Guelph Remembers; The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Written by Caroline Elworthy

This Saturday, December 6th marks the 25th year of remembrance for the horrendous acts of violence which killed 14 innocent women at the L’Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. In an act of solidarity and remembrance with the rest of Canada, the University of Guelph will hold a remembrance display and candlelight vigil at 5pm in the University Centre Courtyard at 5pm this coming Friday, December 5.

On December 6th, 1989, twenty five year old Marc Lepine marched into the Montreal University in broad daylight with a legally obtained Mini-14 rifle where he shot twenty eight people before turning the gun on himself. Upon entering into a classroom at the University, Lepine was reported to have separated the males from females, and before opening fire on female engineering students he yelled in a fit of sexist rage screamed “I hate feminists”.The horrendous acts of violence on December 6th, 1989 have stirred a outpouring of grief which quickly solidified into rage about all the acts of violence against women.

Lepine was a Ecole Polytechnique student who had attempted to study engineering but had not reached the entrance qualifications to be accepted into the program. When the events of December 6th were unfolding, police forces were stationed outside the perimeter of the building, yet did not enter until 24 seconds after Lepine had shot himself and ended the violence himself. Speculations that police could have done more to attempt to control the situation have been made.

Now, 25 years later a group of survivors, staff and students from L’Ecole Polytechnique are demanding greater gun control regulations in Canada. Their main target is Bill C-42 which was put forward by the Conservatives to simplify the act of obtaining a gun-licences process for legal gun owners. However, the bill has seemed to be temporally dropped as it was scheduled to be debated the day the Michael Zehaf-Bibeau stormed Parliament, killing Nathan Cirillo by the National War Memorial and sending our nation into shock and a deep sense of reflection on what kind of nation we pride ourselves for being.

A worry has been voiced by Liberal-party leader Justin Treadeau that Bill C-42 will lead to lax gun control regulations and cause a steep increase in gun-related violence.

The L'Ecole Polytechnique massacre  led to greater gun control in Canada, as survivors from the shooting organized the advocacy group Coalition for Gun Control which helped to pass the Friearms Act in 1989 which led to stricter gun control. Heidi Rathjen, who narrowly escaped death by hiding in a room Lepine did not enter, went onto become a gun control activist. Many survivors actively protested Stephen Harpers abolishment of the long-gun registry which was narrowly obliterated in 2012 much to the disappointment of gun control activists.

The events of December 6th, 1989 stirred the Canadian women’s movement, which eventually resulted in a number of government policies and plans to reduce the systematic violence against women. The National Action Plan, which was comprised of an Equality Action Plan and a Zero Tolerance Policy were created to begin to combat the violence and lack of equality for women within Canadian society.

Today, December 6th has been named the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Guelph will do it’s part in remembering and recognizing the victims of Ecole Polytechnique by holding a vigil at the School of Engineering’s Thornburgh Atrium on Friday, December 5th at 1:45pm.  Additionally a vigil display will be held in the University Centre Courtyard on Saturday December 6th, followed by an outdoor candlelight Vigil and campus community reflection at 5pm . 

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