Remembering the Montréal Massacre

Ten years ago this week, on December 6th, the cafeteria of the engineering school at the University of Montréal was the scene of a horrific event. Marc Lépine walked into the room, ordered the men to leave and opened fire on every woman he encountered. His reason? He said he hated feminists. In his eyes, those women were directly responsible for the fact that he himself was not accepted at the university. Lepine shot 27 people, 14 women fatally. The shooting rampage was over in less than half an hour.

The event shocked the country. Many called the killer insane, but it provoked others into action. In a recent article in The Toronto Star, Lynda Hurst wrote: “(the massacre) would motivate many men to take a long, hard look at their own behaviour. It would kick-start the gun-control movement. And it would expedite the participation of women in the engineering profession”.

Broadcaster Judy Rebick says Lepine’s act spurred her on to run for president of NAC (National Action Committee on the Status of Women) the following spring. NAC fought for and won a national day of commemoration on Dec. 6th. Toronto city councillor Jack Layton co-founded the White Ribbon campaign in991. The focus of the campaign is to educate students on gender violence. The curriculum is taught at public, junior high and senior high school levels. Today, it is used in 100 schools across Canada, and 1,000 in the U.S. The White Ribbon campaign has spread to a dozen countries around the world.

For three years now, a week-long vigil has been held on the internet in honor of the women killed in the Montréal massacre, and to raise awareness of violence against women. The vigil works by having people placing a candle imagine on their web pages, then linking their pages back to the vigil site.

It is activities such as this vigil, and the White Ribbon campaign, which will honour the memory of women whose lives have been affected by violence, and teach people to respect others – regardless of their gender.