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December 6, 1989: U of T Remembers

November 27, 2014


On the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, some of U of T’s senior women academic administrators share their thoughts about what December 6 means to them.


“On December 6, 1989, I was the Coordinator of Crisis Services at the Mississauga Hospital, leading a team of social workers who provided services to the Sexual Assault Centre, the Emergency Department, and the Intensive Care Unit. Responding to crisis and violence was part of my everyday life.

I came to that role having previously worked on a forensic mental health unit assessing violent offenders and having served on the Board of Directors of Interim Place, a local shelter for women who were victims of intimate partner violence. It felt as though I had seen it all. Yet the news of the massacre at École Polytechnique de Montreal came as a stunning shock.

December 6 serves to all of us as a reminder that we have come far in naming and addressing violence, and in providing services to those who have been victimized. But despite our advances we still have far to go in ensuring that all members of our society are safe from harm.”

Professor Cheryl Regehr
Vice-President & Provost

“When my daughter was a child, she would complain that while her friends’ moms liked to talk about fun stuff, I talked about the importance of going to university and having a career. I wanted my daughter and her friends to believe that they could do and be whatever they wanted. My daughter was 16 in 1989 and starting to think about what university she wanted to attend. I had never contemplated that my views might place her and her friends at risk of violence as they pursued their dreams.

Violence against women, from strangers but more frequently from partners and family members, continues and impacts women from every sector of Canadian society. While significant progress has been made in terms of raising awareness and providing appropriate support, it is clear that more needs to be done. Like many of my colleagues I regularly donate to causes and organizations in support of women and girls; and, also like many of my colleagues, I continue to seek ways to support women attain their professional goals.

Twenty five years is a long time – but the memories of that day are still fresh and they need to remain that way because as a society, we still have work to do.”

Professor Angela Hildyard
Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity

“École Polytechnique Massacre December 6, 1989

On that day I tried to understand how and why someone would be so deliberate in the systematic way he murdered the young women who were students at École Polytechnique.

While we all know that there are deeply disturbed individuals who deal with their own crises through violence against others, the fact that these victims were sought out and then segregated because they were female still makes the horror today as vivid as it was then. Unfortunately we see this same pattern all too frequently around the world with young girls and women of all ages. Our obligation as women in a free society is to honour the memory of these girls and women by continuing to shine a light on these injustices.”

Judith Wolfson
Vice-President, University Relations

“When the news that a gunman had deliberately and systematically murdered 14 women in Montreal reached me in faraway Brisbane, Australia, I was at the time pregnant with my third daughter. I remember feeling an overwhelming identification with the mothers of those poor girls and a tremendous fear for the safety of my own daughters. In my work as a nurse in the ER in those days I saw the consequences of violence against women, on the street and in the home.

Today, whenever I hear of attacks on women, be they girls at school somewhere in the world, or attacks on the streets of the city, that same dread and sorrow for the girls and their mothers returns. The fact that violence against women and girls continues, as a fact of life here in Canada and as a deliberate campaign in many parts of the world, tells us awareness and advocacy is as important today as it has ever been. We know from the Montreal tragedy that we cannot take for granted any progress that has been made for women in career or educational opportunities, particularly in traditionally male areas of endeavour. Ending violence against women starts with recognizing the root of the problem – the status of women in society. We all have to continue to do this work, not just for mothers and girls, but for everyone.”

Professor Sioban Nelson
Vice-Provost, Faculty & Academic Life
Vice-Provost, Academic Programs

“I remember very well where I was when I heard the news about the December 6th Montreal massacre: in my office at the Scarborough Campus where I had recently begun teaching as an assistant professor. At that time, it was with shock and outrage that we recognized the incident as a deliberate targeting of and expression of violence towards women. While Marc Lepine, the perpetrator, was understood to be a sick individual who needed help, it is significant that his actions took the form of segregating and brutally slaughtering fourteen women. Looking back, though many gains have been made in safeguarding women’s rights to education and freedom from oppression, I feel sadness and concern at the realization that twenty five years on reprisals against women continue. Even as I acknowledge this reality, I want to emphasize the considerable efforts this University makes to educate and strengthen our communities’ commitment to the erasure of gender violence of all kinds.”

Professor Jill Matus
Vice-Provost, Students & First-Entry Divisions