This Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the day Marc Lépine walked into the l’École Poly-technique in Montreal, with a gun, killing 14 women and injuring several other people. It was one of the defining moments of my teenage years. I was in grade 11 when it happened.
On Dec. 6, 1989, the 25 year old Lépine, who had been denied admission to the school, opened fire in the building. In a classroom, he separated the male from the female students and, claiming that he was “fighting feminism,” shot 9 women, killing 6. He then wandered through the school killing another 8 women before finally shooting and killing himself. Fourteen others were injured, including 4 men.
In his suicide note, Lépine called his actions political and he blamed feminists for ruining his life. The original is inFrench and this is only an excerpt:
Would you note that if I commit suicide today 89-12-06 it is not for economic reasons (for I have waited until I exhausted all my financial means, even refusing jobs) but for political reasons. Because I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker… Being rather backward-looking by nature (except for science), the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g. cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventative leave, etc.) while seizing for themselves those of men.
The letter was followed by a list of nineteen names, prominent Quebec women, with a note at the bottom:
Nearly died today. The lack of time (because I started too late) has allowed these radical feminists to survive. Alea Jacta Est.
Of course, Lépine’s perspective on life must have been shaped by his family and I have great sympathy for his personal history which included an instability and abuse in his family life. I am sure he suffered from racism in Quebec, a province in which the premier referred to losing a referendum due to “money and the ethnic vote.” (That night was another defining moment of my youth…I was sent home from my fourth year English course on Early English Drama to wait for the results…but maybe that’s another post). And I feel such sorrow for his mother, who only recently has begun to speak about the event and how much shame and anger she feels. In her words, “No mother raises her son to be a killer. The days following the (shooting), I was lethargic. I had to bury him in hiding and in shame.” I mean really – can you imagine? Awful. This interview with Monique Lépine is worth listening to (although I think it would have been more effective in French and I wish CBC would stop saying shit like “gunned down” and “mass murderer.” I hate the sensationalism).
The whole thing is tragic – for the women who were killed, for the families involved, for Canadian society more broadly. Preventing violence is the responsibility of all of us – male and female – and I am aware that men are more victims of violence more often than women are. That said, this incident was clearly directed AT women for BEING women and I think that’s worth thinking about. Worth worrying about. I think I’ll leave it there. At remembrance.