Twenty years ago today, Marc Lépine entered the École Polytechnique and killed fourteen women. In his suicide note, he claimed it was "Because I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker."
It took Lépine just twenty minutes to kill fourteen women: twelve engineering students, one nursing student, and one university budget clerk. He began his rampage by entering a classroom and allowing all of the men in the room to leave before shooting the then women who remained. Six of them died; a survivor, Nathalie Provost, says she tried to stop Lépine at the time by telling him that the women in the room were "not feminists," just students, though twenty years later she says her ideas of feminism have changed.
"In 1989, feminism to me was a movement of women fighting to make sure women had the same rights as men," she tells the Globe and Mail, "But as a woman, I never felt I needed to struggle; I believed doors were wide open for me. I used to see feminism as a conflict between men and women, but it's not that for me now. ... It's making sure women have an equal chance." Provost also tells The Star that "I realized many years later that in my life and actions, of course I was a feminist. I was a woman studying engineering and I held my head up."
As a result of the massacre, the Canadian parliament declared December 6 to be the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, as a day for the country to reflect not only on the massacre but on the larger issue of gender-based violence and how it effects the country's women and young girls. The emphasis on focusing on the women and the larger issue of gender-based violence maybe the best way to honor the victims, as opposed to fixating on the killer: as Heidi Rathjen, who was in the building at the time of the shooting, says of Lépine, "We have given him enough publicity. Out of respect for the victims, the killer should be completely anonymous."
Rathjen, who was responsible for organizing the memorial for the victims and who has spent the better part of the last 20 years advocating for gun control, says she hopes her experiences following the massacre will leave a good example for her own daughter: "She's going to have a role model. Someone who will not take things sitting down. I dedicated a good part of my life to fight back, to trying to have something good come out of such a horrible tragedy. I suspect that's what I'll tell her. `You have to fight back and try to make the world a better place.'"
Lessons Of The Montreal Massacre [The Star]
Killer Lepine Did Not Destroy Hope At Polytechnique, Massacre Survivors Say [Canadian Press]
A Survivor Speaks [Globe And Mail]
National Day Of Remembrance And Action On Violence Against Women [Status Of Women Canada]