On December 6, 1989, 14 women were killed by a mass shooter with an anti-feminist agenda as they studied, attended lectures and walked through the halls of their university. Since then, December 6th of every year has been designated the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada.
In honour of Geneviève Bergeron, a second-year civil engineering student. Geneviève turned 21 just two weeks before she was killed. She was a scholarship student in her intensely demanding program, proving her passion and dedication to the pursuit of knowledge and education. We remember Geneviève Bergeron.
In honour of Hélène Colgan. At 23, she was in her final year of a mechanical engineering program. Hélène was remembered to always be balancing a bunch of projects at once. This passion paid off, as she was weighing three job offers and the pursuit of a master’s degree after finishing her degree. We remember Hélène Colgan.
In honour of Nathalie Croteau. Nathalie was 23 years old and just three months from finishing her degree in mechanical engineering. She was an outgoing and ambitious student with a particular passion for everything science-related. We remember Nathalie Croteau.
In honour of Barbara Daigneault, an ambitious 22 year-old mechanical engineering student. Barbara worked as a teaching assistant in the mechanical engineering department alongside her studies. With just one semester of her degree left, she was already thinking ahead about her career prospects. We remember Barbara Daigneault.
In honour of Anne-Marie Edward, a first-year student in chemical engineering. At 21 years old, Anne-Marie was known for her cleverness and stubbornness in and out of the classroom. She was passionate about extreme sports, with a particular love for skiing. Anne-Marie was buried by her family in her ski jacket. We remember Anne-Marie Edward.
In honour of Maud Haviernick, a 29 year-old artist and student. Maud held a bachelor’s degree in environmental design and worked as an interior designer before returning to school to pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. Maud’s guiding principle was “if you feel like going all the way, well, just do it.” We remember Maud Haviernick.
In honour of Maryse Laganière. Maryse was 25 years old and worked in the school’s finance department. She was a newlywed, married just three months before. We remember Maryse Laganière.
In honour of Maryse Leclair, a 23 year-old fourth-year student in materials engineering. Maryse was recognized as one of the top students in the school and was just under a year from graduating. She was said to have lived unabashedly on her own terms. We remember Maryse Leclair.
In honour of Anne-Marie Lemay. At 27, Anne-Marie was in the fourth year of her studies in mechanical engineering. Anne-Marie was known for her compassion and ability to connect with others. Aside from her studies, she sang in a rock band and was actively volunteering within her communities. We remember Anne-Marie Lemay.
In honour of Sonia Pelletier. Sonia was 28 years old and just days from graduating with straight A’s with a bachelor in mechanical engineering. Her family said that her dream was to return to her small hometown in the Gaspé Peninsula to start her own engineering firm. We remember Sonia Pelletier.
In honour of Michèle Richard, a 21 year-old student in her second year of studies in materials engineering. Her friends described her as having some mysterious quality that drew people to her. She was loved by many, including her mother who described her as her “best friend and confidante.” We remember Michèle Richard.
In honour of Annie St-Arneault, a 23 year-old mechanical engineering student. Annie is remembered as “curious, meticulous, intensely caring and always searching for adventures of her own making.” She was sitting in her last class before her graduation when she was killed. We remember Annie St-Arneault.
In honour of Annie Turcotte, a 21 year-old engineering materials student in her first year. Upon entry into the program, she was granted a women in science bursary for her exceptional grades in college. Annie was passionate about nature, and entered her program with the interest of finding new ways to protect the environment. We remember Annie Turcotte.
In honour of Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, a 31 year-old nursing science student. Barbara moved to Montreal from Poland in 1987. She was exceptionally bright, having studied engineering, economics and food logistics and speaking five languages fluently. She was described as outgoing, friendly and having, as her husband stated, an “exceptional deadpan sarcasm.” We remember Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.
In remembrance of the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People whose lives have been cut short by violence. Countless families and communities have been devastated by this national tragedy. To learn how to respond to this ongoing act of colonization read the calls to justice found in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report.
In honour of trans women of colour, who face exceedingly high rates of violence partly due to the intersections of racism, sexism, transphobia, and transmisogyny. As we work towards ending gender-based violence may we remember that our approaches need to address all the ways that violence takes form in the lives of those who face it, both structurally and personally.
In solidarity with sex workers who endure violence that is aggravated by social stigma and criminalization. Gender-based violence and workers’ rights will always be intertwined.
In recognition of the underfunding of transition shelters for women leaving intimate partner violence which leaves substantial and life-threatening gaps in services. This can be seen in Halifax and across Canada. Affordable housing is violence prevention.
Today at King’s we are commemorating the 31st anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre. On December 6, 1989, 14 women were killed by a mass shooter with an anti-feminist agenda as they studied, attended lectures and walked through the halls of their university. These women were staff and students of the institution and were targeted by the killer based on their gender. Since then, December 6th of every year has been designated the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada.
This year we also want to commemorate those who lost their lives and were impacted by the violence that took place in Portapique, Nova Scotia in April, 2020. The intersections of gun, domestic, and escalating violence within this tragedy are a reflection of the events of December 6, 1989. Domestic violence and intimate partner violence have only increased in a year with so much necessary isolation and uncertainty.
As an institution for learning, King’s has a responsibility to commemorate the 14 women who lost their lives in the university space while also considering the larger structures of gender-based violence that continue to pervade our communities. Today is an important opportunity to take time as a community to consider all the existing forces of gender-based violence that affect our society to this day.
The 14 victims of the massacre were Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, 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. Each are individually honoured above. Additionally, we remember the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people, whose lives have been cut short by individual and colonial acts of violence. We honour trans women of colour, who continue to face exceedingly high rates of violence due to the intersections of racism, sexism, transphobia and transmisogyny. We stand in solidarity with sex workers, who continue to face high rates of violence perpetuated by stigma and criminalization. We recognize the ongoing underfunding of transition shelters for women escaping intimate partner violence.
These structures, among various other forces motivated by racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and colonialism make up what we understand today as gender-based violence. The National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women not only marks a time to reflect on the past, but also exists as a call to action for all of us to stand together in preventing gender-based violence in our communities. Take time today to reflect on how gender-based violence and its intersections with other forms of oppression play into your life and your communities. Take time to learn about how sexism and transphobia continues to impact women, trans, non-binary and two-spirit folks on campuses across the country. Take time to read the calls to justice found in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report. Take time to listen to the calls to action from sex workers and activists doing the groundwork towards complete decriminalization. Take time to research the resources for women, youth and queer, trans and two-spirit folks fleeing instances of violence in Halifax or in your hometown, learn how you can support these initiatives.
Most importantly, take time to reflect on your position in relation to gender-based violence and consider how you can personally have an impact on prevention in your communities. Preventing gender-based violence is a community effort, make sure that you are doing your part to support the cause.
With thanks to Rylan Pembroke for the significant contribution they made to this text as part of their work with the Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Office.
Banner photo by Jordan Roberts. Showing King’s 2019 Memorial for the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada.