RMC lights up Kingston to pay tribute to Montreal massacre victims

RMC lights up city to pay tribute to Montreal massacre victims
Friday marks a grim anniversary in Canadian history. It has been three decades since the Montreal massacre at École Polytechnique.

Friday marked a grim anniversary in Canadian history.

It has been three decades since the Montreal massacre at École Polytechnique.

It was Dec. 6, 1989, when a gunman opened fire inside the city’s engineering department.

Fourteen women were killed before the gunman took his own life.

Services are being held across the country, including Kingston, where a beam of light will be shining Friday in memory of the victims.

READ MORE: New Brunswickers remember Montreal Massacre

“The tragedy happened at a place where people are actually supposed to be learning how to be good citizens, at the École Polytechnique that absolutely failed,” says Erika Behrisch Elce, an associate professor at the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada.

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Behrisch Elce is one of the organizers of Kingston’s commemoration, part of a nationwide observance on the 30th anniversary of the massacre in Montreal.

“Why I think it’s especially important at RMC is because we are an educational institution and we are also a national institution,” says Behrisch Elce.

“And both need to push all the time, everywhere, against ignorance and hate.”

Hundreds of people attended the commemoration at RMC Friday evening, including cadets, staff and members of the public.

When a single beam of light was lit, from a large spot light, it joined 13 other beams of light at universities across the country.

“It’s 14 lights for the 14 women who died,” says Behrisch Elce, “and it’s a national recognition that this is something we combat together as a nation.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan remembers victims of Montreal’s Ecolé Polytechnique massacre

The lighting of the beam was to be a simple and somber event.

Two poems, one in French and the other in English, were read, along with the names of the 14 victims.

On Dec. 6, 1989, a gunman opened fire in the engineering school at École Polytechnique.

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He told the men to leave, then killed 14 women, before killing himself.

“Gender-based violence is something we have to stand against,” says Brigadier-General Sébastien Bouchard, commandant and vice-chancellor at RMC. “So for us it is a message we are sending to the cadets the values we want to defend.

“The values they will defend in a few years. But also it is a message we want to send to the rest of the country.”

“It’s hard to say the same things over and over again, because people stop listening,” says Behrisch Elce,  “so that is why commemorations like this are important, because it makes that conversation visible again.”

The light beam at RMC was turned on at 5:10 pm — the moment when the shooting rampage started 30 years ago.