Victoria memorial pays tribute to victims of 1989 Montreal Massacre

A permanent reminder of the tragic events of Dec. 6, 1989, was unveiled Saturday at Holland Point Park, and the brother of one of the victims was there to see it.

Twenty-five years ago, in what became known as the Montreal Massacre, 25-year-old gunman Marc Lépine roamed the corridors of L’École Polytechnique at the Université de Montréal and killed 14 women. Fourteen others, 10 women and four men, were injured. Lépine separated the men from the women and, before opening fire on the female engineering students, screamed: “I hate feminists.”

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Laurent Haviernick, whose 28-year-old sister, Maud, was killed in the attack, came from Montreal to take part in the unveiling and a candlelight vigil at the park, off Dallas Road near South Turner Street.

Haviernick, who was 25 when the shootings took place, said he was in Victoria to represent all 14 families who lost loved ones. He was invited by event organizer Virginia Vaillancourt, who met members of the Haviernick family through the Coalition for Gun Control.

“It’s important to remember,” Haviernick said. “And it’s important also to say that we’re going to do something about violence in our country.”

He described his sister as “very determined” about achieving what she wanted: “Going back to school, studying very hard, pursuing her dream to become an engineer.”

Despite the passage of time, there is still a lot to learn from what happened in 1989, said Vaillancourt, the regional women’s co-ordinator for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“I see some progress, but there’s still lots more work that we have to do,” she said. “We need to remain aware, but we also need to be able to have people realize that we have to speak up when we see violence and make sure our children know that violence is wrong, abuse is wrong.”

Vaillancourt designed the monument, a boulder with a plaque, and worked with the City of Victoria to get approval for its placement. Its $4,000 cost was covered by PSAC’s Victoria Regional Women’s Committee and donations from other unions, she said.

“Our hope is that it’s going to provide a place for people to go and share their grief, but also to potentially give hope to women within the community who may be in violent situations currently. We’re hoping that having the monument there will [give] them strength to get away from those situations.”

Also on Saturday, First Metropolitan United Church and the Raging Grannies activist group marked the day with a memorial event, which the church has hosted annually since the shootings took place.

“On Dec. 6, 1989, 14 women left their homes, going about their daily lives,” said Megumi Matsuo Saunders, a First Metropolitan minister. “Little did these young women know their dream would be ended by a blast of gunfire.

“On that day, 25 years ago, violence robbed their families, their friends and society of their light of hope in this world.”

Kathy McMillan, of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, said she was at the church on behalf of aboriginal people, and also for her children, because violence remains an issue in society. “It definitely is a scary world out there,” she said.

McMillan said it was important to gather and remember the women who died. “It brings goosebumps to me that we’re here and we’re representing them.”

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