MSVU remembers 14 women killed at École Polytechnique

Click to play video: 'Mount Saint University marks 33rd anniversary of École Polytechnique shooting'
Mount Saint University marks 33rd anniversary of École Polytechnique shooting
Mount Saint Vincent University held a service on Tuesday to mark the 33rd anniversary of the mass shooting that took place at École Polytechnique in Montreal. The service is one of many taking place across the country to honor the lives that were lost. Skye Bryden-Blom has more. – Dec 6, 2022

A sombre service was held on Tuesday at Mount Saint Vincent University to mark the 33rd anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre.

It was one of many being held across Canada to remember the lives lost on Dec. 6, 1989, when a gunman motivated by a hatred for women killed 14 female students at the Montreal engineering school.

White roses were laid at a commemorative plaque on that campus, while in Halifax the names of those who lost their lives rang out in a classroom at MSVU.

Students, faculty and community members gathered at the Mount to reflect on the tragedy.

Tegan Zimmerman, the chair of MSVU’s Alexa McDonough Institute (AMI), says they paired the commemorative ceremony with a group discussion to draw attention to the issues women continue to face.

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“It’s clear to me that we haven’t learned our lessons from the past that violence is still happening,” she says. “It’s happening on an everyday basis in our province, in our country and across the globe.”

Guest speakers from the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia say the pandemic has escalated domestic violence cases, adding the “stay the blazes home” messaging was quite difficult for those Nova Scotians living in unsafe environments.

“During the pandemic, we really saw an increase in the demand for our services because women and their families were forced to isolate with their abusers,” provincial co-ordinator Ann de Ste Croix says.

“And we also saw an increase in the reported severity of violence as well, so as we stayed in isolation for longer periods of time, that violence escalated. Unfortunately, there was a huge demand for our services during the pandemic and that hasn’t really slowed down.”

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She adds that women also face challenges when it comes to finding an affordable place to live, which can cause some to stay in abusive situations longer because they have nowhere else to go.

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De Ste Croix estimates it can take anywhere from 20 to 30 applications for a rental unit before some of the women they provide services to are able to find somewhere affordable and safe to live.

Provincial NDP Leader Claudia Chender spoke at the commemorative service, pointing to the #MeToo movement and the mass shooting in Portapique in 2020 as reminders more needs to be done to eliminate violence against women.

“I think here in Nova Scotia that also gained a sharper focus as the events in Portapique began to be revealed, and through the Mass Casualty Commission, and as we understand the role of gender-based violence in that mass casualty event and also in others,” Chender says.

MSVU student and AMI program assistant Mankiran Kaur says it’s important for the community to remember the École Polytechnique tragedy.

“It is very important to reflect on our history and what has happened throughout so that the things that are not right, we can make those corrections so they never happen again,” Kaur says.

Dec. 6 marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

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