École Polytechnique Massacre 20th Anniversary: Gun Control Laws
December 6 1989 was the day of the worst school shooting in Canadian history: what is known as the École Polytechnique Massacre. December 6 2009 is the 20th anniversary and as we take a look back on what took place that day, we will also look forward at Canada's current gun control laws and what the Montreal massacre meant for us as a country.
It was on December 6th 1989 that twenty-five year-old Marc Lepine entered the École Polytechnique with a legally obtained semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife and shot twenty-eight people before killing himself.
He first entered a classroom and separated the men and women in there, saying he was 'fighting feminism'. He then shot all nine women in the room and killed six of them. Then he went from room to room looking for women to kill; he killed fourteen women and injured ten others and four men before killing himself.
The women who died were Genevieve Bergeron, Helene Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganiere, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michele Richard, Annie St-Arneault and Annie Turcotte.
Marc Lépine did leave a suicide note in which he blamed feminists for ruining his life. His note contained a list of nineteen women in Quebec that he considered feminists and who he wished to kill. After his death it was also revealed that his father had physically abused him.
Since the attack, Canadians have debated various interpretations of the events, their significance, and Lépine's motives. Many feminist groups and public officials have characterized the massacre as an anti-feminist attack that is representative of wider societal violence against women. Consequently, the anniversary of the massacre has since been commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
It was this incident that led to stricter gun control laws in Canada, and also revised the tactical response of police to shootings. The biggest complaint was that it was far too easy for Marc Lepine to get his gun. It was one of the survivors of the shooting, Heidi Rathjen, who organized the Coalition for Gun Control and this, with the involvment of a number of others, led to the passing of Bill C-68. This bill, also known as The Firearms Act contained stricter gun control laws for the country.
These new regulations included new requirements on the training of gun owners, screening of firearm applicants, new rules concerning gun and ammunition storage and the registration of all firearms.
However, in recent weeks, the Canadian government has been trying hard to scrap Bill C-68 and abolish the national gun registry.
"It is ironic that on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the massacre at L'Ecole Polytechnique, we will once again be caught up in the same fight over gun control," said CAW President Ken Lewenza.
So as the 20th anniversary of the Montreal massacre looms, what is to become of Canada's gun control laws? If the national gun registry is abolished, what could that mean about the memory of the 14 women who died 20 years ago simply because they were women?