Twenty-eight years ago the post-secondary education community and all of Canada changed forever. On what was supposed to be a normal day at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989 was instead replaced with unimaginable tragedy as 14 young female students were taken from us in an evil attack of gender-based violence.
That day will remain a memory of pure shock and sadness for countless Canadians for so many different reasons.
We must remember the 14 young women who were lost forever that day and the other innocent victims who were wounded physically and mentally. Nearly all of them were students looking to better our society as engineers and nurses.
The senseless violence and anger that motivated these acts cannot be forgotten either.
We must remember, but we must also fight against the injustice and gender-based prejudice of this violence.
Honouring with Remembrance and Action
We can only truly honour the victims by ensuring we take steps to defend women, and those who identify as women, who currently face violence in their everyday lives.
By positively promoting gender equity and inclusivity, I believe we can take the steps needed to stop acts of violence like the one we saw 28 years ago from happening.
I am proud that our university is taking steps to bring long-term gender equity forward through our UN Women’s HeForShe campaign commitments and on campus initiatives. We have made great strides on these commitments in our organization, but it is imperative that we take steps in our everyday lives to create an inclusive community for all. We must educate that equity for one group does not mean a loss of equity for another, but are in fact stronger.
With the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women having taken place on November 25, our day of remembrance for the victims of l'École Polytechnique today, and International Human Rights Day on December 10, the world is taking the time to raise awareness. As we take the time to remember those victims of violence and oppression around the world, it is vital to do more than acknowledge those lost and those still facing the fear of persecution today.
We must act.
We must bring light to the darkness of hate and intolerance. We must take actionable steps to end violence against women and girls. And, we must not hesitate to fight prejudice with love, acceptance and community.
Only then will we truly honour the victims of the l'École Polytechnique attack.