Tag Archive: Gun control


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

By Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press — Dec 6 2019

MONTREAL — There were promises to end violence against women and solemn reflection Friday as ceremonies were held to honour the 14 victims of the Dec. 6, 1989, anti-feminist attack at Montreal’s École polytechnique. On the 30th anniversary of Canada’s worst mass shooting, the House of Commons fell silent as members of Parliament remembered the victims who were targeted because they were women.

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu fought back tears as she listed the names of the 14 murdered women. Gladu said that as the first female engineer elected to the House of Commons, she feels a special bond to the victims. « These women were my sisters, » she said. « I name them now to respect them for the strong women they are and they were. »

In Montreal, several dozen people gathered outside the school under a light morning snowfall as dignitaries and students placed bouquets of white roses in front of a commemorative plaque bearing the victims’ names: 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.

Members of the public also paid their respects in front of the campus, and among the first was Jean-Pierre Bernard. Bernard, went to high school in the Gaspe region with one of the victims, Sonia Pelletier. « I came for the 25th anniversary, and every year I wear my (memorial) pin. It’s very important for me, » Bernard said.

Later, families of the victims and survivors gathered inside for the launch of a book written by Montreal journalist Josée Boileau. The book, « Ce jour-la — Parce qu’elles étaient des femmes » (« That Day — Because They Were Women ») is to be translated into English next year. It takes a broader look at the advancement of women in Quebec society.

The families and friends of the 14 women killed at Polytechnique were involved in the book, lending their voices to talk about the lives — determined and full of energy —  cut down too soon.

« When people will read this — particularly young women of today — they will recognize themselves. They’ll say, ‘There’s very little difference between who I am and those women,’  » said Serge St-Arneault, whose sister Annie was killed in the attack. St-Arneault said he’s happy that people are no longer mincing words when it comes to what happened at Polytechnique — declaring clearly that it was an attack against women. « I’m very touched by what I’ve heard today, it gives me some peace, » said St-Arneault, but his mind is not completely at ease. « We are still a society where too many women are being killed every year, especially by guns. »

In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said gender-based violence remains a threat. « Each December, as we honour the memories of those 14 women, the survivors and the families, we promise to do better, » Trudeau said. « But the reality is that in 30 years, things haven’t changed enough. »

Trudeau highlighted the Liberal campaign pledge to ban semi-automatic assault rifles, including the weapon used in the Polytechnique killings, as evidence of his government’s commitment to action. « These weapons, designed to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time, have no place in our communities, in our streets, in our country, » he said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said women should not have to fear for their safety simply because of their gender. « It is unacceptable that violence against women remains an issue to this day, » he said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh warned that the « anti-woman hatred » that led to the massacre in Montreal remains a threat. « Thirty years after Canadians said, ‘Never again,’ following the Polytechnique tragedy, we need to recognize collectively that we still have a long way to go to respect that commitment, » Singh said.

Later Friday, as the clock struck 5:10 p.m. — the time the 1989 attack began — dignitaries, families of victims and the public gathered on Mount Royal for a memorial ceremony.

Fourteen beams of light were projected over the Montreal skyline as the names of the 14 women whose lives were taken were read aloud. Gov. Gen. Julie Payette told the several hundred people gathered that on Dec. 6, 1989, she too, was studying to be an engineer.

« I was in university, like (them), » she said. « By choice. I was there not to change statistics, not because of an ideology or activism — even though I am a feminist — but because I loved the profession and I wanted it to be my career. I am an engineer through and through. »

Catherine Bergeron, whose sister Genevieve was one of the 14 victims, said « it has been 30 years and it’s still important to remember. Tonight, I am reminded that in uniting the spirit of solidarity and tenderness, we all turned the tragedy into a triumph of the human spirit. »

Trudeau, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante, and Premier Francois Legault also briefly addressed the crowd. The prime minister received strong applause when he repeated his pledge to strengthen gun control.

To mark the 30th anniversary, 14 engineering schools across the country shone a beam of light in honour of the victims as the Montreal ceremony got underway.

On Thursday, the City of Montreal changed the wording on a plaque at the Place du 6-decembre-1989 to declare that the attack was an anti-feminist act.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2019.