London ceremony honours victims of violence against women

The names of women and girls who have suffered violence are said aloud as canles were lit in their honour.
The names of women and girls who have suffered violence are said aloud as canles were lit in their honour. Jaclyn Carbone / 980 CFPL

Londoners are commemorating the 28th anniversary of the massacre at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, when a gunman shot 14 women to death and injured 14 other people.

Roughly 70 people gathered at My Sister’s Place over the noon hour Wednesday, for a memorial service hosted by The Circle, a women’s collective in London.

READ MORE: Remembering a massacre: Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique

After reading the names of the women killed when Marc Lepine opened fired on female engineering students at Ecole Polytechnique in 1989, those in attendance were asked to light candles and speak the names of other women and girls who suffered violence because of their gender.

“The 14 families of the 14 [women killed at Ecole Polytechnique] have requested their names not be read as much anymore. They don’t want to show them as martyrs,” said Selena Horell, council member at The Circle Women’s Collective.
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 “In inviting other women and other members of our community to recognize women who have suffered gender violence in their lives, we’re trying to broaden that out into a national day of remembrance,” she said.

The ‘The Ritual of Re-Membering,’ honoured those 14 women. This year’s ceremony held a special meaning, as it also honoured all women who have lost their lives to, or suffered from, gender-based violence.

“It holds a new resonance with the attention that male violence against women has received in Hollywood and with the MeToo movement,” said Leah Getchell, council member at The Circle Women’s Collective.

READ MORE: London honours the 14 women killed at Ecole Polytechnique

While it was a sombre day across the nation, Horell believes it shows the conversation is growing.

“My heart has just been heavy this year, but also really lifted. [That’s because] of the women speaking up [in Hollywood], the commission on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and sex workers in London speaking up — that’s been just really huge in my life,” she said.
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 “[Those are] important voices that I think people are starting to pay attention to,” said Horell.

Twenty-eight years ago, Marc Lepine burst into a classroom at the Ecole Polytechnique, separated the men from the women and opened fire on the female engineering students. Lepine, an Ecole Polytechnique student, had been rejected by the engineering school. He blamed this failure — and others in his life — on women.