Montreal Massacre: Honoring and Remembering the 14 Women who Lost Their Lives at École Polytechnique in 1989
Thirty years ago, 14 individuals lost their lives in a heinous murder that will forever be known as the “Montreal Massacre.”
I’d like to use this space to honor and remember those individuals. Their names are Geneviève Bergeron, 21; Hélène Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Klueznick, 31; Maryse Laganière, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 22; Sonia Pelletier, 28; Michèle Richard, 21; Annie Saint-Arsenault, 23; and Annie Turcotte, 20.
On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lépine charged into École Polytechnique, an engineering school in Montreal, Canada, brandishing a rifle and a jealous agenda. After clearing the men from the facility, Lépine opened fire, killing 14 individuals, before turning the gun on himself.
“Feminists have always enraged me,” he wrote in a three-page suicide note that was discovered in his pocket. “I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their maker.”
Twelve of the 14 deceased were studying to become engineers. Lépine targeted Polytechnique specifically because the women there were pursuing careers in engineering – a discipline he believed should be reserved for men. Despite applying twice, Lépine failed to gain admission to the school.
According to Josée Boileau’s book, “Ce jour-là, parce qu’elles étaient des femmes,” Pelletier was the head of her class. She had dreams of returning to her hometown of St-Ulric, Quebec, and starting her own engineering firm. She died on her last day of classes.
Daigneault was expecting to graduate from her mechanical engineering program at the end of the year. She was a teaching assistant for her father, Pierre Daigneault, a mechanical engineering professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal. She was supposed to meet with her father two days after the shooting to complete her final project.
Haviernick was a second-year engineering student, specializing in composite metals. She already earned a degree in environmental design from the Université du Québec à Montréal, but she dreamed of becoming an engineer and returned to university. She was giving a class presentation when she was killed.
I’d love to share more, but this column is limited to 600 words. This CBC website, https://www.cbc.ca/montreal/features/remember-14, does a wonderful job of memorializing each victim.
While 14 died in the event, many others survived the attack, including Nathalie Provost. Staring down the barrel of a gun, Provost answered Lépine’s “You are all feminists” command with, “Listen, we are only women who are studying engineering.”
Her plea of desperation failed to freeze Lépine’s trigger finger. She was hit with four bullets, including one that grazed her forehead.
“During the shooting, I suffered injuries to my thighs and my left foot,” Provost said in a first-person article published Dec. 5, 2019, by HuffPost. “A bullet also went through my eyebrow and brushed against my cranium. It was enough to fracture my skull but not enough to kill me. I call it my miracle.”
Demonstrating an unfathomable level of courageousness, Provost returned to the school two months later to finish her engineering studies.
“Since I was a little girl, my mother had been telling me to be financially independent,” she said, in a CBC report. “I was motivated to work full time so that I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone. The other two women in my class who were injured also graduated from Poly. All three of us are now engineers.”
In a world where tragedies such as these are occurring more frequently than ever before, let us not forget these 14 young ladies, and the survivors, 30 years later.