Remembering the Montreal Massacre

This week marks the 25th anniversary of a tragic day in Canadian history. On Dec. 6th in 1989, Marc Lépine went on a shooting rampage at the Université de Montréal’s à Ecole Polytechnique, killing 14 women.

Lépine began the attack by entering a classroom and separating the males from females. He announced he was fighting feminism before shooting all nine women present. He then made his way through the cafeteria and another classroom. In under 20 minutes, Lépine managed to shoot a total of 28 people, including four men, before turning the gun on himself. In his suicide note, Lépine blames feminists for “ruining his life.” He also includes a list of 19 other women he’d wanted to see dead as he believed them to be feminists as well.

The one distinguishing factor of the Montreal Massacre is that it was clearly aimed at one specific group of people – women. The interpretations of the events of this day are varied; some see it as a reflection of a wider societal problem of violence against women; others see it as an isolated act of a madman. But one thing we can all agree on is that the Montreal Massacre was a devastating tragedy. However, because of the ensuing scrutiny, Canadians learned several valuable lessons.

In 1991 the Parliament of Canada commemorated the à Ecole Polytechnique Massacre by declaring each anniversary as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, a day committed to ending violence against women. Additionally, the massacre sparked the Canadian gun control movement. The actions of those involved in the movement led to the 1995 Firearms Act, which imposed much stricter regulations on gun control, including the mandatory registration of all fire arms. Notably, the Harper government is working to obliterate the requirement for fire arm registry, which many see as a slap in the face to the victims of the attacks. As a result Conservative MPs are prohibited from speaking at the ceremony at Parliament Hill marking the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Lastly, Police response to the Montreal Massacre received high levels of criticism, which resulted in many changes being made to emergency response protocols. Police officers that arrived at the scene waited before entering the university building and during this time, several women were killed. The modifications made to the response protocols proved effective, as the handling of the 2006 Dawson College Shooting in which only one student was killed, was met with praise from the public.

Candlelight vigils are held every year to remember the victims of the Montreal massacre and to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

– Brooke Benjamin