On December 6, 1989, an armed man walked into an engineering class at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal. After forcing the men to leave, he stated that he hated feminists and began to shoot the women in the class. By the end of the shooting, he had killed 14 women and injured ten more.
In response to this tragedy, Canada established December 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. This day serves as a reminder of the gender-based violence against women in Canada and around the world that persists today.
The Courtyard adjacent to the Engineering Design Centre has been renovated to build a place for quiet reflection, outdoor study, group gatherings and more. It also incorporates a commemorative element to recognize the event and names of the 14 women killed at L’École Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6, 1989.
The Engineering Undergraduate Society, in partnership with other groups on campus, holds an annual memorial ceremony in the Memorial Courtyard. Below, you can find the poem and 14 stories that will be read by female student leaders.
We encourage you to reflect on the impact gender-based violence has on our community, and invite you to visit the memorial in the Engineering Design Centre courtyard.
Ghazal for the 14
This poem was written for the 25th anniversary by Jessica Hohner, a former computer engineering student.
I grieve twenty five years now, second-hand
wounds that pass between us, hand to hand.
For every anorak and hunting knife,
a hundred gone are dismissed out of hand.
Policemen read the names without so much
as a waver in their voice, paper in hand.
Who wants to die under fluorescent lights,
cowered behind a friend, squeezing her hand?
It’s well and good to talk of change and hope.
It’s a fool who leaves it in our hands.
Would I be the one who couldn’t live
with someone else’s bloodstains on my hands?
We look for meaning in these sorts of things
but we always come away with empty hands.
It was a joke, they thought, and wasn’t it?
To grasp brutal absurdity first-hand.
To walk along the Highway of Tears, to feel
that justice never is so close at hand.
Can I say I wouldn’t do the same
as those who softly left them, hat in hand?
We ruined him by – what? Enjoying life?
Taking futures into our own hands?
Would I rather die or live in fear?
With every doubt, I play into his hands.
Vous n’êtes toutes qu’un tas de féministes,
he spits, taking their fates into his hands.
I want to say the world has since turned, but
I grieve twenty five years now, second-hand.
14 Women, 14 Stories
- Anne-Marie Edward
A very fit and active 21 year old who loved outdoor sports like skiing and diving. She immediately tried out for the ski team at l’Ecole Polytechnique when she started studying there earlier that year. Was a chemical engineering student.
- Maud Haviernick
A very creative 29 year old, was a graduate in environmental design from the Universite du Quebec a Montreal and was currently in her second year of metallurgical engineering. She was presenting a paper with her classmate Michele Richard.
- Michele Richard
Michele lost her life at the young age of 21. She was a second-year metallurgical engineering student, much like any of us here could be, who was presenting a paper with fellow classmate, Maud Haviernick.
- Nathalie Croteau
A 23 year old Mechanical engineering student at Ecole Polytechnique. She was planning on graduating that year, and going on a vacation with Helene after their graduation ceremony.
- Helene Colgan
21, was in her final year of mechanical engineering. She had already received several job offers and aspired to earn her master’s degree.
- Maryse Laganerie
25, was the only victim who was not a student. She was a budget clerk in the school’s finance department and had recently married.
- Anne Marie Lemay
Was born in 1967 making her only 22. She was in mechanical engineering completing her fourth year.
- Annie Turcotte
Was the youngest victim, at 20 years of age. She was in her first year and lived with her brother in a small apartment near the university. She was described as gentle and athletic, enjoying diving and swimming. She went into metallurgical engineering so she could one day help improve the environment.
- Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz
31, was a first-year nursing student. She arrived in Montreal from Poland with her husband in 1987.
- Barbara Daigneault
Was a 22 year old mechanical engineering student who was planning on graduating that year. She was also a teaching assistant for her father, who was a mechanical engineering professor at another university in Quebec.
- Sonia Pelletier
Was a mechanical engineer at the head of her class and had five sisters and two brothers. She was killed at the age of 28, the day before her graduation. She had an interview lined up for the next week.
- Annie St-Arneault
Annie was a mechanical engineering student from the small pulp and paper town of La Tuque, Que., located in the upper St. Maurice river valley. On the last day of her life, she also happened to be sitting in the last class of her undergraduate degree, before officially graduating as a woman in engineering. She had a job interview lined up for the following day, hoping to kick start her career in amongst a world of constant change and innovation.
- Maryse Leclair
Was the first victim to be identified. She was a studying metallurgy and was one of the top students in the school. She had a year left before graduating.
- Genevieve Bergeron
Was in second year civil engineering. She was a musician, singing in a professional choir and playing clarinet.