December the 6th

A Day I’ll Never Forget

Yesterday was December the 6th. It’s been 21 years since the massacre at the Ecole Polythechnique. No matter how much time has gone by, I remember the day like it was yesterday. I remember coming home and watching the news, without knowing what had happened, and seeing all the ambulances, police cars, and emergency personnel responding to some shooting that had happened earlier in the day. By the end of the hour I would find out that 14 women lost their lives.

One of the images that still sticks out in my mind is a picture from that day. The bullet holes in the walls. The blood on the floor. And one of the victims slumped backwards in her chair in the cafeteria. I don’t remember the magazine that this appeared in, but I found it an extremely tasteless way to portray a victim. I felt it was just a way of selling magazines. At the same time, it did drive home the horror of such an incident. Sometimes, people need to see the ugliness of humanity to understand that change needs to happen.

That day is always going to be marked in infamy, and the aftermath is always going to stay with me as well. I was 17 at the time, and I remember what it was like to go to school the next day. Everyone was talking about it. The school was pretty much shut down because of the subject. Math, gym, social sciences … all of that was replaced with what had happened at the University of Montreal.

The girls in my class would stay away from the boys. There was constant whispering. No one wanted to step out of line for fear of being likened to Marc Lapine. One of the most disturbing pieces of news came out a few days later. A woman was calling various hospitals and threatening to kill all the male babies so that they wouldn’t grow up to hurt women.

It wasn’t a good time to be male in this city. Everyone was afraid of you. It was like Mark Lapine imprinted his malice towards women on the city. I remember getting into a fight in school and someone yelling out “Oh, he might have a gun!” Marc Lapine changed everything. Not just in Montreal, but in every city across Canada. He took violence against women to a whole new level. In the days and months afterwards, questions flooded in. How was Lapine able to get a rifle? Why he didn’t receive psychiatric treatment…? Why, why, why? And nobody seemed to have any answers. Especially not the politicians.

Everyone has that day they’re going to remember, whether it’s good or if it’s bad, because of its life-altering quality. Even at the age of 17 I knew that Lapine’s actions were going to have repercussions for decades to come. Naturally, the politicians said that swift action needed to be taken, so that women could be protected and could feel safe in the community. One of those things was the long gun registry that the Conservatives have been adamant about destroying.

When I think about all of this now, I feel like things have just gotten worse.

Violence against women is on the rise. There’s more apathy than ever. It’s true. 1989, 21 years ago, there were hundreds more Native Women on this planet who had not yet gone missing. Though violent crime has gone down, crimes of other sorts are on the rise. You just need to look at the rape statistics at any University in this country, and you’ll see its not getting better, it’s getting worse. Sometimes I think people have forgotten the message that came out of Lapine’s massacre. People have forgotten that a man killed 14 women because he believed they were feminists. He believed the world was out to get him. He’s definitely still not the only man that thinks this way.

December 6th should be a National day to remember violence against women. And not just one kind of women, but all women, of all walks of life, be they sex workers or students, lawyers or the homeless women. Women all together.

Mark Lapine succeeded in doing two things. He reminded us how savage humans can be, and he made us realize that no one is safe. While we can try to be vigilant in our everyday lives, the problem runs deep, and is systematic. We shouldn’t feel sorry for Lapine. What we need to do is understand mental illness better. We need a better health care system so men – people – like him don’t fall through the cracks. Because when people like him fall through the cracks, we’re all to blame.

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There is something else my girlfriend pointed out, in her brilliance:

There is a well publicized and nationally recognized vigil for the Polythecnique Massacre every year, but few and sparsely attended vigils for the 582 missing and murdered native women in Canada. This shows the difference between violence that happens suddenly and in the open, versus in alleys, on back roads, and homes – the kind of violence we call “domestic,” and to the people who have fallen through society’s cracks. We remember some violence (towards people of education who society approves of), but blatantly ignore systemic violence – much of it just as gruesome as the massacre – when it happens to the people we have cast away as a society.