On December 6th 1989, Marc Lepine entered Montreal’s École Polytechnique and opened fire on its students.
He was targeting one group—women.
The violence began as he divided a classroom into women and men. Forcing the men to leave, he shouted, “I hate feminists,” and shot each of the nine women in the room, killing six of them before continuing his attack. The suicide note found in Lepine’s pocket clearly indicated the reasons for his attack: “Because I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker.”
Twenty-eight people were shot that day—four of them men—and 14 of the women lost their lives.
Lepine ended the rampage by taking his own life.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of what has come to be known as the Montreal Massacre. Since 1991, Canada has declared December 6th the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
There has been a lot of speculation about why Marc Lepine took out his frustrations in such a violent and horrific way. Was it his brutal upbringing with a controlling, abusive father? The fact that he was taken away from his mother? Severe and untreated mental illness?
What we know for sure is on that day 25 years ago, Lepine sought to brutally murder women.
The day after the massacre, CBC correspondent Michael Enright interviewed Professor Elliot Layton, an expert on the psychology of mass killings. “Once you adopt a belief, once you embrace an ideology, however lunatic it may appear from the outside, you then begin to perceive everything in terms of that belief or ideology,” said Layton. “Rather than making the world confusing or incomprehensible, it does the opposite.”
Lepine had adopted a belief that made feminism—and women in particular—the enemy. He then acted accordingly. This kind of “lunatic ideology” is a subtle force in society, surging upward in waves that crash upon us, wreaking havoc.
The hopeful part is that each breaking wave edges open the discussion on just how pervasive violence against women is. Conversations can be had between people—individuals as well as on larger scales—that expand awareness on what steps need to be taken toward a world of safety for all people.
One step was taken this week in Canada. A victim of sexual assault was awarded damages of $1.5 million dollars in a civil suit after her aggressor had also been found guilty in a criminal case. Seeing the legal system respond in favour of women who have been assault strengthens the daily toil of all women everywhere. And it’s not the only recent case.
Canada has recently been shaken with charges of assault and sexual abuse against Jian Ghomeshi, an iconic journalist. Ghomeshi was fired late October because of “graphic evidence” his actions “caused physical injury to a woman” said the CBC in an internal memo. He is now facing five criminal charges.
His high-profile case has made the topic of what makes sex consensual standard dinner party and Facebook comment conversation.
On November 25th, the UN observed International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. For the following 16 days, until December 10th, their campaign invites everyone to “Orange YOUR Neighbourhood” to symbolize a brighter future without violence.
The Montreal Massacre also prompted the government to enact a controversial long-gun registry—something the federal government has since disregarded, but Quebec has held tightly onto.
It’s hard to forget the kind of violent rampage that murdered 14 young women.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women ensures that we won’t.
With prayers to the victims, their families and the women who lost their lives:
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Guenevere Neufeld
Editor: Travis May