We come to the University of Waterloo to learn, work and enjoy our community to its fullest. It was 29 years ago that 14 young women went to l'École Polytechnique de Montréal, their institution of higher learning, where they were supposed to be safe from hate and oppression. They were instead murdered on December 6, 1989 by one man.
The pain of this abhorrent act of gender-based violence, both mentally and physically, changed all of us who remember that day.
Today we remember the victims and survivors of the attack and we mourn.
We mourn. We grieve. We reflect. Now we act.
Since the tragedy at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal our nation and society has changed in many ways. We are a more open and welcoming nation that embraces our differences on so many fundamental levels. But hate and intolerance still remain. Violence against women is still too common.
This violence can take many forms including verbal and physical abuse, sexual harassment, and intimidation. It is seen and unseen and continues to occur and it must stop. Addressing the root causes of violence, harassment and discrimination of women, and those who identify as women, must be done now.
The University of Waterloo has been part of the United Nations HeForShe movement as an IMPACT 10x10x10 champion since the movement’s creation setting equity goals and creating actionable steps to reach those goals.
We must act every day to combat the culture of toxic masculinity and reduce gender-based violence in all of its forms. There are too many victims today in our community and around the world – we have to take action.
We must bring light to the darkness of hate and intolerance, and men everywhere must take the lead to end violence against women and girls simply because of their gender. And, we must not hesitate to fight prejudice with love, acceptance and community.
We will never stop honouring and remembering the victims of l'École Polytechnique de Montréal, and I hope you will join me in ensuring no one who identifies as women, are faced with violence in their lives.