The House of Commons fell silent today as members of Parliament remembered the victims of the Montreal Massacre 30 years after they were gunned down in an anti-feminist attack.
On the evening of Dec. 6, 1989, a gunman entered Montreal’s Ecole polytechnique, killing 14 women in an anti-feminist mass slaying before taking his own life.
Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu stood before question period, fighting back tears as she listed the names of all 14 women who were murdered. Gladu says she was the first female engineer elected to the House of Commons and feels a special bond to the women who died.
“These women were my sisters,” she said. “I name them now to respect them for the strong women they are and they were.”
Earlier in the morning, the House of Commons marked the grim anniversary with speeches and a moment of silence.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said gender-based violence remains an ongoing threat to women’s safety.
“Each December, as we honour the memories of those 14 women, the survivors and the families, we promise to do better,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons. “But the reality is that in 30 years, things haven’t changed enough.
“Women, girls and people of diverse gender identities still face unacceptable and preventable violence – violence that destroys lives, families and communities. It is more than time for change. It is more than time to put an end to gender-based violence including the national tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Because it is more than time to build a country where everyone is safe and where everyone’s rights are respected and realized.”
Trudeau highlighted his campaign pledge to ban automatic assault rifles, including the weapon used in the Montreal Massacre, as a measure his Liberal government will take to show its commitment to doing more than merely offering platitudes.
“These weapons, designed to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time, have no place in our communities, in our streets, in our country,” Trudeau said.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the 14 women who lost their lives were just students going to school that day, perhaps nervous about exams or excited about the upcoming holidays, maybe even humming a Christmas song that may have been stuck in their head.
Scheer says women should not still be concerned for their safety simply because they are women.
“It is unacceptable that violence against women remains an issue to this day,” Scheer said.
“That is why we must all resolve not to be content with simply respecting women, but we must call on each other to be proactive, to demonstrate with our actions, how much we value the safety, dignity and value of every life of every woman.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh warned the “anti-woman hatred” that led to the massacre in Montreal 30 years ago remains an ongoing threat.
“Thirty years after Canadians said, ‘Never again,’ following the polytechnique tragedy, we need to recognize collectively that we still have a long way to go to respect that commitment,” Singh said.
“Systemic change starts when governments take male violence against women serious, takes it for the epidemic that it is. With a national action plan, we can end violence against women.”
Several events are planned across the country today to mark the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
Later this morning, students and staff at the school’s campus will place a wreath of white roses at a commemorative plaque.
Also today, a book about the events and the stories behind the 14 victims written by former Le Devoir journalist Josee Boileau will be released.
In the evening, the public will gather on Mount Royal at 5:10 p.m. – when the first shots were fired – and 14 beams of light will shine over the Montreal skyline as the names of the 14 women are read aloud.
Trudeau, Gov. Gen. Julie Payette and Quebec Premier Francois Legault are among the dignitaries expected at the event.
To mark the 30th anniversary, 14 engineering schools across the country will also each shine a beam of light in honour of the victims.
The victims were honoured Thursday at a ceremony at the Quebec national assembly, while the City of Montreal changed the wording on a plaque Thursday at the Place du 6-decembre-1989 to reflect the attack was anti-feminist and that 14 women were killed.