“Twenty-nine years later, and we are still committed to keeping their memory alive” This was the sentiment spoken by Michelle Felix, Assistant to MP Gudie Hutchings in reflection of the massacre that happened on December 6, 1989 at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec. In her delivery of a letter sent by MP Gudie Hutchings, MP Hutchings pledged to continue working towards a future where “gender-based violence must not be tolerated in this country.”
December 6 is a day in Canadian history that is not remembered as a great one, or one that provokes happy thoughts. Instead it is filled with grief, heartache and sorrow. It is on this day 29 years ago that 14 women, strong, independent and intelligent, were targeted, shot down and killed simply because they were women.
During a candlelight vigil held at LA Bown in Stephenville on December 6, Bernice Hancock, co-chair of the BSG Status of Womens Council, recounted that fateful day’s events.
“Marc Lépine, a lone gunman, ran through the hallways and entered a classroom on the first floor. He separated the men and the women and asked the men to leave the room. He shot the women. He then proceeded through the school, specifically targeting women. Within fifteen minutes, he had murdered 14 women and injured thirteen other students. He carried a note stating that he blamed women for all the problems in his life and in society as a whole.”
She recalled as a young mother of a son, how Lepine’s mother must be tormented and the sorrow she must have felt knowing that her child, her son, committed such a violent act then took his own life. Ms. Hancock spoke of her own commitment and vow to raise her son “to be a strong, caring, kind man who would see women as equal and respect them.”
Since 1989, the BSG Status of Womens Council, the College of the North Atlantic, in partnership with the BSG Coalition to End Violence invite community members and students to gather in memory and remembrance of these 14 young women and the hundreds of aboriginal women who are either missing, or murdered because of their gender and/or ethnicity.
Raw emotions were visible as the names of each of the 14 are read aloud with a description of their all-too-soon ended lives. Roses were laid in their honour and candles lit offering light to come from the darkness.
Words of encouragement and hope were offered by Sharon Williston, Executive Director of the Newfoundland Aborginal Women’s Network.
“Take a look around here today. Many stay in unhealthy relationships because we don’t think we are worth it. We don’t hold value in our lives, but look around. These are people who care…care for you. If you need help. If you need to speak to someone, look around, these are people who can and will help you. You are not alone!”
Executive Director, Janice Kennedy brought words of empowerment and offered 14 acts of action that each individual can choose to do to help change this world in which gender-based violence is still apparent.
Following the vigil, BSGSWC board member, and previous recipient, Brenda Dennis awarded the Stephanie Cormier Chassion Leadership award to 2nd year Community Studies student, Lenny Tiller for his outstanding leadership qualities and commitment to the college and the community at large.
In concluding the event, Ms. Hancock invited everyone to remember today, to remember these women “and to go forward in this world and make it a better place. Be the change you want to see in the world.”