuse that it was a long time ago, then there's no end to what damage they could do. There will never be a time when it is excusable to change the gun laws to allow this to happen again. People, and specially women, need to know that they are protected by the laws, the police and the government. The Harper government's actions doesn't speak that language.

1:15AM PST on Dec 9, 2011

I remember this every year on Dec 6.These wonderful young women killed because of being female is a terrible scar on our country that will never heal.

4:59PM PST on Dec 8, 2011

I was a student at Université de Montréal, at the time.
I will never forget, and I'm glad other people are remembering. I'm just sad that the gun control law are weakening...

9:35AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Such incident need to be recalled... often... so that we all will remember the possibility of such sad and unnecessary incident. Thank you.

9:13AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Twenty years later, in 2009, a movie was made about those awful events. «Polytechnique» by Denis Villeneuve. Staring Karine Vanasse (Pan-Am). Here's the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_H17moBp2o&feature=related

2:13AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Thanks.

1:49AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

I first heard about the case years after the fact. It is incredibly sad that there are so many horrible mass-murders in the US that this terrible atrocity largely missed notice in the US.

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