Capilano communities hold vigil for the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre
Megan Amato // Associate News Editor
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre that took the lives of 14 women and injured ten other women and four men. On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lépine entered the engineering institute, separated the men from a classroom and shot the women. The Capilano Students’ Union is collaborating with the Woman and Gender Studies (WGST) Department to hold a ceremony for the victims of the tragedy. They also intend to localize and contextualize the issue of gender-based violence by including the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The WGST department has held an annual vigil for the victims since the massacre, often coordinating with the Kéxwusm-áyakn Student Centre in recent years. The event intends to raise awareness of the systemic causes of violence against women, especially against those in Indigenous and marginalized communities. This year the CSU approached the WGST department and asked to be involved in the ceremony on Dec. 6 for what is now the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
“I think it resonates for people in post-secondary because it happened in a college and it was students who were primarily affected,” said Maureen Bracewell, Gender Studies and Anthropology instructor at CapU. “There was a real split at the time in Montreal between people who immediately recognized it as an anti-feminist act that is embedded within social issues… and those who wanted to see it as alone gunman.”
There was controversy in the media following the tragedy between officials and community members regarding the issue behind the perpetrator’s actions. Many found themselves reluctant to explicitly state that it was gender-based violence despite that the perpetrator had deliberately targeted women. Others declared it a mental health issue, while some accused feminist groups of politicizing and propagandizing the massacre.
“Those who have committed violence like that [may] not have grown up in a secure and safe environment but by focusing in on the perpetrator and isolating them as someone who may suffer from mental illness or just had a bad childhood, we are ignoring the systemic issues at play,” said Emily Bridge, CSU President and Vice-President Equity and Sustainability. “That’s what the media did, they tried to take it away from the bigger issue and make it into an isolated incident.
The City of Montreal has now recognized it as a gendered crime and is replacing the old memorial plaque that had stated it “a tragic event” without the cause or mentioning its victims, with a new one reads: “This park is named in memory of the 14 women assassinated in an anti-feminist attack at the École Poly technique on December 6, 1989. It serves to recall the fundamental values of respect and equality, and condemns all forms of violence against women.”
“While this one incident in Montreal happened a long time ago and seems isolated, I really do see it connected to a bigger issue, as violence against the land,” said Bridge. “To me, sexualized violence is a direct product of violence committed against the land. I really see it coming from colonialism and patriarchal structures. It’s important that were cognize this event and connect it to the local community.”
Both Bracewell and Bridge emphasize the larger systemic causes of violence against women at play during the École Polytechnique Massacre and continue to be drivers of violence today. On June 3 this year, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report, Reclaiming Power and Place, which details the violent history of colonization against Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous women in Canada, and outlines what needs to be done for these communities to find justice.
“Honour their lives and honour their families and loved ones. Realize that they are missed and mourned,” Bracewell said, regarding what students should take away from the ceremony. “Number one is about giving them attention as people and then also recognizing the larger systemic issues which lead to the specific event at the Polytechnique and the ongoing violence faced by Indigenous women today.”
All campus members are invited to attend the ceremony which will take place on Dec. 6 at 12:15 pm