Remembering the Montreal Massacre

White Ribbon Campaign aims to raise awareness regarding violence against women

The Montreal Massacre is commemorated each year on Dec. 6.
The Montreal Massacre is commemorated each year on Dec. 6.
Ahmed Kayssi
Ahmed Kayssi

Shortly after 5 p.m. on Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lépine entered a mechanical engineering class at École Polytechnique de Montréal, forced the men out of the building at gunpoint and proceeded to open fire on the women.

Before killing himself, he killed 14 women—Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Maria Klucznik, Maryse Leclair, Annie St.-Arneault, Michèle Richard, Maryse Laganière, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier and
Annie Turcotte.

Canadians commemorate the Montreal Massacre every Dec. 6 with a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The day is marked by vigils, remembrance ceremonies and
discussion workshops.

Violence against women is an ancient phenomenon that still haunts our world. According to, the term “Rule of Thumb” comes from a 1767 English common
law that permitted a husband to “chastise his wife with a whip or rattan no wider than his thumb.”

There are also laudatory references to wife-beating in Greek and Roman mythologies.

Even today, many Canadian women are still the victims of violence. According to Health Canada, one million Canadian women are battered every year. One in four of those crimes are committed by a current or former partner. Most disturbingly, violence within intimate relationships accounts for 38 per cent of Canadian women murdered every year.

Dr. Megan Gerber of Harvard Medical School said there is still a “blame the victim” mentality pervasive in our society. Gerber, who specializes in intimate partner violence, said the training of police and judges on issues pertaining to violence against women has improved over the past decade, but pop culture and certain music genres still glorify such violence in a romantic context.

According to Gerber, rates of lifetime domestic violence against women are very similar in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Canada. Although Canada has a national healthcare system and less community violence than the U.S., the rate of partner violence is comparable, suggesting that complex societal issues are at work. And this violence is not limited to certain segments of society like
the less educated or underprivileged social classes.

Margot Coulter, an advisor at the Queen’s Human Rights Office, said violence against women is still an issue in every workplace and academic setting—including universities. Coulter’s office sees 40 to 50 cases of sexual harassment every year, involving varying amounts of violence. Statistics can be misleading, though—Coulter estimates that 95 per cent of sexual harassment incidents that occur are never reported.

Queen’s Campus Security director David Patterson agrees.

Of 68,943 incidents reported to Campus Security between 1998 until the end of 2005, 16 were sexual offences. But Patterson said many victims go directly to the police, so the actual number may be higher. So what can we do to oppose violence against women?

Andréa Stanger, chair of the AMS Women’s Issues Committee, said men and women need to work together to address this pervasive and complex challenge. Among many other things, her group organizes an annual White Ribbon Campaign to raise awareness among Queen’s students on issues pertaining to violence against women.

Stanger says that such initiatives are valuable because they promote dialogue on topics that are often
difficult to discuss, such as the place of women and men in society and how the two groups should relate to one another. Tragically, there will always be men who will commit acts of violence against women because they want power and control, often over their partners, or they believe in resolving conflicts through violent means. Regardless, we have a collective responsibility to limit this abuse and support its victims.

We can start by taking our personal safety more seriously. If you need to get back home after a late night on campus or out on the town, call Walkhome. As a student, you’ve already paid for the service
with your student fees, and you get the added bonus of interacting with some of the friendliest students
at Queen’s.

If Walkhome is closed, call Campus Security and they can escort you home.

Moreover, if your idea of a good time is to drink yourself into a stupor, at least make sure you’re surrounded by responsible friends to take care of you. According to Campus Security, the use of
date rape drugs in Kingston is on the rise, so be careful who you’re around when you’re out partying.
We are lucky to live in a society that permits personal freedom and choice, but with that also comes a
responsibility to protect ourselves and those whom we love. We can do that by trusting our instincts
when we go out and refusing to be silent about violence in any shape or form.

This much, at least, we owe to the victims of the Montreal Massacre.

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