Twenty-years ago, Marc Lépine strolled into the Université de Montréal’s engineering school, L’École Polytechnique, armed with a 223-calibre Sturm-Ruger rifle and murdered fourteen young women. Lépine’s callous rampage was motivated by his hatred for women, whom he held responsible for ruining his life. Opening fire in one classroom, Lépine, only twenty-five at the time, shouted he was “fighting feminism.” After the slaughter, Lépine shot himself; his suicide letter echoes the anti-women sentiments he expressed to students as he gunned them down.
Canadians who are old enough to remember know exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard about the Montreal massacre. To commemorate the event, Dec. 6 is now officially a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. While some think the Montreal massacre is a horrific but anomalous event, it is important to remember on this upcoming National Day of Remembrance and Action that violence against women is still a very big issue today.
For example, over 500 Indigenous women have gone missing or have been murdered in the past two decades. Often, women of poor and racialized backgrounds are more susceptible to being victims of violence.
Furthermore, the events at Polytechnique galvanized survivors and supporters to demand tighter gun control laws. Though a law that passed six years later ushered in an era of stricter gun control, the Harper government is in the process of rolling back the achievements that, in particular, families of victims fought so hard for.
More recently, it was only in August when George Sodini shot and killed three women and injured another nine when he walked into an LA Fitness club. His motivation, as documented in a nine-month Web diary: sexual frustration, perceived rejection and alienation, and ultimately hatred towards women.
While it is important to commemorate the dead, there is no point in fooling ourselves that Canada has “moved on” from this tragic chapter of history. There is more awareness surrounding violence against women, but the violence, unfortunately, has yet to stop.
For all those who were too young to remember the Montreal massacre, Heather J. Wood’s Fortune Cookie—a coming of age fictional story set in 1989 Montreal—is a great start.