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Montreal Massacre continues to hit home for women engineering students, 34 years later


Thirty-four years after a gunman killed 14 women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, the anti-feminist attack is still personal for many female engineering students.

“He felt as though those women had taken his spot in those courses, and that’s what really hits home for me,” said Emma Starratt, president of the Women In Science And Engineering Club at University of Guelph.

Students hold white roses symbolizing the victims of the École Polytechnique massacre at an event at the University of Guelph on Dec. 6, 2023. (Heather Senoran/CTV Kitchener)

Most of the victims of the 1989 Montreal Massacre were engineering students, like the organizers of an event marking the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women at the university Wednesday. The similarities don’t stop there.

“I just turned 21,” said Guelph Engineering Society President Katherine Haines. “Many of the victims were 21 when this event happened. And they were just going about their everyday lives.”

At Wednesday’s memorial, students and staff held roses to honour the victims. Photos of the women who lost their lives lined the walls, along with thoughts of what they could have been – from MPs to entrepreneurs – had they survived.

Photos of the victims lined the walls of the engineering building, honouring them. (Heather Senoran/CTV Kitchener)

“Everyone has the right to feel safe wherever they choose to work, learn, study or reside,” Starratt said.

The massacre remains the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. The students hope the tragedy 34 years ago does not deter women from pursing engineering jobs.

“We provide a different perspective than others, and the more diversity across any workforce, any degree, any group, makes the results produced by the group more impactful,” Starratt said.

The roses were placed on a memorial for the victims. (Heather Senoran/CTV Kitchener)

The University of Guelph event also aimed to highlight the support that exists for other victims, no matter what kind of sexual or gender-based violence they might be facing.

“Microaggressions, saying that women don’t belong in certain programs. Specifically those that might be male-dominated. It could be when they go out to the bars or restaurants and are experiencing unwanted touching or harassment from others. It could be intimate partner violence that’s happening,” said Jensen Williams, sexual and gender-based violence education coordinator at University of Guelph.

Students say it’s crucial not only to remember every Dec. 6, but also reflect and respond.

Later on Wednesday, people gathered in Mariannes Park in Guelph for a vigil organized by Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis.

A vigil marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women at Mariannes Park in Guelph on Dec. 6, 2023. (Dan Lauckner/CTV Kitchener) Top Stories

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