The University of Alberta’s faculty of engineering joined various universities across Canada in a national effort to remember the victims of the shooting at Ècole Polytechnique.
To commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the attack at Ècole Polytechnique, the faculty of engineering live-streamed a national ceremony in Montreal featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Julie Payette. During the livestream, a white beam of light was shone alongside 13 other institutions, each one commemorating one of the 14 victims. 14 light beams were also shone at Mount Royal.
30 years ago a gunman entered the Montreal engineering school Ècole Polytechnique and killed 14 women to, as he stated, “fight feminism.” The attack killed 12 engineers, a nursing student, and a support staff member at the school.
Ania Ulrich, outreach associate dean for the faculty of engineering, introduced the live-stream by emphasizing the influential and resonating effects of the attack.
“Today, as we do every December 6, we honour the lives of those lost and of those who survived,” Ulrich said. “While many of our students were not born at the time of this tragedy, they will know who these women are and we will never forget.”
Ulrich believes that though there is still work to be done, there has been a tangible shift in the engineering community. With more marginalized groups entering the field, she sees an active commitment to making it a more accepting and safe place.
“We are welcoming and inspiring young women and other underrepresented groups into engineering and they are driven to create enduring, positive change in the world,” Ulrich said. “Together, our engineering community across the country is creating learning and work environments that ensure this will never happen again to anyone.”
Ulrich was in grade nine when the attack occurred, but still found the courage to pursue her engineering undergraduate degree at the U of A.
“My father and my mother always made me believe that I could do anything and gave me the courage to step into [engineering], even though there may be hardships along the way,” she said in an interview. “It’s really important to step into that courage.”
For Ulrich, continuing to have these ceremonies opens up an uncomfortable, yet necessary national dialogue. It’s also a chance to reflect on what progress has been made and what still needs to change.
“As Canadians, I think we sometimes find it hard to talk about gender inequities, discrimination, hatred and violence, but it’s important to make those moments because it was through learning the history that we will not repeat these things,” she said.
“We need those reminders so that we don’t get complacent and so that we’re checking in, are we doing enough? What do we need to do? How do we create these grassroots movements in our faculties?”
In a statement, Fraser Forbes, dean of engineering, said that the attack was a loss to Canadian society.
“Today we remember 14 women who were slain 30 years ago at École Polytechnique de Montreal, singled out because they were women,” he said. “We come together across Canada to mourn the loss of these promising young women and the contributions they would have made to our society. We are poorer in their absence.”
The victims of the December 6, 1989 attack are listed below:
- Geneviève Bergeron , 21 — Civil engineering student
- Hélèn Colgan, 23 — Mechanical engineering student
- Nathalie Croteau, 23 — Mechanical engineering student
- Barbara Daigneault, 22 — Mechanical engineering student
- Anne-Marie Edward, 21 — Chemical engineering student
- Maud Haviernick, 29 — Materials engineering student
- Barbara Klucznick-Widajewicz, 31 — Nursing student
- Maryse Laganière, 25 — Budget clerk at Ècole Polytechnique
- Maryse Leclair, 23 — Materials engineering student
- Anne-Marie Lemay, 22 — Mechanical engineering student
- Sonia Pelletier, 28 — Mechanical engineering student
- Michèle Richard, 21 — Materials engineering student
- Annie St-Arneault, 23 — Mechanical engineering student
- Annie Turcotte, 20 — Materials engineering student