Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I will always remember Montreal

Twenty-two years is a long time ago, but I won't ever forget learning about the fourteen women, who were murdered at L'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. They were separated from the men and gunned down. The killer declared that he was angry at feminists for taking things that should belong to men. I will never, ever forget that day.

Around these terrible anniversaries we tell each stories about where we were when we heard the news, or we reflect on the bigger picture. What happened in Montreal is usually discussed in the larger context of violence against women, including both domestic and sexual violence. We use this anniversary to remember, but we also use it to remind ourselves that women are the victims and survivors of violence all over the world. We take the time to remember because we want this violence to stop.

This year I want to do something a bit different. I want to remember the 14 women who lost their lives by thinking about how my life was changed by the events of that day. The path of my life was influenced by the death of these intelligent, young women, even in the smallest ways. The Montreal Massacre forced me to realize that we live in a world that can be very dangerous for women and it pushed me in a direction of feminist awareness, social activism, and education. It led me to high school projects about violence against women, facilitating workshops on university campuses that used the events of that day as a starting point for larger discussions about domestic and sexual violence, and, in graduate school, to researching the way in which religious and cultural norms influence gender violence around the world, to teach my own students about the importance of challenging these norms. The events of that day led me to volunteer at The Women's Centre at Queen's University, where I met some of the best friends I've known in my life, women who continue to challenge the way I live in this world. I learned not to take for granted the safety of my friends, to offer help when I could, or an ear to listen if that's all they needed. And today it reminds me to raise my children in such a way that models the world in which I want them to grow. 

These are all good things that have come from a terrible, terrible day. I will remember these good things, too.

Some articles commemorating the Montreal Massacre:

Engineering students host a memorial at Queen's University (in Kingston, On)
Last year from Ms. Magazine
The Feminist Legal Forum


  1. Okay, Danielle. I have to know: when were you at Queen's? I was a peer educator for sexual assault awareness (going around to different residences and speaking with first years) through the Women's Centre. I too was involved in all kinds of campus activism. I wonder if our paths ever crossed?
    We must have been around the same age when we heard the news of Montreal. It marked me forever. I think it was my first moment of real awareness that this kind of thing could happen to women. It still chills me, every time I think of it. But it also mobilised me to work for change. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I was at Queen's from 1996-2000--any chance we crossed paths? Can you believe it's been 22 years since Montreal? I just can't.