The 14 young women who were killed during the École Polytechnique massacre were each honoured with a beam of light shining into the night sky in Montreal on Thursday.
The annual commemoration comes 29 years after a gunman stormed the university building on a snowy night and fatally wounded the group of engineering students — simply because they were women.
At the National Assembly, the flag was flown at half-mast.
“We do not have the right to make equality between men and women a secondary issue,” said Quebec Premier François Legault on Thursday.
“We must never take a backwards step.”
In Montreal, the ceremony was held on Mount Royal to commemorate the lives cut short by violence and hatred. In the darkness, 14 beams of light illuminated the sky from the top of the mountain to honour each victim.
The ceremony brought together survivors of the shooting, loved ones of the victims, dignitaries and the public on the snow-covered mountain. It was under a veil of silence that the names of the 14 women were read aloud.
Catherine Bergeron, who lost her sister Geneviève Bergeron, described the commemoration as touching for her and the families of those killed. She also said it is important to remember what happened 29 years ago.
“We cannot forget,” she said. “Remembering what happened makes us more vigilant.”
WATCH: Order of the White Rose Recipient
There is still a lot to do to prevent violence against women, she added.
“We still have to go on and women still have to make their place in society,” she said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier in the day his government is evaluating how to move forward with limiting access to handguns and did not rule out a complete ban on them.
“I think people across the country expect us to do a better job protecting our citizens and our communities from gun violence,” he said.
“There are concerns about the access that criminals have to handguns and assault weapons, and we’re going to look at measures to continue to keep our communities safe.”
WATCH: ‘We cannot forget’: 14 women killed in École Polytechnique massacre honoured
In a ceremony Thursday morning, 14 white roses were laid at the school in honour of the memory of the students: Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault and Annie Turcotte.
— With files from Global’s Gloria Henriquez and the Canadian Press