December 6, 2016 8:24 am
Updated: December 6, 2016 4:52 pm

École Polytechnique massacre marks 27th anniversary

WATCH ABOVE: The École Polytechnique Massacre marks its 27th anniversary with a memorial ceremonies throughout the day. Kelly Greig reports.

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Ceremonies took place Tuesday to mark the 27th anniversary of the murders of 14 women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique.

READ MORE: Blog: Should we still commemorate December 6? Pas de question

A lone gunman opened fire in one of the school’s buildings in 1989.

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The women were targeted by the gunman for being female engineering students.

READ MORE: Remembering the Montreal Massacre and looking at ways to curb violence against women

Since the mass shooting, Dec. 6 has become a national day of commemoration and has served as a call for action on violence against women, with various events and vigils held across the country.

The 14 deaths that day in 1989 also sparked a national debate on gun control that rages on today.

Gun control advocate Heidi Rathjen said it’s not about banning all guns, but controlling them and restricting assault-style weapons that pose a danger to human life.

“It’s especially not easy for the families for whom their loss is just as hard today,” said Rathjen, who represents PolySeSouvient, a gun-control advocacy group.

“The gun control law was a really good monument to the memory of the women because it made a difference and saved more lives than were lost on that day, and that’s why they keep fighting for gun control.”

The previous Conservative government scrapped the long-gun registry in 2012 and the Trudeau Liberals vowed to toughen laws but have not offered any timeline.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale assured Tuesday amendments are in the works.

Trudeau also issued a statement denouncing violence against women, saying the Polytechnique victims were killed “simply because they were women.”

It didn’t address gun control.

He said the statistics relating to violence against girls and women are unacceptable and encouraged a conversation about how to end the violence.

“On this sombre anniversary, let us reflect on what Canadians – women, men, and youth – can do to rid the country and the planet of the scourges of misogyny and gender-based violence,” Trudeau said.

The gunman ended up shooting more than two dozen people before taking his own life. He had ranted about feminists ruining his life.

Trudeau and several cabinet ministers laid flowers at the Centennial Flame in Ottawa while Polytechnique Montreal opted for a simple commemoration marking the massacre.

READ MORE: ‘Let hate go,’ says the mother of Montreal Massacre shooter Marc Lepine

A bouquet of 14 white roses was placed at a memorial plaque in honour of the 13 students and one staff member who were killed, while flags were lowered to half-mast from dawn until dusk.

During an evening ceremony, 14 beacons of light were to be projected, one at a time, into the night sky in honour of the victims.

In Montreal, several dozen people gathered at an east-end park to hear speeches from a variety of women’s groups.

“For me it’s really important that we keep commemorating this day, but [from] an empowering perspective,” said Melanie Sarazin, president of the Quebec Women’s Federation.

In Quebec, she pointed to the government’s refusal hold a public inquiry into the strained relationship between police and First Nations communities as the latest fight.

Françoise Ruperthouse, a Pikogan band councillor from the Abitibi region in northwestern Quebec, told the Montreal crowd an inquiry is necessary.

“Violence is something we native women live with every day,” said Ruperthouse.

“We need help, we need it to stop, the government needs to give us this inquiry.”

 

IN PHOTOS: Remembering École Polytechnique

In Saskatchewan, the province’s minister responsible for the status of women said violence is a daily reality for many women and girls.

“This day is about remembering victims of gender-based violence, as well as how we as individuals and communities can work toward eliminating violence in Saskatchewan, Canada and around the world,” said Tina Beaudry-Mellor.

“We all have a role to play in standing up against gender-based violence.”

During the night, 14 spotlights will illuminate Mount Royal, one for each of the women killed.

with files from Global News’ Navneet Pall.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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