A flyer prepared for the Nellie Langford Rowell Library.

Nellie Langford Rowell Women's Studies Library

Day of Remembrance: December 6

Background

On December 6, 1989, at the École Polytechnique of the Université de Montréal, 14 young women engineering students were shot to death by a man who singled out women students to kill, ordering the men present to leave, and screaming that he hated "feminists." The murderer then shot himself and left a letter claiming that women had ruined his life and blocked his entry into the engineering school. (1987/88 figures showed women comprising well under 20% of engineering students.)

Women's groups across the country organized vigils, marches, and memorials. These, and the accompanying analyses, resulted in increased support for educational programs and resources to reduce violence against women, with both federal and provincial governments making some commitment. In 1991, the Canadian government proclaimed December 6 a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Male violence is most often directed against women and children. Women are now as likely as men to be the victims of violent crime - with the difference that, for women, the attacker is most often someone they know. In addition, a 1993 Statistics Canada report showed that over 50% of women report having been assaulted or sexually assaulted by men at least once. In 1991/92, over 78,000 women and children took refuge in shelters.

Significance

Against claims that the gunman was an isolated madman, feminists focused on the more routine domestic and public violence committed by men against women, placing this incident at the extreme end of a continuum of violence - both psychological and physical damage - faced by all women. Male violence has always been a feature of women's lives. Reported incidents increase each year, and many women feel that this reflects increasing male violence stemming from hostility towards the changing role of women in our society. The "Montreal Massacre" has become a symbol of the brutal lengths to which opposition to the changes in women's lives may go.

Feminists know too that the campaign to end violence against women is not a substitute for the more extensive structural and attitudinal changes which are needed. An end to violence is an integral part of the movement to end sexism, bring equality, and work towards women's liberation. December 6 is a feminist day of mourning that both recognizes the danger and pain women face and emphasizes the work we must continue to do in order to put an end to male violence.

In memory of: Anne-Marie Edward, Anne-Marie Lemay, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Daigneault, Barbara Maria Klueznick, Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Michèle Richard, Nathalie Croteau, Sonia Pelletier.


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