December 5, 2014

Then and Now: Remembering the Montreal Massacre

December 6th 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre at l’Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal. On December 6, 1989, Mark Lepine, armed with a gun, entered an engineering class at the Montréal University and forced all the men in the classroom to leave. He shot the 14 women in the classroom, finishing by killing himself.

December 6th has since then been established as the National Day of Remembrance & Action on Violence Against Women. The day not only commemorates the lives of those who were killed, but also reminds us to take time to acknowledge acts of gender based violence in the past as well as the present.

Death by feminism:
As the gunman singled out the women in the classroom, he accused them of being feminists due to the fact that they chose to pursue engineering degrees. He shouted “you are all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!” He then proceeded to open fire. In his suicide note, he identified well known Canadian feminists he who hoped to see dead. Several of the women probably weren’t even feminists. Quebec journalist and feminist states that “they just had the nerve to believe they were peers, not subordinates to their male classmates.” But so what if they were feminists? Shouldn’t women have the right to mobilize and express their desire for equal rights in our society?  

25 years later, feminism has come a long way. The development of many types of feminism has created space for the diversity of women in our society, as well as their allies. While feminism has made great strides, it remains under threat of misogyny.  For instance, on October 14, 2014, Anita Sarkeesian, a popular feminist gamer had to cancel a talk she was scheduled to give at Utah State University after the school received several, legitimate threats to kill Sarkeesian and other feminists who planned to attend the event.

An email was sent to students and staff at the Utah University hailing Mark Lepine as a hero “for standing up to the toxic influence of feminism on Western masculinity.” The email promised that the “deadliest school shooting in American history” was about to take place and that the plan was to attack Sarkeesian, the feminists in attendance, as well as the campus women’s centre. The University refused to provide the necessary action to prevent concealed firearms at the event and Sarkeesian was forced to cancel.

Marc Lepine murdered 14 women in 1989 who dared to enter male dominated spaces. It is 2014 and women are STILL receiving death threats for doing the exact same thing.

As December 6 has become the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, it is a day to commemorate all women who have endured violence, including the women who were taken from the Downtown Eastside and murdered by Robert Pickton. It’s been almost seven years since Pickton was convicted for the horrific murders of six sex-workers, and charged for the death of twenty others. December 6 is a day for the women who lost their lives in the Montréal Massacre, but it is also a day to memorialize sex-workers who have faced discriminate violence.

With this said, it’s depressingly ironic that Bill C-36, Canada’s contentious new prostitution bill, will pass as federal law on December 6. On a day where we should be taking action to making women safer in our society, a bill is coming into full force that will act to restrict sex-workers ability to perform their job safely. 

In relation to the Montréal Massacre, Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay was quoted earlier this week stating “while we may never understand what occurred – why this happened, why these women were singled out for this horrific act of violence, we have to stand together.” Excuse me? The women murdered on December 6, 1989 were singled out because they were women; Mark Lepine made that very clear before proceeding to end their lives.

A quarter of a century later and little has changed. Violence against queer women, racialized women, Aboriginal women, trans* women, disabled women, and women working in the sex industry remains all too common. Murder, domestic violence, sexual assault, and street harassment still put women’s safety at risk each and every day. It’s 2014, and misogyny proves to be alive and well. 

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