It was Wednesday, December 6, 1989.
Late in the afternoon at the École Polytechnique – Université de Montréal‘s engineering school – a man with a stanch hatred for feminists entered a classroom.
According to reports, two female students were presenting in front of the class. The men and women were told to separate. Fifty men on one-side, nine women on the other. All of the women were shot, leaving six murdered. Eight more women would be murdered in the university hallways and cafeteria.
By the end, 14 women were murdered, solely because they were women.
Later, 19 other feminists – not affiliated with l’École Polytechnique – would learn they were on the murderer’s list.
At the time, the Montreal massacre was called a “tragic event.” After 30 years, the Montreal massacre is deemed an anti-feminist attack. These 14 women were targeted because they were women. Four men were unintentionally injured. There were reports of the murderer walking passed men in the hallways, almost through them.
As a preteen, I watched the coverage of the Montreal massacre unfold. Over and over, journalists repeated the murderer’s name. Stating that he hated feminists. How he believed women shouldn’t be in “male occupations.” Stating he killed himself. Where he killed himself. Why he killed himself.
Meanwhile, the focus should’ve been on the 14 women. There’s a reason #ForgottenFourteen is trending on Twitter.
The women who lost their lives were between 20 and 31 years old. At 20 years old, first-year materials engineering student, Annie Turcotte, was the youngest victim. Turcotte, a straight “A” student, with a passion for the environment and recycling. Second-year nursing student, Barbara Maria Klucznik was 31 years old. An engineer in her homeland of Poland, she wanted a career change. In 1987, Klucznik and her husband moved to Canada because it seemed like “the safest place in the world.” They were eating dinner in the cafeteria at the time Klucznik was murdered.
Sonia Pelletier, 28, was in her final class – set to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree the next day. Her degree was presented posthumously.
Best friends, Hélène Colgan and Nathalie Croteau, both 23 and final-year mechanical engineering students were in that group of nine women, huddled together on the classroom floor. Colgan was planning to pursue her Master’s while Croteau was planning a vacation during Christmas break with friends and Colgan.
Thirteen students were robbed of their convocations. Twelve would-be engineers didn’t participate in the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and receive their Iron Rings. Klucznik didn’t have a chance to complete her practicum and build a better life in Canada.
And the fourteenth women wasn’t a student.
Maryse Laganière, 25, a budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department. Laganière was preparing to leave. Most heartbreaking: her husband was waiting outside to take Laganière home while chaos ensued around him.
In 1991, a bill was passed in Parliament to proclaim December 6th the National Day of Remembrance and Violent Action Against Women. The bill honours the 14 women murdered at l’École Polytechnique – and other women who lost their lives to domestic violence.
It’s 30 years since the Montreal massacre.
The least we can do is remember them.
- Geneviève Bergeron, 21, a second-year civil engineering, attending on a scholarship;
- Hélène Colgan, 23, a mechanical engineering student in her final year who planned to take her Master’s degree;
- Nathalie Croteau, 23, a mechanical engineering student in her final year;
- Barbara Daigneault, 22, a mechanical engineering student in her final year who was teaching assistant;
- Anne-Marie Edward, 21, a first-year chemical engineering student;
- Maud Haviernick, 29, a second-year student in materials engineering – a branch of metallurgy. Maud already graduated from environmental design;
- Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, a second-year nursing student;
- Maryse Laganière, 25, a budget clerk for the École Polytechnique’s finance department;
- Maryse Leclair, 23, a fourth-year materials engineering student;
- Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student;
- Sonia Pelletier, 28, who was in her final class before she was to graduate the next day from mechanical engineering;
- Michèle Richard, 21, a second-year materials engineering student;
- Annie St-Arneault, 23, a mechanical engineering student in her final year;
- Annie Turcotte, 20, a first-year materials engineering student.