Fourteen light beams representing the 14 victims of the École Polytechnique massacre shine at Montreal’s Mount Royal on the 25th anniversary of the slayings in 2014. Photo by Remi St-Onge, Moment Factory

The Register Archives: Montreal massacre leaves legacy of pain

By 
  • December 3, 2018

Few events in recent Canadian history have had a greater impact than the massacre at École Polytechnique in Montreal. The gunman, Marc Lepine, killed 14 women and injured 14 others in the Dec. 6, 1989 attack before killing himself. His suicide note revealed his hatred of feminists. In the wake of the tragedy, there were changes to gun laws and the creation of an annual national day of remembrance on Dec. 6 to recognize violence against women. Five days following the attack, a funeral Mass for nine of the women was held at Montreal’s Notre Dame Basilica, as reported in The Register:

Families, friends and fellow students of nine of the 14 women murdered in the Dec. 6 shooting spree at the University of Montreal’s École Polytechnique, paid their final tributes to the victims at a joint funeral Mass Dec. 11 at Notre Dame Basilica. 

Private funerals were held for the other five shooting victims. All 14 women were gunned down in the school’s engineering department by 25-year-old Marc Lepine, a loner and gun enthusiast who blamed women for all of his problems. He killed himself after stalking the 14 female victims. 

Cardinal Paul Gregoire, Archbishop of Montreal, was chief celebrant of the funeral Mass. He was assisted by 40 priests and a dozen Quebec bishops, including Bishop Robert Label of Valleyfield, Que., president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

The 160-year-old basilica in downtown Montreal was filled to capacity with grieving family members, friends and relatives of the victims. Among those at the funeral were Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa and Governor General Jeanne Sauve. Thousands more stood outside the basilica and listened to the Mass over loudspeakers. 

In his homily, Gregoire said the massacre has plunged the community into utter misery. 

“The tragedy which unfolded at École Polytechnique compels us to live the absurd and the suffering with an even greater intensity,” Gregoire said. “Fourteen young women were brutally mowed down in the beauty of their youth at a time when everything seemed to assure them of a brilliant future. In a few moments, a hopeless and vicious act of another young person was sufficient to destroy all the dreams and all the promises. We remain dumbfounded in the face of these deaths.” 

Gregoire later urged the classmates of the shooting victims to remember the challenge that Christ offered in the Beatitudes: “Your daughters, your sisters, your friends, the future engineers over whom we weep today chose to be builders of society,” Gregoire said. “In memory of them, in solidarity with them, you will strive to build a better world of friendship and thus take to heart the words of Jesus, ‘Happy the peacemakers.’ ” 

CCCB president Lebel also issued a statement on behalf of his fellow bishops. He offered sympathy to family members and friends of the victims, and expressed hope that the tragedy will lead to a greater sensitivity to the increasing violence in society.

(To explore more from The Catholic Register Archive, go to catholicregister.org/archive)

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