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Dalhousie Women in Engineering Society Held December 6th, 2018 Memorial

Posted by Engineering Communications on December 19, 2018 in News
Fourteen white roses laid at base of Tree of Hope memorial plaque.
Fourteen white roses laid at base of Tree of Hope memorial plaque.

December 6th, and the memory of the École Polytechnique massacre, hold particular significance for engineers and engineering students. This year, the Dalhousie Women in Engineering Society organized a memorial service led by Lauren Boudreau, a 5th-year environmental engineering student.

Students and faculty gathered in the Design Commons of the Richard Murray Design Building, where 14 white roses and 14 candles were arranged on a table. Above, a projector displayed the class pictures of the 14 young women who lost their lives in the massacre.

The primary focus of Lauren’s remarks was the women themselves. With brief snippets of biography, she reminded those in attendance that, before they were victims, these 14 women were friends, athletes, performers, artists, hobbyists, and, of course, future engineers, who planned to apply their education to the betterment of society: defining these women not by how they died, but by who they were and could have been.

As Lauren turned to the events of December 6, 1989, she emphasized the terroristic nature of the killings; that the attack was “not only against the 14 victims, but against the idea of feminism—against the idea that men and women should have equal rights.”

Discussing the career of Natalie Provost, a survivor of the shooting who went on to a successful career in engineering, Lauren showed that the massacre could never hope to achieve its political goal: women were, are, and will continue to be vital members of the profession of engineering.

At this point, Lauren was joined on stage by 14 other young women from the engineering program, who each took their place standing in front of one of the 14 candles, and her speech reached its climactic exhortation:

“As women in engineering, we are the survivors of December 6th. We willingly accept a responsibility to pass the torch: to empower and encourage young women to persevere through life’s challenges and pursue their own passions and dreams.”

Returning to the memory of the 14 women, Lauren read the list of their names. As each name was spoken aloud, the 14 candles were extinguished, one by one.

The memorial concluded with a procession from the Design Commons to the memorial Tree of Hope, where the 14 white roses were laid around the plaque that bears their names.

Hélène Colgan

Barbara Daigneault

Sonia Pelletier

Maryse Laganière

Anne-Marie Lemay

Maud Haviernick

Anne St-Arneault

Barbara Klucnik-Widajewicz

Natalie Croteau

Michèle Richard

Geneviève Bergeron

Anne-Marie Edward

Annie Turcotte

Maryse Leclair


The full text of Lauren’s memorial speech follows.

Hélène Colgan was best friends with Natalie Croteau. She had three job offers and was planning to accept one in Toronto.

Barbara Daigneault was a teaching assistant for her father and was about to complete a final project two days after the shooting.

Sonia Pelletier was described as a student who worked hard to obtain her degree. She planned on returning to her small town on the Gaspé Peninsula to start her own engineering firm.

Maryse Laganière was working in the Financial services Department. She was married two months before her death, and her husband continues to advocate for gun laws to ensure that her death was not in vain.

Anne-Marie Lemay sang in a rock band and was organizing graduation festivities.

Maud Haviernick was described as having an energetic personality. She had already earned a degree in environmental design but dreamed of becoming an engineer.

Annie St- Arneault had a job interview scheduled for the following day. She had a keen interest in ecology and competed provincially in 4-H Club.

Barbara Klucnik-Widajewicz was a first-year nursing student who had moved to Canada from Poland in 1987, believing it was the safest place in the world. Her husband was a physician earning his Canadian qualifications to practice. He never remarried.

Natalie Croteau was planning a grad trip to Cancun, Mexico with Helene Colgan. A community center in her hometown was named in her memory.

Michèle Richard was giving a presentation with her classmate Maud Haviernick at the time of the shooting. She is described as a best friend and confidante.

Geneviève Bergeron, a 2nd-year civil student, sang in a choir, swam, and played basketball. Her sister described her as a giggler.

Anne-Marie Edward was always surrounded by friends, and she loved the outdoors. At École Polytechnique, she immediately tried out for the school’s ski team. She was buried with her ski team jacket. After her death, her team wore patches with her initials on their sleeves

Annie Turcotte entered engineering with the dream of improving the environment. She was described as gentle and athletic, and she could bake just as well as she could repair cars.

Maryse Leclair was one of the top students in the school. She was the first victim whose name was made public. Her father, a Montreal police officer, was at the scene that night, unaware that she was among the victims until he found her body lying next to the gunman’s. He recognized her sweater, which she had bought for Christmas and worn to Sunday dinner the week before.

December 6th, 1989 is still known as the day of the deadliest mass murder in Canadian history; an event that remains North America’s worst gendercide. The attack was not only against the 14 victims but against the idea of feminism—against the very idea that men and women should have equal rights. As Natalie Provost said to the shooter before he open fire “We are not feminists; we are here to study engineering.”

Natalie Provost was shot 4 times, after having been separated from her male classmates. She survived the shooting and went on to complete her degree and work as an engineer at a consulting firm just outside of Montreal. In hospital, shortly after the shootings, Natalie spoke on national television saying, “I ask every woman who wants to be an engineer, to keep this in her mind.”

As women in engineering, we are the survivors of December 6th.  We willingly accept a responsibility to pass the torch: to empower and encourage young women to persevere through life’s challenges and pursue their own passions and dreams.

Hélène Colgan. Barbara Daigneault. Sonia Pelletier. Maryse Laganière. Anne-Marie Lemay. Maud Haviernick. Anne St-Arneault. Barbara Klucnik-Widajewicz. Natalie Croteau. Michèle Richard. Geneviève Bergeron. Anne-Marie Edward. Annie Turcotte. Maryse Leclair. [As their names were spoken, fourteen candles arranged on a table were extinguished, one by one.]

We will now observe a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims.

I would now like to invite those who are willing and able to join us in a procession to the Tree of Hope.  A rose for each victim will be placed at the memorial as a symbol of remembrance. Thank you for enabling the victim’s legacies to survive through your presence here this evening and for your commitment to ending violence against women.