In a sombre ceremony Friday, the University of Manitoba unveiled its new memorial recognizing the 14 women who were killed in the 1989 Montreal massacre.
Fourteen silhouettes now cover glass panels near the stairs in the Winnipeg school’s Engineering Information and Technology Complex atrium. Under the silhouettes are names of the women — 12 engineering students, one nursing student, one school staff member — who were gunned down at École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989.
The public viewed the memorial for the first time Friday — the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women — however, it had been in the works for nearly a year.
Daniella Archer and Anetta Los are U of M civil engineering students. Last December, they agreed something local should be done to honour the victims
"As a Canadian engineering school, we found it strange that we didn’t have a space where we could remember these women and reflect on the effect of this event," Los said.
Both Archer and Los are 21. They said the massacre impacted them because, in many ways, they’re similar to the victims (several were roughly the same age and almost all were students).
"It really could be us," Archer said.
Archer and Los connected with U of M engineering dean Jonathan Beddoes and brainstormed ideas. In March, they held a competition for university students to submit designs for a memorial.
Jane Hilder’s 14 silhouettes was selected in the spring.
"As the engineering students of today ascend the staircase into this atrium, their figures merge with the silhouettes of the women, combining past and present," Hilder said Friday.
A ceremony at the Manitoba legislature Friday morning also marked the national day. Premier Brian Pallister was absent, though his wife, Esther, attended.
Eleven women and girls between the ages of 14 and 63 died in Manitoba this year as the result of acts of violence, Status of Women Minister Cathy Cox noted.
In a scrum with reporters after the ceremony, Cox revealed some new funding aimed at preventing gender-based violence is on the way.
"There is good news that is forthcoming with regard to second-stage housing for shelters. It will improve the ability for women to seek a permanent shelter once they’ve left those very tragic circumstances that they face," she said.
Cox wouldn’t reveal details, but said she hopes the official announcement comes before the new year.
"We know that there’s a very high rate of violence before Christmas, so it’s important that we provide those shelters for those individuals who are fleeing those tragic situations," she said.
Later at the legislature, the Indigenous Women and Girls Manitoba Coalition held a rally to ask government to implement the 231 "calls for justice" made in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
"We need to see significant action to address the gender-based violence that women, girls and gender-diverse folks are experiencing in this country," said Angie Hutchinson, a member of the coalition.
She said the group also wanted to acknowledge the families of the Montreal massacre victims.
"That was 30 years ago, and I don’t see that we’ve come any farther today," she said.
On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lépine entered a classroom in École Polytechnique armed with a semi-automatic rifle and hunting knife. He ordered the engineering students inside to different ends of the classroom based on their gender.
Lépine then shot and killed six women and injured three more, before entering other parts of the school and continuing his self-declared anti-feminist attack.
By the time he turned the gun on himself, he had killed 14 women. Ten additional women and four men were also injured.
In 1991, the federal government declared Dec. 6 to be National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The day falls within the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which run from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10.
— with files from Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Community Correspondent — Headingley
Gabrielle Piché is a community correspondent for Headingley. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org