‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Vows to end violence against women combined with solemn reflection as ceremonies were held Friday to honour the 14 victims of the Dec. 6, 1989 anti-feminist attack at Montreal’s Ecole polytechnique.

On the 30th anniversary of Canada’s worst mass shooting, the House of Commons fell silent as members of Parliament remembered the victims who were targeted for death because they were women.

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu fought back tears as she listed the names of the 14 murdered women. Gladu said that as the first female engineer elected to the House of Commons, she feels a special bond to the victims.

“These women were my sisters,” she said. “I name them now to respect them for the strong women they are and they were.”

In Montreal, several dozen people gathered outside the school under a light morning snowfall as dignitaries and students lay bouquets of white roses in front of a commemorative plaque bearing the victims’ names: Genevieve Bergeron, Helene Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganiere, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michele Richard, Annie St-Arneault and Annie Turcotte.

Members of the public also paid their respects in front of the campus, and among the first on hand Friday morning was Jean-Pierre Bernard.

Bernard, went to high school in the Gaspe region with one of the victims, Sonia Pelletier. “I came for the 25th anniversary, and every year I wear my (memorial) pin. It’s very important for me.”

Later, families of the victims and survivors gathered inside for the launch of a book written by Montreal journalist Josee Boileau.

The book, “Ce jour-la — Parce qu’elles etaient des femmes” (“That Day — Because They Were Women”) is to be translated into English next year. It takes a broader look at the advancement of women in Quebec society.

In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said gender-based violence remains a threat.

“Each December, as we honour the memories of those 14 women, the survivors and the families, we promise to do better,” Trudeau said. “But the reality is that in 30 years, things haven’t changed enough.”

Trudeau highlighted the Liberal campaign pledge to ban semi-automatic assault rifles, including the weapon used in the Polytechnique killings, as evidence of his government’s commitment to action.

Later Friday, the public will gather on Mount Royal at 5:10 p.m. — the time the 1989 attack began— and 14 beams of light will shine over the Montreal skyline as the names of the 14 women are read aloud.

READ MORE: Shooting survivor quits panel over ‘timid’ Liberal record on assault-style guns

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