École Polytechnique Massacre: A Look at the Montreal Massacre

For the US, the Columbine shootings were the first school violence event to really make a huge impact, but for Canadians it was the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre, which to the non-French speaking public is referred to as the Montreal Massacre. This incidence of extreme school violence took place more than 10 years before Columbine and is still fresh in the minds of Canadians.

On the 6th day of December, 1989, an armed man named Marc Lepine entered the engineering university in Montreal and walked into a classroom, separarting the males from the females before announcing that he was “fighting feminism” and shooting all of the 9 women in the classroom with his semi automatic rifle. He went on to shoot more women as he made his way through the halls, a lunchroom and another classroom. In less than 20 minutes, he managed to kill 14 women, injure 10 more women and 4 men and, then himself.

Something that sets the Montreal Massacre apart from many of the other cases of school violence that we hear about in the news is that this one was specifically geared to a certain group. In the suicide note left behind, Marc Lepine blamed feminists for “ruining his life” and he also included a list of 19 other Montreal women who he wanted to kill simply because he believed they were feminists as well. The students in this school were older than those most of the students that we imagine as being victims of school violence and of course, they were all women which made this an obvious case of hate crime.

Out of tragedies like this one we learn something about school violence and what may have prevented the tragedy or at least have shortened the list of casualties. From coming up with a list of early warning signs that the shooter was on a dangerous path, such as his having been abused as a child, to finding other factors in his life and environment that may have contributed to the problem. The police and law enforcement officials also learned from the case and because of it went on to create a new response technique that would later prove effective in saving lives when another shooting happened at a school in Montreal.

The Montreal Massacre is marked each year with candlelight vigils to remember the fourteen women killed and a plaque displaying the names of the women remains on the wall outside of the École Polytechnique. The lesson’s learned that have helped to save other lives also continue. It won’t being the victims back, but it certainly offers a little ray of sunshine in light of the tragedy knowing that the lessons learned have since saved the lives of other students and will likely save many more.