M’CHIGEENG—Lights began to shut off in succession, matching a procession of students entering the Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) cafeteria. The growing darkness was only opposed by the glow of electric candles, casting a flickering yellow glow upon the sombre faces making heavy steps into the room.
It was 29 years ago on this date, December 6, 1989, that 14 women died while attending École Polytechnique in Montreal. A 25-year-old man entered the engineering school and sought out women, who he proceeded to shoot and kill. He shot 28 women and killed 14 of them before shooting and killing himself. He claimed feminists had ruined his life.
The Montreal Massacre remains the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history.
In commemoration of the tragedy, Canadians from coast to coast to coast gathered to call for an end to violence against women, as well as pay their respects to the 14 women who died at École Polytechnique: Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, BarbaraDaigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault,Annie Turcotte and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.
“This is still a recurring problem, that women are not seen as good as men. There are certain things we can’t do as women. It’s good our school is doing this so we can remember what happened,” said Lauren MacKay, a student at MSS. She led the procession around the school alongside Dayna Beauchamp and Mackensie Graham.
“This happened 25 years ago and we’re still dealing with the same problems today. In my careers class, people didn’t take me seriously because I wanted to go into the trades. I heard people say ‘
At 10:05 am, the school held a minute of silence. The original incident happened at 5:10 pm, outside MSS hours, so they flipped the time around. At lunch, Patty Gabow and Laney Campbell from Noojmowin Teg Health Centre’s Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Program.
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Community Services Officer Marie Ford was in attendance as part of the Mnidoo Mnising Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The
“The coalition is made up of police officers and service workers in the area. We plan educational events, raise awareness and teach about healthy relationships,” said Ms. Brunetti.
In addition to the roses and candles, the group presented small squares of moose hide in collaboration with the Moose Hide Campaign. That movement aims to align both Indigenous and non-Indigenous men to oppose violence against women and children.
By wearing a square of moose hide, men can express their “commitment to honour, respect and protect the women and children in your life and to work together with other men to end violence against women and children,” an attached information card reads.
The Mnidoo Mnising Coalition Against Domestic Violence also paid for the roses and candles that students carried
Yana Bauer is a teacher at MSS and helped to organize the event. She said the turnout of about 50 students on the walk far surpasses last year’s total.
“It was amazing and so heartwarming to see so many kids joining in,” she said. “Even the boys who can be quite closed took part, and really, they tend to be fierce protectors of the women in their lives even if they don’t show it.”
In addition to the greater number of students, several MSS teachers joined in the campaign.
“As role models, we can make a difference in students’ lives. The kids stood taller and prouder when they noticed their teachers marching alongside,” said Ms. Bauer. “This is as important, if not more important than the lessons we teach in the classroom every day.”
At the front of the cafeteria, marking the end of their walk, the students placed their roses and candles upon the stage. Hanging down was a wide poster that included the photos, names and stories of the 14 women who died in the Montreal Massacre. The students could sign messages of hope and resilience on the poster using the provided markers.
Student Alexandria Lewis put the poster together. Following the walk, she and Aryanna Pitawanakwat reflected on the overall feeling of the day’s events.
“I love that the school is doing this because it brings awareness to people that it can happen to anyone, even friends and family,” said Alexandria.
“It shows support for people who don’t want to speak out; it shows there is somebody there for them,” said Aryanna.
Soon, the lunch period finished and students returned to their classes. The lessons of understanding, peace and unity from the sombre day of remembrance were not to be soon forgotten. That message was not lost on the students.
“We don’t want to see another massacre. It’s important to put it out there that this is what happened, so we don’t let history repeat itself,” said Lauren.