Tag Archive: Femicide


CTV news – Published Thursday, December 5, 2019 – Last Updated Friday, December 6, 2019

MONTREAL — Thirty years after the worst mass shooting in Canadian history, official acknowledgment has come that what happened on Dec. 6, 1989 at Montreal’s École Polytechnique was an attack on feminists.

On the eve of Friday’s anniversary, Montreal changed a plaque in a memorial park that previously referred to a « tragic event » — with no mention that the victims were all women. The revised text unveiled on Thursday describes an « anti-feminist attack » that claimed the lives of 14 women. « I think it’s a very good thing, but in a way, I understand why it took so long, » said Catherine Bergeron, who lost her sister, Genevieve, on that day in 1989. « The event was such a shock and so dramatic that it was hard to admit the real origins of it until today. »

Thirty years on, questions continue to swirl about gun control, and violence and discrimination against women persist. Just last year, the man accused of using a rented van to kill 10 people and injured 16 others last year in Toronto told police the attack was a day of retribution because women sexually rejected and ridiculed him.

Nathalie Provost, who was shot four times in the Polytechnique attack, said using the right words to describe the Polytechnique shootings is crucial. « I think it’s very important to bear witness to reality. It was an anti-feminist act. It was obvious from the moment it happened, » Provost said. « I think that for those who will go there and take the time to read it, they’ll better understand what happened exactly on that horrible day. And that’s important for the memory of my friends. »

Claire-Anse Saint-Eloi, who is overseeing a Quebec Women’s Federation campaign to end violence against women, said identifying the attack as one against feminists opens the way to addressing ongoing problems. Three decades later, she said, victims of sexual violence, victims of discriminatory laws and victims of racism still struggle to be believed. « But when we name the violence, we can say what do we next? » she said.

Bergeron, who is head of the committee organizing this year’s commemorative events, said there will be a focus on the lives behind the names.

Those names are well-known and each year they are read out: Genevieve Bergeron, Helene Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganiere, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michele Richard, Annie St-Arneault and Annie Turcotte.

« We know their names, » Bergeron said. « For the past 30 years, we’ve said them, reminding people that they were women, but who were they? What were their hopes? Where did they want to be? »

A new book written by former Le Devoir editor Josee Boileau looks closely at the events and the victims themselves. Commissioned by the organizing committee, the idea was to give the next generation a reference but also remind that the women were more than victims. « They were all very talented in a lot of fields. They were very energetic and nice and kind, » Bergeron said. « They were women that were curious to try different things — they were rays of sunshine in their respective families — that’s what comes out. »

Provost was a 23-year-old engineering student when Mark Lepine singled out women during his 20-minute shooting rampage. Fourteen women were killed — mostly students — while 13 people were wounded — nine women and four men. In a classroom, Provost came face-to-face with Lepine, armed with a .223-calibre Sturm-Ruger rifle. The shooter made clear he was targeting his victims because he saw them as feminists — people he blamed for his own failings. Provost survived being shot in the forehead, both legs and a foot.

On the 30th anniversary, Provost said she looks at the harrowing events in a different light now that her own children are around the same age she was at the time. « I more fully realize how young I was — I was a kid and we were kids — and it moves me a lot to see my kids and see they are where I was in my life — at the beginning, » she said. « I’m also much more sensitive to how terrible the loss of a child might have been for the families who had to survive after their kids (were killed) — I cannot imagine my grief and I don’t want to imagine it. »

Serge St-Arneault, whose sister Annie was killed that day, views the anniversary as a chance to come to terms with the tragedy. « We finally found the word that was missing — femicide — it was women who were targeted, » he said. St-Arneault was halfway across the world in 1989 doing missionary work at the Congo-Uganda border, and it took him a month to get back home. He was close to his sister — one of four siblings — and in the years that have passed, he has fought for tougher gun laws and an end to violence against women as a way of honouring Annie’s memory. « There was before Dec. 6, 1989, and after, » St-Arneault said. « This moment is a pivotal one in Quebec and Canada, that we must mobilize to build a society where women are safe. »

But for survivors and victims’ families, the fact the weapon used in the mass killing has yet to be banned by Canadian authorities is difficult to fathom. « It’s not easy, especially for the families, to keep fighting after 30 years, to keep facing the fact that the weapon that was used to kill their sisters and daughters is still legal and non-restricted, » said Heidi Rathjen, who was a Polytechnique student the night of the shooting and later became a staunch gun-control advocate.

Rathjen says they want to see « comprehensive, bold gun-control measures, » from the re-elected federal Liberals, including a full ban on assault-style weapons and handguns in short order. She pointed to New Zealand, which brought in a ban on assault weapons and rigorous screening and registration measures after a mass shooting at two mosques claimed 51 lives last March.  « If the new government doesn’t act decisively and boldly in the public interest now, 30 years later, after having been elected twice on the basis of a promise to strengthen gun control, then when? » Rathjen asked.

-This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 5, 2019.

LINKS:

IN PICTURES: Marking Canada’s worst mass shooting

IN PICTURES: Marking Canada’s worst mass shooting

1989 ARCHIVES: Stories from the shooting and days after

Polytechnique: Solemn ceremony caps 30-year anniversary of shooting that killed 14 women

Remembrance and reflection: 30 years since the Montreal massacre

Polytechnique: Events planned across Canada to mark grim 30th anniversary

Polytechnique: Massacre still haunts CTV journalist 30 years later

Polytechnique: Consensus comes 30 years later that massacre was an anti-feminist act

Polytechnique: New book tells stories of 14 victims, history of Quebec women’s movement

Polytechnique: Women are making advances in science, but there’s still a long way to go

Polytechnique: These women scientists are too young to remember the massacre, but it changed their lives

Polytechnique: Male survivor talks about guilt and lessons he’ll pass on

Polytechnique: Gun used to kill 14 women still not banned in Canada

GLOBAL NEWS – BY ALESSIA SIMONA MARATTA – Posted December 5 – Updated December 8, 2019

Thirty years later, we reflect and explore the progress made and progress yet to come from a massacre that sparked a conversation about violence against women. A new plaque to commemorate the École Polytechnique massacre was unveiled on Thursday, identifying the event as an act of violence against women. The event was previously referred to simply as a tragedy, without any mention of it having been a hate crime against women.

The new sign was unveiled at Place du 6-décembre-1989, a small memorial park in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges neighborhood. It was put in place just ahead of the mass shooting’s 30-year anniversary on Friday.

READ MORE: Remembering the women killed in the École Polytechnique massacre

On Dec. 6, 1989, a gunman stormed the university just after 5 p.m. on a snowy Wednesday evening and killed 14 young women who were, for the most part, studying to become engineers. The gunman, who had set out to kill women only, then took his own life.

The attack at Polytechnique remains the deadliest shooting in Canada’s history.

A new commemorative plaque was unveiled at Place du 6-décembre-1989 on Thursday to honour the 14 lives lost in the École Polytechnique massacre. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

The new plaque reads, in French: “This park was named in the memory of the 14 women murdered during the anti-feminist attack that took place at École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989. It is a reminder of the fundamental values of respect and equality, and a condemnation of all forms of violence against women.”

READ MORE: Have headlines on violence against women changed in 30 years?

Present at the sign’s unveiling on Thursday were Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough Mayor Sue Montgomery, among others. “We want people walking through this place of memory to know the horrific truth,” Montgomery said. “We should not be afraid to call acts of violence what they really are.”

Montgomery said that naming things for what they are is the first step in developing effective prevention mechanisms.

The borough mayor called the massacre an anti-feminist attack against not just women, but all people who work for equality.

READ MORE: Broken: A Global News series on Canada’s ongoing failure to end violence against women

Plante said that modifying the sign’s language to properly name the event for what it was is a significant step for a society to take to properly remember and reflect on the event.

She said it also highlights the importance of fighting against injustice and violence against women and girls. “The sign now clearly explains why 14 young women, who had their entire lives ahead of them, lost them,” said the Montreal mayor.

“We finally found the word that was missing — femicide,” said Serge St-Arneault, whose sister, Annie St-Arneault, was killed in the mass shooting. “It was women who were targeted.”

Annie was accompanied by 13 others, whose names are well known and are read out each year: Geneviève BergeronHélène ColganNathalie CroteauBarbara DaigneaultAnne-Marie EdwardMaud HaviernickBarbara Klucznik-WidajewiczMaryse LaganièreMaryse LeclairAnne-Marie LemaySonia PelletierMichèle Richard and Annie Turcotte.

READ MORE: École Polytechnique shooting survivor quits panel over Liberal record on assault-style guns

Thirty years later, what happened at Polytechnique continues to spark questions about violence against women and gun control. For survivors and victims’ families, the fact that the weapon used in the mass killing has yet to be banned by Canadian authorities is difficult to fathom. “It’s not easy, especially for the families, to keep fighting after 30 years, to keep facing the fact that the weapon that was used to kill their sisters and daughters is still legal and non-restricted,” said Heidi Rathjen, who was a Polytechnique student the night of the shooting and later became a staunch gun-control advocate.

The move to change the plaque’s text to specify the nature of the incident was initiated by professors Mélissa Blais and Diane Lamoureux from UQAM’s Réseau québécois en études féministes.

READ MORE: Polytechnique survivors group call on Liberals to end assault-style gun sales

The families of the 14 victims were honoured at Quebec’s National Assembly on Thursday, with leaders condemning the misogynist violence and promising to never forget what happened on that evening in early December, 30 years ago. A ceremony to honour the young women whose lives were taken will be held at 5 p.m. on Friday on Montreal’s Mont Royal.

— With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise and The Canadian Press 

‘We cannot forget’: 14 women killed in École Polytechnique massacre honoured.

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