PEO committee stages École Polytechnique memorial ceremony

While engineering associations, women’s advocacy groups and community leaders across the country marked the 28th anniversary of the École Polytechnique (now Polytechnique Montréal) massacre, PEO organized its own December 6 ceremony to remember the 14 victims of Canada’s deadliest mass murder.

Hosted by the regulator’s Equity and Diversity Committee, the PEO event coincided with the annual National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada, also known as White Ribbon Day.

On December 6, 1989, lone gunman and rabid anti-feminist Marc Lépine opened fire into a class of engineering students at Montreal’s École PolytechniqueLépine ordered the male students out of the classroom just before opening fire on the group of female students. He shot all nine women in that room, killing six. He then moved through corridors, the cafeteria and another classroom, killing a total of 14 women—all but two were engineering students—and injuring 13 others before turning the gun on himself.

In an evening presentation in the lobby of PEO headquarters, Márta EcsediP.Eng., FEC, chair of PEO’s Equity and Diversity Committee—and founding chair of PEO’s Women in Engineering Advisory Committee, now part of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers—celebrated the memory of the 14 victims and screened a short commemorative video of remembrance.

“The video you are about to see commemorates these young daughters [and] young women who will never be wives, mothers or engineers,” Ecsedi said.

The video shows images of the 14 victims, interspaced with some of the monuments erected in their honour since 1989. It urges viewers to remember the victims and to work towards the prevention of similar incidents in the future.

Ecsedi also referred to PEO’s support of a pink granite memorial in Vancouver’s Thornton Park, which honours the memory of École Polytechnique victims.

“I had the privilege of meeting Professor Chris McDowell of Douglas College, the woman who initiated this memorial, as well as the artist, Professor Beth Alber of OCAD University [formerly the Ontario College of Art and Design], who designed it,” Ecsedi said. “When I was in Vancouver a few year ago, Chris [McDowell] took me to a florist to buy 14 roses and then to the park where I placed a rose on each bench and lit the memorial candle. It was a very touching moment for me. If you find yourself in Vancouver, I hope you will visit it.”

Earlier in the day, PEO President Bob Dony, PhD, P.Eng., FEC, called on the engineering community to reflect on the significance of the National Day of Remembrance.

“Today we pause to mourn the loss of those 14 young women who were murdered on December 6, 1989. And we reflect to consider what actions we all can take to create a society safer for all women,” Dony said. “I’m proud to say that many in our profession are working for such change.”

Ecsedi said PEO’s equity and diversity committee now plans to hold a national day of remembrance tribute at PEO every December 6. The tribute video is available for viewing at www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlisenugplk.

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