Twenty-seven years ago, 14 women in an engineering program at L’Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal were shot and killed…simply because of their gender. Each year, UNBC holds a memorial service to reflect on the massacre, and bring attention to acts of violence against women.
Hundreds gathered in the Candor Wintergarden today to remember those who lost their lives. “The lone gunman, Marc Lepine, tried to get into engineering school. He was unsuccessful, that’s why he went into a classroom, split the men and the women up, and then shot the women,” says Sarah Boyd, the Executive Director of the Northern Women’s Centre at UNBC. “It was an act of gender-based violence at the extreme.”
When Singer/Songwriter, Britt Meierhofer, began performing, the crowd fell silent; completely enwrapped in the tragic melodies. “It does make me emotional to think 14 women lost their lives because they were simply of the gender that they were born.”
Meierhofer says we live in a desensitized world. “We only respond to mass tragedy or gore, and unfortunately it does take bringing these really really awful situations to the table for people to open up the conversation.”
She says she, along with many other women in her life, faces misogyny almost on a daily basis. Meierhofer says our society still has a long way to go. “Violence against women is still a huge issue. Rape on campus, all of these things are extremely large scale issues and they are only now starting to be covered on a broader level.”
Awareness, education and support are the first steps towards ensuring a tragedy like this never happens again. It’s something the Northern Women’s Centre is working towards. “We have been working on violence issues for many years. We have many resources,” says Boyd. “Something we do every year is a ‘Yes Means Yes Consent to Sexual Activity’ campaign. We have a ‘Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships’ event. We have many campaigns in terms of ending violence.”
The Centre offers educational workshops dealing with self-esteem and self-defense. It welcomes anyone in the community or on campus to visit for more information.