Ceremony honours 14 women killed in École Polytechnique mass shooting

One by one, the names of the women were called out before a moment of silence in their memory. White roses, one for each victim, were laid by their photographs. The flags were flown at half-mast until dusk. 

Thirty-four years ago today, on Dec. 6, 1989, 14 women were killed and another 13 were injured at École Polytechnique by a man motivated by hatred of feminists. 

For each victim, a beam of light illuminated the Montreal sky, shining atop Mount Royal at the Belvedere Kondiaronk at the exact time — 5:10 p.m. — when the first shots were fired.

Wearing white ribbons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier François Legault and other dignitaries attended the annual ceremony to pay their respects.

“We can reflect, and we have a responsibility to reflect. There has been some progress over the past 34 years but not enough,” Trudeau told CBC.

White roses, one for each victim, were laid by photographs of the victims. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

“There is still so much more work to do to make sure everyone is safe in their home, that women are safe from gender-based violence, that we break down the hatred and the violence that still continues too much in our society.”

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Quebec’s premier echoed a similar message.

“We have to remember what happened 34 years ago,” said Legault.

“These 14 women were killed because they were women. Equality is not negotiable,” he said, asking Quebecers who witness women being abused — physically or verbally — to speak up and stand up to save lives. 

WATCH | Why it’s important to remember the Polytechnique shooting:

Why Dec. 6 is a date etched in the minds of Canadians

More than three decades after what came to be known as the Montreal Massacre, when 14 women were killed by a single assailant at École Polytechnique, the victims’ legacy is still felt across the country.

Legault applauded École Polytechnique for an increase of female students studying engineering since the tragedy, adding that he wants to see women make up half of the student body.

Maud Cohen, the first woman to be appointed director of the engineering school, said Dec.6. Is “always a little emotional.” She discovered engineering, in part, because of the tragedy.

A man stands outside.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stands in front of the 14 beams of light. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

“I wouldn’t say that it was because of events that I went into this profession, but engineering was little known to women and little encouraged among women who had scientific backgrounds,” said Cohen.

In 1996, she graduated from the school that she now heads.

Although she says engineering remains a male-dominated profession, Cohen believes that the more women enter the field, the more role models there will be, even if discrimination still exists.

“There is still significant violence against women and we must continue to act on this,” said Cohen.

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