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December 5, 2014

Memorial vigil on the 25th anniversary of Montreal shootings.

On Friday, December 5, 2014, Fanshawe students, faculty, staff and community members remembered those whose lives have been forever changed by gender-based violence, one day before the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.


At 1 p.m., a memorial service was held in Forwell Hall in remembrance of the victims of the 1989 shootings at École Polytechnique in Montreal.

Photo from Ecole Polytechnique memorial

"Violence means that someone is robbed of dignity, safety, and sense of self," said Candice Lawrence, a counsellor at Fanshawe and one of the event organizers. "This was a day for the Fanshawe community to honour victims of gender-based violence by giving them a voice, and to reflect on tangible actions that we can take to contribute to a safer society free from abusive and violent behaviour."

The commemorative service welcomed students, faculty, staff and community members. Susan Dill, Director of Residential Programs and Services at Women's Community House, spoke about her experiences supporting victims and advocating for social justice and women's rights. She also examined the ways attitudes have changed in the past 25 years, and discussed what still needs to change. Community educator and humanitarian Mary Lou Smoke spoke on behalf of Canada's missing/murdered Indigenous women, drawing on her personal experience as a healer and also explaining the profound impact her sister's murder had on her and her family.

Saturday, December 6 marked the 25th anniversary of the 1989 shooting at Montreal's École Polytechnique. At Fanshawe's memorial vigil, a moment of silence was observed and 14 student volunteers laid roses to honour each of the victims of what has become known as the "Montreal Massacre."

"The young women murdered at École Polytechnique paid the ultimate price, as did the families that were left behind," said Candice Lawrence, Counsellor and Co-Chair of the Campus Violence Prevention and Awareness group. "We remembered them to give meaning to their deaths, to turn the tragedy into something positive. Thanks to the help and support of everyone involved, the ceremony was powerful and beautiful."

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women:

On December 6, 1989, an armed man walked into Montreal's École Polytechnique and murdered 14 women. As a result, Parliament declared the anniversary of this day a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It is a time to reflect on ending violence against women in our society, and to remember all women who live daily with the threat of violence or who have died because of gender-based violence.

Susan Dill is the Director of Programs & Services for Women's Community House (WCH) and manages the shelter located on Clarke Road. In 2013, 364 women and 199 children came to shelter to escape the violence in their lives. With over 15 years experience in the violence against women sector, Susan witnesses daily the impact of abuse on families and ultimately on the community. Susan is also Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Changing Ways, a counselling service for men who use intimidation and abuse in their intimate relationships or with their children. Both Changing Ways and WCH work on many levels to raise awareness, strive for social justice and advocate for the paradigm shifts necessary to change the power imbalance, and culture that allows violence to continue.

Mary Lou Smoke is an Adjunct Professor in the First Nations Studies Department at Western University. Together with her husband Dan, she co-hosts the First Nations radio program "Smoke Signals" on CHRW 94.9 Radio Western. An active community educator and humanitarian, Mary Lou won the 2013 Women of Excellence Award for Education, Training and Development for her ongoing work to increase the visibility and self-esteem of First Nations people in the region through education, advising and cultural support.

For further information, please visit Fanshawe's media contact page.