The anniversary of the Montreal Massacre takes place on December 6. This year, it was 23 years ago that a 25-year-old man armed with a rifle and a hunting knife burst into a classroom at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec and shot 28 people before killing himself.
What made this episode of obscene violence all the more memorable is that after he entered the classroom, he separated the female from male students, and proceeded to shoot all nine women in the room, killing six, all the while claiming that he was fighting feminism. He then began to move through the school, down corridors, into the cafeteria, another classroom, targeting every woman he saw.
In less than 20 minutes, he killed fourteen women, injured ten more, and injured ten men before turning the gun on himself.
On Thursday (December 6) at 4:45 p.m. at the Invermere Cenotaph, a candlelight vigil will be held in memory of these fourteen women who lost their lives.
The vigil will also mark the end of the Purple Light Campaign against domestic violence that runs each year from November 21 to December 7. The idea is that by shining lights, we can dispel the darkness and shame around the violence and abuse that takes place not just out in the public realm but also within the confines of a family’s home.
Traditionally women and girls have been regarded as the victims of abuse as the Montreal Massacre clearly suggests, yet we know that violence knows no boundaries. Men are victims too, as are boys. And nor does violence have to be just physical — it can be mental and emotional as well, and passed down from generation to generation. And our Western culture appears to be fascinated by it, eager to take in extremely disturbing and violent films over and over again.
But in that moment when we hold a candle, silent with our thoughts and mourning the violence that continues to pervade each and every one of our lives, hopefully we are encouraging someone somewhere to identify patterns of abuse they’ve grown accustomed to, simply because they have had no other examples to live by.
So let’s shine our lights and work together towards the peace.