Knowledge of Montreal Massacre waning on campus

SMU Women's Centre shows movie Polytechnique to commemorate National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women

Amanda Dickie. Co-ordinator, Saint Mary’s University Women’s Centre. Photo: Ford Shaw

Memories of the largest massacre ever to happen on the campus of a Canadian university are fading in the minds of students.

“I heard of it but I don’t know any details,” said Melissa, 23, a Dalhousie University student,

Monica, a 23-year-old University of King’s College student said,” I learned about it in high school.  I believe there was a disgruntled male student who had issues with women in the program and he killed 14 of them.”

Dan, 23, a business student at Dalhousie said,  “No, I’ve heard of the October Crisis of 1970 and the Lower Canada Rebellion. But, when did this happen?”

Some students however, still acknowledge the event.

“I’ve been hosting a women’s issues program broadcast on CKDU called, Third Wave – for seven years,” said Gianna Lauren, 30. “Every year I commemorate the Montreal Massacre where 14 women were massacred.”

The Montreal Massacre occurred on Dec. 6, 1989 at l’École Polytechnique. Marc Lépine murdered fourteen female engineering students and wounded another 14.

The repercussions from the Montreal massacre compelled Parliament to pass new gun control legislation requiring gun owners to be screened by police and to register all firearms as well as outlawing various assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

The Montreal Massacre happened 23 years ago – before many of the undergraduates were even born.

Amanda Dickie, co-ordinator of Saint Mary’s University Women’s Centre says she chose to screen the 2009 dramatization of the event, Polytechnique, to remind undergraduates of the shooting. The film is an interpretation of the events leading up to the Montreal Massacre and the post-traumatic effect the violence had on the people involved.

“This particular film is heart wrenching and core shocking, but it is very important to see because it has so much to do with Canadian history and active violence against women,” said Janna MacDonald, a Saint Mary’s University student.

The attacker, Lépine, targeted female students in a self-declared war against feminists whom he blamed as the source of his problems.

“Blaming women’s groups and feminism for problems in our lives or society is a form of misogyny,” said Dickie.

“The remembrance of this historical event is a moment to rediscover the common dignity women and men share as persons – the two are inseparable.   When one denies the common dignity of this human relationship between man and woman it is a sign of sickness. The most common sign of sickness is violence,” said Roberto Donato, a minister.

The theme of this year’s National Day of Remembrance & Action on Violence Against Women is Generations of Hope. Donato sees the event as an opportunity for men and women to discover or rediscover human dignity and to move beyond commemorating a tragic event to healing the roots and causes of violence. Any action begins with a single thought. Changing how people think may go a long way to preventing violence against women, he said.