Janine Ramey, a co-op student at Sackville High, lights a candle. (Photo: Jacob Morgan)

MSVU holds ceremony to commemorate victims of L'École Polytechnique massacre

Fourteen candles were lit at Mount Saint Vincent University for the National Day of Remembrance and Action On Violence Against Women.

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On Dec. 6, 22 years ago, Marc Lepin murdered 14 students at Montreal's L' École Polytechnique just because they were women.

Every year since that day services are held across Canada in memory of the tragedy and to raise awareness of gender oppression.

Service at The Mount

"It's a day to remember what happened 22 years ago to the 14 women, but also a day to remember violence that continues to women and others," said Kim MacAulay, the Spiritual Life Coordinator at Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU).

MacAulay works to promote diversity on campus at MSVU, founded as an all-girls university in 1873 at a time when women didn't have the right to vote.

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Professor Michelle Forrest strums her baritone ukelele and sings "Un Canadien Errant"

"It's a chance to inspire ourselves into action," said MacAuley, who was instrumental in organizing the National Day of Remembrance events.

The ceremony, which was held in the Art Gallery in MSVU's Seton Centre, opened with remarks by the university's president, Ramona Lumpkin.

"Here at the Mount, we must continue to be champions for women, social justice, accessibility and equality," Lumpkin said. "As we mark this sad anniversary, let us renew our resolve to prevent and eliminate violence against women."

When the president finished her introductory remarks, professor Michelle Forrest played a rendition of "Un Canadien Errant," a traditional French-Canadian ballad written in the 1840s by Antoine Gerin-Lajoie.

At the time it was written "a lot of francophones were exiled from their place of birth," Forrest said after her performance.

A candlelight tribute to the Polytechnique victims followed Forrest's song. Fourteen members of the audience were asked to rise and light a candle one at a time. After the candle lighting, second-year MSVU student Torey Smith sang "If I Had Only Known" by Reba Macintyre.

The indoor part of the program concluded with a group prayer led by MacAulay and Forrest's performance of "Rise Again" by Leon Dubinsky.

Attendees then moved outside to hang purple ribbons on a tree as an act of solidarity with those who have suffered and continue to struggle because of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gender oppression today

Today, gender oppression also encompasses issues facing Canada's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, said Meredith Ralston, chair of the Department of Women's Studies. Ralston worked with MacAulay organizing this year's memorial service.

"This year we're looking at transgendered violence as well," Ralston said. "There's been a lot of bullying, suicides, and overt violence against [transgendered people]."

President Lumpkin reinforced this sentiment in her opening talk.

"This year alone, 221 transgendered individuals lost their lives and 755 have lost their lives since the Trans Murder Monitoring project began documenting the deaths of trans people in January of 2008," Lumpkin said. This figure refers to worldwide statistics.

In addition to the discrimination aimed at LGBT people, Ralston said that honour killings are another key form of gender-based violence that plague Canadian society today.

One example of women suffering at the hands of religious extremism is the current trial of a Montreal man accused of killing his three teenage daughters and first wife last year in Kingston, Ont.

"It's a reminder that [the Polytechnique massacre] might have happened 22 years ago under very different circumstances but there still is gender-based violence," Ralston said. "We do have to be aware of that and really educate people about the fact that it's still going on."

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Great coverage Jacob. It was a pleasure to work with you and have you participate in the service. Thanks for telling the story. All the best, Kim

Posted by Kim MacAulay | Dec 7, 2021