Students, staff and faculty commemorate the National Day of Remembrance

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

December 6 marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada.

The Faculty of Engineering hosted a ceremony of remembrance to reflect on and respond to the murder of 14 female engineering students who were murdered at École Polytechnique de Montréal (now Polytechnique Montréal) in an act of gender-based violence on this day in 1989. 

Dr. Mary Wells, dean of Waterloo Engineering, led the memorial and welcomed two fellow faculty members, Mary Robinson, associate dean of outreach, equity and diversity, and Dr. Mark Hancock, chair of Management Science and Engineering, as well as Andrea Chakma (BASc '23), current master’s student and president of the Women in Engineering Undergraduate Student Committee, to remember, reflect on and respond to the ongoing problem of gender-based violence.

“This attack is a graphic example of the violence that was perpetuated against women based on their gender that day, in engineering, in Canada," said Robinson. But gender-based violence has many forms, many that don't result in the making of a movie like Polytechnique or a Day of Remembrance, and it still persists today.”

“Comments about our lack of intelligence or the way we work, assumptions that we aren't interested in hands-on work; we’re frequently getting paid to do the “female” jobs, such as taking meeting minutes," said Chakma. "Running a potluck, dealing with sexist jokes and facing unwelcome advances are all things that we still see in this day and age, whether it's in the classroom or in the workplace.”

“Change can only happen if people with privilege are part of the solution," said Hancock. "Too often the work to fix problems, like sexism, is placed on those who are underprivileged, underrepresented, and in some cases, even suffering." He stressed the importance of understanding that acts of violence against women are systemic and that men in engineering still have a lot of work to do. “A world where we work to fix these problems together, is actually a better world for all its inhabitants.”

Fourteen Waterloo Engineering community members honoured the murdered women by lighting a candle for each of them followed by a moment of silence. This year, a 15th person was added to bestow flowers on the memorial in recognition of the impact this event had, and continues to have, on our community.

Go to Waterloo Engineering students honour female victims for the full story.