Events held to honour victims of École Polytechnique shooting on 33rd anniversary

Several tributes were held in Montreal Tuesday to commemorate victims of the École Polytechnique shooting on the 33rd anniversary of the tragedy.

A solemn wreath-laying ceremony was held Tuesday to mark the 33rd anniversary of the École Polytechnique mass shooting, one of a handful of tributes planned throughout the day.

On Dec. 6, 1989, a man motivated by a hatred of feminists shot and killed 14 female students and injured 13 other people at the Montreal engineering school.

Under a biting December wind, white rose wreaths were laid at a commemorative plaque near the student entrance of the building as a few dozen students and staff gathered. All wore white ribbons to raise awareness about violence against women and girls.

Click to play video: 'White rose wreath ceremony held to commemorate 33-year anniversary Polytechnique massacre'
White rose wreath ceremony held to commemorate 33-year anniversary Polytechnique massacre

“It’s important to remember … and it’s important to fight against violence against women just because they are women,” said Maud Cohen, president of École Polytechnique.

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“It’s a really important moment, every Dec. 6, to have that time to remember who they were, why everything happened and why we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The women killed in 1989 were 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.

At the end of the day — at 5:10 p.m., marking the time the first shots were fired — 14 beams illuminated the sky above Mount Royal in memory of the women who lost their lives. Dignitaries including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault were scheduled to attend.

The brief morning ceremony is held annually, and members of the university community passed by the plaque to pay their respects — an important exercise for many on this day.

Émilie Thibault, a doctoral student in chemical engineering who laid one of the wreaths, said it was important to be present for the families of the 14 women.

“To show that we are here … to remember what happened and to make sure that we never forget it,” Thibault said. “And to prove that we are resilient and we never want an event like this to happen again.”

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Click to play video: 'National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women'
National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

For Cohen it’s also about remembering who the victims were.

“Today is a moment where we need to think about these young ladies who lost their lives back in 1989, but it’s also about remembering who they were and the dreams that they had,” Cohen said.

In Ottawa, Trudeau spoke about the importance of remembering the tragedy during his opening remarks at a meeting of municipal officials from across Canada.

“Today, as a Montrealer, I must mention Dec. 6,” he said. “At the time, I was in high school when it happened, just a few blocks away from École Polytechnique. I still remember, and I always will. We must take a moment to remember that violence against women continues. And with the pandemic, we saw an increase in violence and mental health issues.”

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Flags outside of the school’s main building are at half-mast and will remain like that throughout the day.

The anniversary of the mass shooting was proclaimed National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in 1991.

— with files from Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa

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