Saturday, December 06, 2008

19 years ago...

On the evening of Wednesday, December 6, 1989, I was sitting in front of the TV, studying for my upcoming Christmas exams. I was in my apartment in Ottawa, directly across the street from the Perley Hospital and a stone's throw from Landsdowne Park. I was there with my 3 house mates, all in Engineering and their girlfriends.

An alert came on CBC. Knowlton Nash broke into regular programming to tell us that there had been a shooting at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal - and there were deaths. It was unclear, where it was and initial reports said the library.

Six of us turned in unison and looked at Donna, one of my housemate's girlfriends.

"Donna, I think you should call Kathy," I remember saying quietly.

Kathy was a highschool friend of Donna's from Toronto we had hung out with the previous summer. She was a student at Ecole Polytechnique. Donna tried for the next five hours, but could not get through - the phone lines were jammed.

We waited for updates throughout the evening. We stopped studying and tried to figure out what happened.

It was a long night.

In the end, Kathy had been at the library. She was safe and couldn't get to the phone because of the MUC Police lock down. In the end we found out what happened and why.

It touched me in a number of ways. For the first time, my typcially conservative engineering roomates were drawn together with the lefty, liberal housemate and their girlfriends on a political issue. The 14 died because they were women and they were something of a rarity in 1989 - women in an Engineering Faculty.

We all attended the candlelight vigil the next evening.

I was angered more deeply because I am a survivor of violence against women - my mother was battered by my biological father when I was a child. He was a police officer at the time. And he used to get my brother and I up to watch him beat the shit out of my mother.

To hear the words of hatred in that suicide note, to learn why he separated out the men and let them go but kept the women, brought that all back.

I have worn a white ribbon every year for 19 years. Some years, it was a white scarf.

I am now a father of a daughter and I have vowed that she will never grow up in a society that allows what happened to me to be common or to create the killer of December 6. I will make her strong so that no one will abuse her.

And I will never mention the killer of December 6. He deserves not notoriety, nor mess dinners in his honour. He deserves to have his name forgotten, to be removed from our lexicon and from our history. Not his deeds or his self-profressed reason for doing them, but him.

Rather than him, we should be remembering these women:

  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student.
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student.
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student.
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student.
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student.
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student.
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department.
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student.
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student.
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student.
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student.
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student.
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student.
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student.
Never let this happen again.

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At 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An amazing post. Thank you. I also decided not to mention his name in my post.

At 10:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very touching post. Those women murdered, all of my generation, the generation between the boomers and their kids, making a huge shift in our thinking, our ideas of who does what in our society, those women all murdered. Too tragic. Yes, we must always remember! I have taken it upon myself to memorize their names so that next year I can key them in without copying and pasting from another website.

I deliberately left his name out of my post, too, though it is in the links to CBC and NFB.

At 12:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outstanding, Mike. Thank you.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger kristin said...

Really appreciate your post. It is an event that we need to remember. I was at U of T at the time and about the same age as many of the victims so you could definitely say it was a formative event for me. Your own story reminds us too that it is also a time to think of individual women who were never part of a sensational news story but who fell victim to violence at the hands of men that thought they had that right. And not just to remember but to talk about it so it stops. Always good blogs from you.

At 8:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I will never mention the killer of December 6. He deserves not notoriety, nor mess dinners in his honour. He deserves to have his name forgotten, to be removed from our lexicon and from our history. Not his deeds or his self-profressed reason for doing them, but him.

*****Standing and applauding******

reposted it because it deserved to be reposted....

At 10:27 AM, Blogger Rev.Paperboy said...

here, here, well said sir. The thing that committed this horrific crime against humanity deserves to be erased.

At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I can't help but agree with the concensus that this was a very touching post, and well appreciated for someone like me who does not remember the event, being a young child at the time.

However, I'd like to raise an issue of contention with a point you seem to be making here, and the point that is so often made regarding the Ecole Polytechnique 14 incident.

As this is obviously quite emotional for many, I'd appreciate your permission ahead of time to raise the issue, which some may find disrespectful (although I don't consider it to be). If in your judgment you think it would be best to just leave it alone for the time being, I will happily do so.


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