Family Transition Place honours victims of Montreal Massacre

December 9, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Representatives of Family Transition Place (FTP) joined with members of the local community on Monday (Dec. 6) to commemorate the victims of École Polytechnique, on the 32nd anniversary of the massacre.

“We’re here to recognize that on Dec. 6, 1989, 14 women got dressed and went off to school, to never return home again,” said Norah Kennedy, executive director of Family Transition Place, to the crowd gathered outside the FTP offices on Bredin Parkway in Orangeville.

The École Polytechnique, also known as the Montreal Massacres, took place on Dec. 6, 1989 when lone gunman, Marc Lepine, separated the men from the women students inside the engineering school before opening fire; killing 14 women and injuring others.

For the last 30 years, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (Dec. 6) has been observed on the anniversary of the 1989 massacre, honouring the women who were murdered.

“As a nation we lost a bit of our innocence that day. It was a hate crime against women and we had never seen anything like that before, and we can’t allow ourselves to forget that that is what extreme misogyny and hatred can look like,” said Kennedy in an interview with the Free Press.

As part of this year’s recognition, Kennedy made the point of changing the language often used when speaking about the women’s murders, noting that it was pointed out to her as being misleading.

“We usually use it to say that they were killed because they were women,” said Kennedy. “They were not killed because they were women, they were not killed because of anything they were or anything that they did. They were killed because of a man who hated women.

“This was not because they were women, this was because he was a man steeped in anger, hatred, and misinterpreted privilege.”

During the memorial ceremony, attendees read out the names of the 14 victims, and were given the chance to speak about how they connected to the vigil.

Lyn Allen, who has worked with Family Transition Place for 34 years, recalled the day of the massacre.

“I remember being a young person similar in age to a lot of the women that had been killed, and it just profoundly impacted me. I was already doing this work, but it felt so big and I think I kind of lost my innocence at that time,” said Allen.

She also shared how each year she hopes the vigil will be the last that’s needed, with the world being a kinder and safer place for women.

While the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women honours the École Polytechnique victims, it is also a day of action for gender-based violence; recognizing the women who have been killed through femicide since.

Femicide is a term used to describe the act of a man murdering women because they’re women, and who is often intimately well-known.

According to the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH), thus far in 2021 there have been 58 women and girls who have lost their lives to femicide. This is a 47 per cent increase from last year. The oldest victims were in their 80s, killed by a husband and another resident at a long-term care facility. The youngest victim was three-years-old.

“[She] was having a sleepover at a friend’s house. The friend’s mother’s ex-boyfriend poisoned her and her little friend, who survived,” said Kennedy.

Over 50 other names are on the femicide list including teenagers, university students, middle-aged women, women in the height of their careers, and grandmothers added Kennedy.

“All killed by intimate partners, incredibly and horrifically many killed by sons or grandsons,” she said.

Concluding her speech, proceeding a moment of silence in memory of the École Polytechnique victims Kennedy said, “We remember those girls. We remember the young women that they were and we grieve and mourn the older women that they were never allowed to become. Who would they have been now?

“They were engineers at a time when engineering was dominantly male. They were trailblazers, they would have been the directors of companies, they would have been manager, and laid down new paths for young women to follow. They never got the chance.”

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