Haliburton County Living: December 6th

National Day OfTwenty four years ago tomorrow, Genevieve Bergeron, Helene Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault , Anne-Marie Edward , Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganiere, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michele Richard, Annie St. Arneault , Annie Turcotte,  and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz were killed.

On December 6th, 1989 Marc Lepine entered the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, (University of Montreal’s Engineering School).  After separating the men from the women he killed fourteen women claiming that he was fighting feminism. 

In 1989 I was a student at McGill University in Montreal. I don’t remember exactly what I was doing that day but I got home to a frantic phone message from my parents.  The national news was reporting female deaths at a Montreal University.  My parents had no idea which school.  I didn’t even know something had happened until I got home; my housemates were in shock and told me that I needed to call my parents.  The horror of being shot simply by virtue of being female was too much for any of us to fathom. 

One of the more horrifying details from the attack was that the Montreal Police Director of Public Relations, Pierre Leclair briefed reporters outside the school and then entered the building to find the body of his daughter Maryse.

It was felt by many that we as Canadians would never be the same again.  I was in the first semester of my third year.  By January of 1990 I had transferred out of McGill.  The unease I felt in classrooms was hard to overcome.  My classmates and I kept glancing out the doors making it hard to concentrate.  What I experienced was minor as compared to those who were there at the shooting.  Suicides continued for almost a decade afterward and there was a prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst the survivors.

In the Haliburton County Public Library collection is a Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama winning play called The December Man The December Manby Colleen Murphy.  The play looks at the story of a fictional student, a man who was in the room with Marc Lepine and the murdered women, but survived the shootings.

Jean, the main character in the play, is tortured by the fact that he could do nothing to stop the deaths.  He spirals into depression and starts not going to school and engages in other self-destructive behaviour.  His worried mother tries to convince him that he needs to go to school so that he can build houses and churches.  His reply, and one of the most heartbreaking lines from the play is, “those women will never build anything.”

The debate will probably continue forever as to whether the attack was a crime against women or the isolated act of a madman. Regardless, fourteen young women will never realize their hopes and dreams.  The lives of countless others were forever altered by the incidents of that day.  In the span of only twenty minutes, the actions of one individual resulted in far reaching ramifications that continue to the present and warrant reflection.

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on December 5th 2013

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