Just after 4 p.m. on December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine arrived at the building housing the École Polytechnique, an engineering school affiliated with the Université de Montréal, armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife.
He entered an engineering class and ordered the nine female students across the room and directed the men to leave. No one moved at first, believing it to be a joke until he fired a shot into the ceiling. Lépine then opened fire on the women, killing six and wounding the three others.
For 20 minutes, Lépine moved throughout the school, shooting and reloading. When one wounded student asked for help, he unsheathed his hunting knife and fatally stabbed her three times. Lépine then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
Fourteen women were killed.
Geneviève Bergeron (21), civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan (23), mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau (23), mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault (22), mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward (21), chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick (29), materials engineering student
Maryse Laganière (25), École Polytechnique employee
Maryse Leclair (23), materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay (22), mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier (28), mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard (21), materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault (23), mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte (21), materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (31), nursing student
During his attack, Lépine told the women why they were being killed,
“You’re women, you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.”
Letters found on his body contained a list of nineteen Quebec women that he wanted to kill because they were “feminists”, as well as the following statements.
“…I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker…the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g. cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventative leave, etc.) while seizing for themselves those of men.”
As I watched this horrific story unfold in the news I was stunned by this violent hatred… a hatred that was directed at young women just like me. I was sixteen and only a few years younger than the women who were being mourned. I wept for them and felt scared because I had just learned there were men who hated women just because they were women.
This was when the 6th of December was no longer just about remembering the Halifax Explosion. The massacre became the major spur for stricter gun control regulations in Canada and attention was focused on gender-based violence.
But that was 24 years ago and there are still men who hate women just because they are women. There are still husbands who think their wives should know their place. There are still boys being told that they are better than girls.
December 6th is Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and every year Canadians read the names of those fourteen women to remember their death. On the 6th of December, I read those names because I want to hope that they didn’t die in vain.