For 24 years, December 6 has marked the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The federal government legislated the day in 1991 to commemorate an incident that’s come to be known as the Montréal Massacre.
On Dec. 6, 1989, a lone gunman began shooting inside the Université de Montréal’s École Polytechnique. He separated men from women, and killed 14 females while injuring another 13 other students and staff.
“Before he opened fire, (he) shouted: ‘You’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!’” according to an article in The Guardian.
This year, the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) and the UWSA Women-Trans Spectrum Centre (WTSC) are holding a memorial to remember the 14 women killed during the Montréal Massacre. Marieke Gruwel, the WTSC coordinator, says their memory should live on.
“I think it’s easy for us to go about our lives and not pay attention to the gender-based violence that exists on our campuses and in our communities. This is the moment and a time when we can all come together,” Gruwel says.
“It’s a community event so it’s open to everyone and we can come together and we can stand in solidarity with those who have experienced gender-based violence. And we can remember the lives that we lost as a result of gender-based violence.”
Laura Garinger, a member of the WTSC and the Canadian Federation of Students - Manitoba’s women’s commissioner, has been involved in commemorating the Montréal Massacre for several years and says the incident strikes an emotional chord with her.
“We don’t want to forget these women. Many of them were born the same year that my mom was born, so it really touched me that this was happening A, within living memory and B, (because) it could have been my mom… like I might not have been here. It made me very emotional to think about,” Garinger says.
The Montréal Massacre memorial is held not only to remind us about the past, but also to help us critically look at the present.
“Twenty-six years is not that long ago and school shootings still happen around the world today. There is so much violence and a lot of it is gender-based violence, so remembering the women whose lives were lost as a result of this violence is important because it reminds folks that we have so much work to do still,” Gruwel says.