Remembering tragedy, celebrating action: Dal marks December 6

Women in Engineering Society hosts vigil for National Day of Remembrance

- December 6, 2016

Dalhousie Women in Engineering president Peggy Boyd, centre, stands with fellow students Caroline Forbes, left, and Ashley Drodge under the Dec. 6 memorial "tree of hope" on Sexton Campus. (Matt Reeder photo)
Dalhousie Women in Engineering president Peggy Boyd, centre, stands with fellow students Caroline Forbes, left, and Ashley Drodge under the Dec. 6 memorial "tree of hope" on Sexton Campus. (Matt Reeder photo)

December 6 marks the 27th anniversary of one of the most extreme acts of violence towards women in Canadian History: the Polytechnique tragedy.

On December 6, 1989, 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montreal were killed in a hate crime against women. The shooter claimed to be “fighting feminism” by targeting females studying to be engineers.

In commemoration of the women who were murdered, the anniversary has been named the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The day acknowledges what happened 27 years ago and recognizes that although nearly three decades have passed, the discrimination behind it still plagues society today.

Reflecting on gender-based violence

The Dalhousie Women in Engineering Society (WiE) will be hosting a memorial to commemorate the victims of the massacre and encourage discussion on current-day incidents of gender-based violence.

Tuesday’s event kicks off at 7 p.m. in Building B310 on Dal’s Sexton Campus with a candle-lighting ceremony for the victims. Speakers will include Verona Singer from Halifax Regional Police (supervisor of the Victim Service Unit) and Kristina Fifield from Bryony House (a shelter in support of women who have suffered partner violence and abuse). To end, participants will lay roses beneath the Montreal memorial tree located nearby on campus.

WiE president Peggy Boyd urges students and community members alike to come out to acknowledge the gender-based violence still happening today.

“When this event occurred, it was seen as an extreme representation of the violence that many women faced on a daily basis” says Boyd. “Since the event was so extreme, much of the public was not able to draw a connection between the event and the day-to-day violence that many women face due to their gender. Students should recognize that the events from 27 years ago are still represented in the actions and mindsets present in society today.”

Shining a light

Extreme events like the École Polytechnique tragedy garner significant media attention, but the majority of the violence women experience is not public.

“Until one comes face-to-face with proof that violence against women exists, it is far too easy to ignore it and to believe that you have nothing to do with it,” says Boyd.

“In order to help change society’s outlook on these issues, both those who are not currently aware of the violence that women face and those who face gender-based violence need to be provided with the knowledge and resources to combat the issue.”

The anniversary of the tragedy falls within Dal’s campaign for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which began on November 25 and runs until International Human Rights Day on December 10. With nearly 20 events organized across campus, the campaign aims to increase conversation surrounding gender-based violence, and give students the resources needed to combat it.

More info: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

École Polytechnique victims

The following are the 14 women who were murdered at École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989:

  • Geneviève Bergeron, civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan, mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau, mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault, mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward, chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick, materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière, budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
  • Maryse Leclair, materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay, mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier, mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard, materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault, mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte, materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, nursing student


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