The anniversary!

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An anniversary is defined as an annual recurring date. It is generally a jovial celebration to remember a special past event. Not always! This year, December 6th will mark the 20th anniversary of the tragic murder at Montreal’s École Polytechnique.

After separating male students from females, Marc Lepine fired on the women, assassinating 14 and wounding 13 others before killing himself. The reason for their murder—because they were women. How devastating! These bright young women, most in their early twenties, at the brink of their potential—to be no more: Geneviève Bergeron, 21; Hélène Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, 31; Maryse Laganière, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 27; Sonia Pelletier, 23; Michèle Richard, 21; Annie St-Arneault, 23; Annie Turcotte, 21.

In 1991 the date Dec. 6 became designated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. The YWCA launched a Rose Button Campaign. Canada’s gun laws were strengthened, driven by the efforts of the Coalition for Gun Control. In 1995, the Canadian Firearms Act was passed; the Canadian Firearms Program, now administrated by the RCMP, requires the registration of all guns in Canada. (Parliament is currently reviewing a Bill to amend the Firearms Act.) In 2008, Denis Villeneuve launched his black and white film Polytechnique: “This film should be seen because it is dedicated to the loving memory of 14 women who died in their prime and who deserve that we mourn them, that we honour them and that we suffer with them....” Nathalie Petrowski, La Presse.

For years following the Montreal massacre, the university co-op students who came to work with me would take charge of a noon-hour program to commemorate the anniversary. We worked in family violence prevention. We knew what the issue was about, and yet, each time the names were read, we were drawn into the horror, seeing the adversity through the eyes of young women who were the same age. They had a chance to grow older. Those who died in Montreal, did not.

Let us wear a white or purple ribbon on Dec. 6. And let us observe a minute of silence as our commitment to help end violence against women.

Organizations: École Polytechnique, YWCA, Coalition for Gun Control RCMP La Presse

Geographic location: Montreal, Canada

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