On the 34th anniversary of a mass shooting that saw 14 women murdered at a Montreal university by an anti-feminist gunman, women in Manitoba say it’s important for Canadians to remember what happened and to commemorate the names of the victims.
Known as the Montreal Massacre, most of the young victims of the Dec. 6, 1989, shooting at École Polytechnique de Montréal were engineering students.
Makenna Coldwell, co-president of the Women of Manitoba Engineers Network, said the fact that the victims were just attending school with the goal of becoming engineers hits close to home.
“For me, as a student, it was really hard to find out about this happening,” Coldwell told Global Winnipeg. “It was very emotional.
“As a woman in engineering, I know that it could have been me if I was there 34 years ago and chose to go to that school. It could’ve been me and my classmates.”
“In engineering specifically, it’s a very male-dominated field. This was an actual femicide. … Things like these don’t happen every year, but women still experience discrimination, which is why we have to keep remembering what happened and encouraging people not to pursue things like this again.”
The University of Manitoba holds a vigil for the victims — Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz — each year.
Coldwell, who was set to read the names at this year’s event Wednesday morning, said it’s important to reflect on the events of 1989, but also to let women know in 2023 that they can be safe while attending school.
“Women are needed to give diverse perspectives as engineers, just like every other minority in engineering,” she said.
“(We’re) letting everyone know there is a safe space in engineering for us and (for) everyone.”
Growing calls around gender-based violence in Manitoba highlighting need
Local advocates say cases of gender-based violence are becoming more complex.
Tsunvig Muvingi with the Manitoba Association of Women’s Shelters told 680 CJOB’s The Start that shelters in the province are constantly at or over capacity.
“Since the pandemic, we’re also seeing situations and traumas that include addictions, mental health, and homelessness due to the housing crisis,” Muvingi said.
“So, for example, a person who’d be experiencing intimate partner violence, if they had nowhere to go in trying to leave the situation, they’d be less likely to leave their abusive partner and end up staying in a dangerous situation.”
Muvingi said before the pandemic, the average time a woman would stay in a shelter was about one to two weeks, and now it’s two to three months.
“Where we’re meant to be an immediate emergency shelter and solution, we’re tending to go quite a bit past that now.”
In a statement Wednesday morning, Manitoba’s minister for gender equality, Nahanni Fontaine, said the type of misogynist attitude that fueled the massacre 34 years ago can sadly still be found today, right here in Canada.
“Earlier this year, a man entered a gender studies class at the University of Waterloo and stabbed two students and a female instructor,” Fontaine said.
“Just last month, a man in Ontario received a life sentence for the incel-inspired murder of 24-year-old Ashley Arzaga in 2020, which was also ruled an act of terrorism.
“There is a clear link between misogyny and white supremacy, racism, anti-2SLGBTQIA+ rhetoric, online hate and other forms of gender-based violence.”
Fontaine said flags will be flown at half-mast Wednesday on all provincial buildings in recognition of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and a public memorial ceremony will be held at Red River College Polytechnic’s Manitou A Bi Bii Daziigae building on Elgin Avenue at 5:30 p.m.
Domestic violence concerns continue in Manitoba
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