Polytechnique tragedy: struggle for equality continues for female students at John Abbott

Remembering the victims of École Polytechnique
ABOVE: Students at John Abbott College honored the victims of the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre on Friday. One of the victims, Anne-Marie Edward, was a former John Abbott student. As Global's Phil Carpenter explains, some students worry a similar incident could still happen today.

There was shock, sorrow and even anger during a ceremony at John Abbott College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the shooting at Montreal’s École Polytechnique.

“Their lives were taken because of someone’s hate,” said 18-year-old science student Osayma Saad, shaking.

READ MORE: Feminism met gunfire at École Polytechnique. It’s taken 30 years to call it what it was

She was one of 14 students at the college who took part in the event. It was held in the Anne Marie Edward science building, named after one of the victims who was also a student at John Abbott.

The current generation of students, including Saad, were not yet born when the shootings happened, and the seriousness of the massacre is only now coming home to them.

“It really only hit me this semester, because like nobody really talked about it before,” she told Global News.

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READ MORE: ‘Antifeminist attack’: École Polytechnique plaque changes reference to massacre

Each of them placed a rose beside a photograph of each of the 14 women who were slain, shot to death by a man, Marc Lépine, who then took his own life.

“Because they were women who were trying to go outside the bounds of what was possible,” she pointed out.

Saad is a science student with plans to become a doctor and the thought that women were killed for wanting equality scares her.

“This isn’t just something that happened 30 years ago,” she stressed. “This could happen at any time. The hate that there is for women and the misunderstanding of feminism isn’t completely gone.”

She added that though she’s mostly treated equally at school, she still struggles sometimes to be taken seriously as a woman.

“I feel frustrated because I feel like, no matter what I do, I feel like it’s not good enough.”

Her friend, 18 year-old Amelia Stephenson, also a science student, agrees that the struggle for equality continues, but she’s optimistic.

“I think this ceremony was important to recognize how far we’ve come as a society,” she said.

Anne Marie’s mother, who attended the ceremony, hopes Friday’s gathering sends another message.

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“Just let women be human beings equal to men,” she said. “That’s all feminism means.”

Saad agrees.

“I will try to work my hardest to get to a place where I can actually make a difference,” she said.

It’s important to her because, according to her, sometimes change can take a whole generation.