Lethbridge College students remember victims of École Polytechnique massacre

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge College remembers École Polytechnique victims 33 years later'
Lethbridge College remembers École Polytechnique victims 33 years later
WATCH: Dec. 6th marks the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada; it’s the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique de Montreal mass shooting that saw a gunman kill 14 young women in what’s widely regarded as a misogynistic attack. Eloise Therien has more on how local students are raising awareness – Dec 6, 2022

Engineering students at Lethbridge College have ramped up an awareness campaign on campus this year surrounding the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, which marks the anniversary of one of Canada’s worst mass shootings.

On December 6, 1989, a male gunman killed 14 women in an act of anti-feminism at Montreal’s École Polytechnique. Several others were injured in the attack.

Twelve of the women who died were engineering students and 13 out of 14 were in their 20s.

“I remember it vividly. I remember watching the news reports and seeing the police going in and hearing about the tragedy and it’s always kept in the forefront of my mind because (specifically) they were targeted as women,” said Zane Hilland.

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“We’re all sons and fathers and brothers and grandfathers and it’s beholden on us to step up and protect those that are around us.”

Hilland, a second year civil engineering student at Lethbridge College, wanted to ensure fellow students are staff were aware of the anniversary.

“It seems like it’s been forgotten,” he said, commenting on the awareness within his programs specifically.

“The instructors knew about it, and there was a… couple of men that knew about it, but nobody really knew or understood what the memorial day was about.”

Television screens at the college included a memorial page and physical displays with the victims’ photos were also created, including 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.

Gender-based violence still prevalent today

Advocates are hoping the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women will spark more dialogue around gender-based violence that still exists in Canada today.

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“We have come a a long way in being able to speak about the violence and actually recognize in a public setting,” said CEO of YWCA Lethbridge & District Jill Young.

“But where we need to continue is working on breaking the cycle; promoting and being that further voice speaking up against the tragedies that we do see day-to-day.”

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

The YWCA provides wraparound services for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. Young said the Lethbridge facility is currently over capacity and many of those seeking services are Indigenous.

“Right now we are doing our best to ensure that we are accommodate those that are in high priority,” she said. “But we will never have enough room, unfortunately, for all the demand we’re seeing in 2022.”

“Violence is still very real, very prevalent across the board,” said Streets Alive Mission fund development manager Jennifer Lepko.

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“We have a number of individuals who have fled violence situations or that are currently living in violent situations who have turned to the use of substances to cope with the violence that they’re experiencing in their homes or as children growing up,” she added.

Lepko and Young encouraging both those who are victims themselves, and those witnessing violence to seek help.

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