Tuesday, December 06, 2005Do you know why December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada?
I had just started my first job as a radio announcer/assistant news producer the month before, and was alone at the station audio board when reports and calls started coming in that an armed gunman had murdered a group of female engineering students. I remember feeling stunned, disgusted, and outraged to the point of tears when I heard the news. At the time I was living in Plattsburgh, New York, only about one hour south of Montreal, so this literally happened in my "back yard." The event seems to have vanished into that homogenous pit that contains the world's forgotten tragic headlines - but I'm grateful that Canada remembers. While many saw the murders as the isolated act of a troubled and violent individual, the intentions behind the act were nothing less than terrorism, in the purest sense of the word.
The CBC has a special retrospective feature of the day Marc Lepine slaughtered 14 women, in his words, to "fight feminism."
The Crime Library has a detailed narrative feature of the events of the killing:
As the lone man entered the room, a few people looked over at him and he offered a slight smile, as if to apologize for the interruption. He looked at the women, as if to make certain of where they sat. Used to students arriving late, Professors Yvan Bouchard and Adrien Cernea both ignored him."Yet there is also an interesting irony associated with the École Polytechnique massacre. Lynda Hurst pointed out in the Toronto Star that Lépine's outburst has had the opposite of its intended effect: 'Between 1989 and 1999, the proportion of women enrolled in Canadian engineering faculties rose from 13 to 19 percent. And in absolute numbers, it more than doubled to nearly 9,000.'"
But then the grinning man in the baseball cap ordered them all to pay attention. "Everyone stop everything," he insisted. Professor Bouchard looked over, annoyed. He squinted as if trying to remember who this student was. ... In French, the young man asked the 10 female students to get up and move across the room. He then told the men to leave. No one moved. A few people laughed, as if this were some kind of joke. That was the worst thing they could have done. He had been humiliated enough in his 25 years. On this day, of all days, he was not going to be treated in that way.
Lifting his rifle, he shot twice into the ceiling. It was no joke. ... When the 10 women had moved into the specified corner, the gunman explained his reason for being there. According to survivors who spoke later to police or reporters, he told them that he was there on behalf of males. "I'm fighting feminism."
Women had been taking employment and opportunities away from men, he said, and feminists needed to be taught their place. ... He lifted the rifle again and, as they screamed for mercy or tried to leap out of range, he methodically shot them from left to right. All were hit. ... The men waiting outside heard the shots and the agonized or frightened screams. They could hardly believe what was happening. At least 20 rounds had been fired. A few ran down the hall to raise an alarm and find someone who could call for help, while others waited.
Then the gunman came out and strode past them. No one tried to stop him. No one dared. He aimed the rifle precariously at them and they backed away, allowing him to leave. He fired at several other students on that floor, and three more were hit, including two women. Then he continued on his way. [read full article]
- Audio and video media streams of the CBC's news coverage are available here as well.
- Detailed timeline of the Montreal Massacre at the Crime Library.
-  Mount Royal College remembers