By Alexandra Sebben

As a content warning, please note that this post includes information about gender-based violence and sexual violence. We understand that this can trigger strong reactions and we encourage the community to connect with Carleton University’s  Sexual Assault Support Centre  and/or  Health and Wellness Services  for support. Additional community supports can also be found on the Sexual Violence Policy website.

We will not forget them.

Geneviève Bergeron. Hélène Colgan. Nathalie Croteau. Barbara Daigneault. Anne-Marie Edward. Maud Haviernick. Maryse Laganière. Maryse Leclair. Anne-Marie Lemay. Sonia Pelletier. Michèle Richard. Annie St-Arneault. Annie Turcotte. Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.

Exactly 33 years ago today, a man walked into a classroom at École Polytechnique de Montréal (the university’s faculty of engineering) and brutally murdered 14 women in a horrific act of gender-based violence. This act shook our nation to its core and in response, the Government of Canada designated December 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Ever since, Carleton University has come together to remember the women that were killed on December 6, 1989 and reflect on ways we can eradicate gender-based violence in our community.

Taking Action Against Gender-Based Violence

Following two years of commemorating White Ribbon Day online, Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design returned to holding an in-person remembrance ceremony, gathering in the university’s new Engineering Design Centre.

Carleton’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Cynthia Cruickshank and Robin Feeney, a Carleton Student Engineering Society councilor, spoke to the Carleton community about what December 6 means to them and actionable steps we can take to foster a safe space where everyone feels that they belong.

“Since this tragedy took place, an incredible amount of progress has been made towards eliminating barriers faced by young women and girls in pursing their interests in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Professor Cynthia Cruickshank. “By working together, we can collectively build and sustain healthy learning for all.”

Robin Feeney built on Professor Cruickshank’s remarks by offering tangible actions everyone can take to ensure this history never repeats itself:

  • Listen to women’s stories to understand their experiences.
  • Empower women by actively calling them into the conversation.
  • Speak up when you hear something wrong being said, done to, or about a woman.
  • Research how you may have benefited from a system in place that has caused harm to women.
  • Make time to read relevant resources and attend workshops.

After two years of commemorating White Ribbon Day online, the Faculty of Engineering and Design returned to holding an in-person remembrance ceremony, with members of the Carleton community gathering in the new Engineering Design Centre.

Introducing an Honourary Plaque

President Benoit-Antoine Bacon shared personal memories of growing up witnessing gender-based domestic violence and of living in Montreal on the day the massacre occurred. He then invited the community to join him in a moment of silence as he read the names of the 14 women killed on December 6, 1989.

Near the end of his remarks, President Bacon welcomed attendees to join him in viewing a special honourary plaque that commemorates these 14 women – and re-affirms the Faculty of Engineering and Design’s and Carleton University’s commitment to eliminating all forms of gender-based violence in our community.

The plaque is a new installment for the Faculty of Engineering and Design and is a physical reminder for students, faculty, and staff at Carleton of the urgencies of the present and the need to act for the future we desire.

The location of this plaque was intentionally chosen within the Engineering Design Centre, within a dedicated space for students to study and across from hands-on workstations, specifically because it is a place where students can deepen their learning.

“Every time Carleton engineering and design students, professors, instructors, and staff visit this space, it will serve as a permanent reminder that we must continue to create safe spaces where everyone feels that they belong,” said President Bacon.

 “I encourage all of you to reflect on what each of us has a responsibility to do in continuing to contribute to a safe and welcoming academic environment at Carleton – and how we can help others to do the same.”