The week of 1 – 4 December at Marc Garneau CI marked the commemoration of the female victims of the event now famously known as the Montreal Massacre. As a memorial, MGCI’s Social Justice & Equity Committee (SJEC) held the White Ribbon campaign and invited the student body to sign a pledge in the galleria to fight violence against women. They also held a march in the cafeteria on 4 December, where the photos of the fourteen female victims of the Montreal Massacre were displayed.

The Montreal Massacre occurred on 6 December, 1989, at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. It resulted in the death of fourteen women, and left thirteen others injured. The gunman, Marc Lépine, entered a classroom, forced all the men to leave, and shot the women in the class, killing six before shooting others throughout the university. During his murderous rampage and in his suicide note, he cited his reason as “fighting feminism,” expressing his hatred for women and feminists.

Montreal Massacre 3 - Jenna Wong

Students held a march in the cafeteria to remember the women killed in the massacre. Their photos were displayed as a memorial. Photo: Jenna Wong

Aahan Rashid, a member of SJEC, said, “The Montreal Massacre acted almost like a revelation. In the 1980s to early 1990s, gender-based crimes were at their peak. However, it wasn’t until fourteen women were killed at once that gender-based violence was in the mind of the public. Remembering these women should make each person reflect and keep watch on their own actions and mindsets. Many people who abuse women do so because of feelings of their own childhood rejection or abuse. We have to help them recover from these events while having them realize what impact they have on other people.”

This commemoration also holds significance to many students at MGCI. Arora Chen, the vice-president of the Student Activity Council and co-president of the school club MGCI Girl Effect, said, “It is difficult to believe that although we are looking at race equality, we are still not overcoming gender equality.”

Since 1989, the world has progressed in dealing with the issue of domestic violence and violence against women. These movements towards gender equality include the He for She campaign and the UN Women – men and women working towards gender equality and the empowerment of women. Another campaign is the White Ribbon, the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to eradicate “violence against women and girls, promote gender equality, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity.”

Jackie Ho, the co-president of SJEC, said, “The white ribbon campaign takes action on violence against women. It also emphasizes the idea of involving both genders – women and men – in this fight.”

“This issue should also be recognized by men. It is very significant to address this issue beforehand; otherwise it can have negatively affect their children and cause their sons to internalize what they have learned from their fathers, causing the whole cycle to repeat. Promoting gender equality at an early age and redefining the way men treat women in society is vital,” said Justina Ilevbare, a grade 12 student.

Although modern society has come far from the 1989 massacre, it is still far from fully accepting both genders as being equal. Aahan said, “To solve any major issue means considering the long-term or underlying causes. We have to make sure people aren’t mistreated or isolated by peers. To directly alleviate the issue it is important to allow opportunities for therapy and of course, expand the currently existing shelters.”

The proceeds from SJEC’s sales of white ribbons will go towards the December 6 Fund for  survivors of domestic abuse. “Students and teachers at MGCI signed a pledge to stop violence against women. Many bought white ribbons to support this cause and made generous donations, which will go towards the White Ribbon campaign and the December 6 Fund,” said Hamza Shahid, co-president of SJEC.