UBC remembers École Polytechnique 34 years later
December 6, 2023
Memorials were held on both UBC campuses today for the 14 women who were killed at École Polytechnique de Montréal on December 6, 1989.
Students, faculty and staff gathered in Vancouver and Kelowna at ceremonies led by the engineering community on each campus.
“They died because they were women; they were 14 women who dared to be in a space that was historically male,” said Karisma Jutla, president of the Engineering Undergraduate Society at UBC Vancouver. “As women in engineering, I believe we owe it to these women to push the envelope a little further to make space for ourselves. It is paramount that we ensure a woman in engineering is not an abnormality but a norm.”
Guest speakers spoke about the importance of inclusion, the survivors of the massacre and their achievements, and their own experiences in creating space within male-dominated work spheres. Attendees followed engineering students to the permanent 14 Not Forgotten memorial in the courtyard behind Fred Kaiser, where victims' names were read out and a white rose was placed for each name.
At the Okanagan campus, a self-guided walkthrough memorial was set up in the Engineering, Management and Education building, with a table dedicated to each victim. Speakers at the ceremony spoke about the massacre, shared personal experiences of misogyny in male-dominated spheres.
Students paid tribute to each victim, saying her name, a few words about who she was, and how old she was when she was killed, before laying a white rose on a table.
The 1989 massacre shook the country and Parliament designated December 6 as The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
In 2014, Polytechnique Montréal marked the 25th anniversary by creating the Order of the White Rose, an annual scholarship in tribute to the victims and all those forever affected by the tragedy. The scholarship is awarded to a woman engineering student who plans to enrol in engineering graduate studies anywhere in the world.
“In honouring the memory of the remarkable women who were my classmates, the Order of the White Rose is fulfilling a mission to uphold and pass on values for the future,” said Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the 1989 shooting, one of the scholarship’s ‘godmothers,’ and General Manager, Analysis and Expertise, Centre and Sud du Québec, Ministry of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change.