The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada

Canada remembers female engineering students killed in the Montreal Massacre.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada

By Brittany Carter, engineering student

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada
Photo credit: CBC

In Canada, December 6th is the annual Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This day is a time for Canadians to reflect on the fact that women around the world face disproportionate levels of violence every day. Canadian parliament designated December 6th as a day of remembrance due to the shocking act of violence against female engineering students that occurred on December 6th, 1989. On that day, 12 female engineering students, one female nursing student, and one female clerk were fatally shot at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal.

A mechanical engineering class of 60 students was taking place when a shooter burst in. He separated the students into groups, one for the men and one for the women, and then told the men to leave the room. He fired at the group of nine women, killing six and injuring the remaining three. The gunman took to the corridors, killing an additional eight women. He then turned the gun on himself. The gunman was a student at École Polytechnique who had been denied entrance to the engineering program.

The women killed were:

Geneviève Bergeron: A 21-year-old civil engineering student on a scholarship, who had a hard time choosing between pursuing a career in engineering or music. Geneviève sang in a choir and played the clarinet. She babysat for Montreal’s mayor at the time, Jean Doré.

Hélène Colgan: A 23-year-old mechanical engineering student in her final year of study. Hélène had already received three job offers and was interested in pursuing a master’s degree. Hélènehad recently purchased a plane ticket to go on vacation to Cancun on December 29thwith Nathalie Croteau. Hélène’s parents found out about the shooting on television.

Nathalie Croteau: A 23-year-old mechanical engineering student due to graduate in the spring. Nathalie had plans to vacation with Hélène Colgan over the winter break. Nathalie’s father is quoted as saying “Twenty-three years aimed at graduating with a degree. She’s only three months away from getting it and she’s killed — all because she was sitting in a chair in a classroom,” (Montreal Gazette, 2014).

Barbara Daigneault: A 22-year-old mechanical engineering student in her final year of study. Barbara lived with her brother and was a teaching assistant for her father, Pierre Daigneault, a mechanical engineering professor. Barbra was two days away from handing in her final project to her father.

Anne-Marie Edward: A 21-year-old chemical engineering student who loved extreme sports. Anne-Marie was buried in her ski-team jacket. The team wore patches on their own jackets of her initials after she passed away.

Maud Haviernick: A 29-year-old materials engineering student in her second year. Maud was specializing in composite metals and had previously completed a degree in environmental design. Maud was giving a final presentation on a metals project when she was killed.

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz: A 31-year-old first year nursing student. Barbara moved to Canada from Poland with her husband in 1987. Her husband has said that they moved to Canada because they “believed it was the safest place in the world,” (CBC, n.d.).

Maryse Laganière: A 25-year-old budget clerk who was married only three months before her death. Marsye was always smiling according to her union boss. Her husband was waiting outside to pick her up at the time of the shooting.

Maryse Leclair: A 23-year-old materials engineering student who was one of the top students at École Polytechnique. Marsye was an actor in her free time. Marsye’s father, the director of public relations of the Montreal police force, discovered her body shortly after giving a press conference on the shooting. She was wearing the sweater she had worn to Sunday dinner the week before when he found her.

Anne-Marie Lemay: A 22-year-old mechanical engineering student who sang in a rock band and at her church. Anne-Marie was helping to organize that year’s graduation and was fundraising for a class trip overseas.

Sonia Pelletier: A 28-year-old mechanical engineering student attending her last day of classes before graduating. Sonia had a job interview arranged for the following week. Sonia’s family said her dream was to start her own engineering firm.

Michèle Richard: A 21-year-old second year materials engineering student who was engaged to be married. Michèle was giving a presentation on a final project with Maud Havernick when she was killed.

Annie St-Arneault: A 23-year-old mechanical engineering student. As a teenager, Anne represented her 4-H club at a provincial level. Anne was listening to a presentation in her last class before graduating when she died.

Annie Turcotte: A 20-year-old materials engineering student in her first year. Annie was an avid swimmer and was very interested in environmental issues. Annie lived with her brother at the time of her death.

The information in this article pulls largely from the following news reports:

https://www.cbc.ca/montreal/features/remember-14/

https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/the-14-women-who-were-killed-at-ecole-polytechnique-1.2134006

https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/remembering-the-polytechnique-victims

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/se-souvenir-de-la-tragedie-de-polytechnique-au-dela-du-devoir-de-memoire

https://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/1989-gunman-massacres-14-women-at-montreals-cole-polytechnique

https://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/commemoration/vaw-vff/remembrance-commemoration-en.html

About the author
Brittany Carter is a final year industrial engineering student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Brittany has done all three of her co-op terms in maintenance engineering and loves the hustle of working in production. In her free time, Brittany is a ski coach and is passionate about helping youth pursue their goals.