Twenty six years ago today a man walked into Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and murdered 14 women because they were women. Every year on December 6th we remember this massacre, this act of terrorism, and those who were killed. This year there is a juxtaposition with the first night of Hanukkah, a festival of light remembering the light that burned for eight days when there was only enough oil to last one day. This evening we light the first candle for Hanukkah. For many it is a spiritual rededication of oneself and one’s body to move forward. What does this mean in light of a misogynistic act of hatred like the one 26 years ago? We still have women being killed by abusive husbands or ex husbands. We live in a society where rape culture is still prevelant. We still have those who would deny a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body and health care choices. Women still get paid less than men for the same work.
The lights of Hanukkah represent a story that has its roots in violence. The Maccabean revolt was a violent revolt by Jews against Antiochus and the defilement of the temple. The Jewish people over the millenia have been the victims of a lot of violence, and, at times, the perpetrators of violence. We don’t like to talk about the violence that we perpetrate. White people who do not look at systemic racism and colonialism. Those who do not look at what heteronormativity and cisnormativity do to those who are part of gender and sexual minorities. Men who do not see the systemic misogyny and rape culture that pervades our society.
This year when lighting the candles on the hannukiah I will remember the violence of the past, the women who were murdered 26 years ago. I will also remember the resilience and hope that the story of Hanukkah conveys. The light that was only supposed to last one day that lasted eight days. We each have an eternal flame within us, a spark of the divine. May the spark shine in each of us as a beacon toward the future, and a remembrance of the past. May we rededicate ourselves to working now for a bright future.
Today we remember:
Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student