navigation main:
Bookmark and Share

Ideas

December 6, 1989 Montreal Massacre of 14 women

December 1, 1999

We mourn the murders of:

Genevieve Bergeron | 21
Helene Colgan | 23
Nathalie Croteau | 23
Barbara Daigneault | 22
Anne-Marie Edward | 21
Maud Haviernick | 29
Barbara Maria Klucznik | 31
Maryse Laganiere | 25
Maryse Leclair | 23
Anne-Marie Lemay | 27
Sonia Pelletier | 28
Michele Richard | 21
Annie St-Arneault | 23
Annie Turcotte | 21

On December 6, 1989, a man entered the School of Engineering at Ecole Polytechnique, University of Montreal. He went to several classrooms, saying to women, “You have no right being here.” He separated them from the men.

He then systematically murdered 14 young women. In his suicide letter he wrote:

"...I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker."

Twelve of these women were engineering students – one a grad student and instructor. The other 2 women were an administration staff worker and a health sciences student.

The Montreal Massacre was an extreme event, but not an isolated one, nor simply the act of a “madman.” More than one-half of women in Canada have been sexually assaulted; 97% of sex offenders are men. Violence against women happens when men feel they have the right to hurt and think they can get away with it. It can happen to any of us. It touches all of us.

Each of us can help change this by learning more about violence against women, how to recognize problems and how to protect ourselves. Find out what organizations in your community help girls and women and support them. Attend an event, or let us know what you’re doing on December 6, and work with others you know to set one up in the future.

more to consider

Remembering December 6 is about making links between a single event and a widespread reality. If we do not make the links, we cannot address the problem. The Montreal Massacre is a powerful example of sexism in Canadian society. Violence against women is also a global problem that was discussed at the NGO Forum on Women held in Beijing, China in 1995. Women from around the world said that violence is fundamentally related to gender inequality and that empowerment must be the long-term goal, whatever else we do in the short term.

Violence against women is never acceptable. We need always to recognize violence and name it. We need to find solutions to stop its cycle from repeating itself from generation to generation and we must do this for ourselves. December 6th reminds us that violence can strike any of us at any time, so we must form a strong alliance against violence of all kinds. What are you doing to stop violence from happening to you or to the women you love?

The Toronto Board of Education has published "Remembering December 6th", by Betsy McKelvey, as an aid for commemorating the 14 women who died in Montreal on December 6, 1989 and all women who are victims of violence. It includes ideas on what works in the classroom, and what a school can do – develop a display, create a memorial, hold an assembly, read the names, plan a campaign or fundraiser. It also includes information on girls and women in Canada, and other resources on remembering December 6th. For a copy, contact the Equity Studies Centre, Toronto Board of Education, 155 College Street, 6th Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5T 1P6, tel. (416)397-3795.

The Metro Action Committee on Public Violence Against Women and Children in Toronto has a website with resources and links to related organizations. Take a look at the Women’s Safety Audit. It tells you how to use women’s experiences to assess safety and security concerns in a specific site; it is both an educational tool and an action plan.

Speaking Out Against Violence, a National Film Board video collection that includes:
— After the Montreal Massacre, No. 9190 097, making the connection between the massacre and male violence against women.
— The Vienna Tribunal, No. 9194 093, women from around the world testify at the Global Tribunal on Violations of Women’s Human Rights during the UN World Conference on Human Rights.
Call the National Film Board at 1-800-267-7710 or send a fax marked “Attention: Speaking Out Against Violence” to 514-496-2573.

books and resources
  • The Montreal Massacre, by LOUISE MALETTE and MARIE CHALOUH, eds., translated by Marlene Wildeman. About the reaction in Quebec to the murder of the 14 women. gynergy books | 1991
  • Dating Violence: Young Women in Danger, by BARRY LEVY, ed. About violence in the lives of teenagers and young adults. Seal Press, Seattle | 1991
  • For a list of contact information for women’s centres and transition houses across Canada, contact Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres

This feature was first published on section15.ca’s predecessor site CoolWomen.

features

  • Seasonal Feature

  • December 21: winter solstice celebration

    by Pat Hacker

    ’Tis the season! Unless yours is a lunar one, you might not find it in your calendar. The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, or the beginning of winter to some, goes back to ancient times. Women who honour the cycles and rhythms of mother earth celebrate this and the Yule season with ancient symbols of rebirth and the promise of a new cycle of life. read more