The Montreal Massacre

On the evening of December 6, 1989, a man with a rifle entered a classroom in L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, separated the women and men, then claimed he was “fighting feminism”, called the women “a bunch of feminists” and shot nine women, killing six of them. He moved on through the college shooting more women. During his 20-minute rampage, he murdered 14 women and injured 10 other women and four men before taking his own life.  His suicide note blamed feminists for ruining his life and included a list of 19 prominent Quebec feminists who he also planned to target.

What became known as The Montreal Massacre occurred as feminists were winning victories in the fight for control of their bodies and against violence. This included the Canadian Supreme Court’s landmark decision in 1988 declaring that the Criminal Code provision making abortion criminal was unconstitutional, as it violated a woman’s right to security of person under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There was also growing activism across the county demanding that gender-based harassment and violence in all its forms, including partner violence, sexual assault, and workplace harassment and violence, be recognized and stopped.

The tragedy in Montreal sent shock waves across the country and became a galvanizing moment as Canadian women responded fiercely. In 1991, the Government of Canada acceded to pressure from feminist organizations to recognize December 6th as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This day continues to be an annual commemoration of the 14 women and a time to raise awareness and renew the call to end the violence against women and girls.

Different communities and groups across Canada recognize December 6 in different ways each year, but often there is a procession or a candlelit vigil and the names of the fourteen women are read out, with roses left at a memorial.  Since the inception of the White Ribbon campaign in 1991, many men have also worn white ribbons in the days leading up to December 6th as a “pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls”.

  • Geneviève Bergeron
  • Hélène Colgan
  • Nathalie Croteau
  • Barbara Daigneault
  • Anne-Marie Edward
  • Maud Haviernick
  • Maryse Laganière
  • Maryse Leclair
  • Anne-Marie Lemay
  • Sonia Pelletier
  • Michèle Richard
  • Annie St-Arneault
  • Annie Turcotte
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

The Montreal Massacre Documents

Title Date Region
How Many More of Us? 1991 National (all of Canada)
the women’s monument – a symbol of healing and change -- British Columbia