Echoes of Montreal - Isla Vista shows us 25 years doesn’t change much
When news of the Isla Vista shootings broke, myself and other Canadians no doubt began to see parallels between this incident and one of the worst mass murders in Canadian history, the Montreal Massacre of 1989:
The École Polytechnique Massacre, also known as the Montreal Massacre, occurred on December 6, 1989 at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Twenty-five-year-old Marc Lépine, armed with a legally obtained Mini-14 and a hunting knife, shot twenty-eight people before killing himself. He began his attack by entering a classroom at the university, where he separated the male and female students. After claiming that he was “fighting feminism” and calling the women “a bunch of feminists,” he shot all nine women in the room, killing six. He then moved through corridors, the cafeteria, and another classroom, specifically targeting women to shoot. Overall, he killed fourteen women and injured ten other women and four men in just under twenty minutes before turning the gun on himself. Lépine was the son of a French-Canadian mother and an Algerian father, and had been physically abused by his father. His suicide note claimed political motives and blamed feminists for ruining his life. The note included a list of nineteen Quebec women whom Lépine considered to be feminists and apparently wished to kill.
It’s clear from the descriptions that there were similar motivations behind both attacks. There’s also a rather eerie similarity between the perpetrators: both single men, in their early 20s with similar backgrounds.
A police psychiatrist who interviewed Lépine’s family and entourage, and who had access to his letters, suggested that he may have had a serious personality disorder, as he chose the multiple homicide/suicide strategy (killing one’s self after killing others) that is a characteristic of this disorder. The psychiatrist noted “extreme narcissistic vulnerability” as shown by fantasies of power and success combined with high levels of self-criticism and difficulties dealing with rejection and failure. Feelings of powerlessness and incompetence were compensated for by a violent and grandiose imaginary life. Other psychiatrists suggested that Lépine was psychotic, having lost touch with reality as he tried to erase the memories of a brutal (and absent) father, while at the same time unconsciously identifying with a violent manhood that dominates women. Other theories were that Lépine’s experiences of abuse as a child had caused brain-damage or led him to feel victimized as he faced losses and rejections in his later life. His mother speculated that Lépine may have suffered from attachment disorder, due to the abuse and sense of abandonment he had experienced in his childhood. She also wondered whether Lépine viewed her as a feminist, and that the massacre might have been an unconscious attempt to get revenge for her neglect while she pursued her career, and for his sister’s taunts. Others take a less individualistic approach. Many feminists and governmental officials view it as an illustration of misogynist violence committed against women.
And about Eliot Rodger:
According to the Rodger family’s attorney, Rodger saw multiple therapists and was a student at Santa Barbara City College. The lawyer also claims that Rodger was diagnosed with “highly functional Asperger syndrome” as a child and was allegedly bullied. He had a YouTube account, a Facebook account, and a blog titled Elliot Rodger’s Official Blog, all of which contained posts expressing loneliness and rejection. His manifesto mentions a cocktail of drugs that he was prescribed, though how long he was being treated with them and what drugs remain unknown at this time.
I can personally relate to Lepine and Rodger to a point. In my late teens and early 20s (I was single until age 25), I dealt with rejection. I was stood up at my senior prom, I was stood up twice by the same girl in college, I was quiet, somewhat introverted and shorter than average height. I admit I was angry and frustrated because I couldn’t understand why women weren’t attracted to me.
Most guys my age had a girlfriend, didn’t I deserve one too?
Was I emotional? Yes.
Was I despondent? Yes.
Did I ever get violent? No.
I decided to live my life as who I was and let the world take me for me. Not an easy decision mind you, but the right one.
Now I don’t have Aspergers, but I do have ADD. One of the symptoms of ADD (beyond the obvious difficulty in focusing on things) is difficulty socializing. This is something I’ve struggled with greatly through my adult life. I have been making steady progress in the area, but it’s still an issue I deal with.
I do believe one of the problems is the way society portrays women. They are seen as a symbol of success along with money and power. Think of the rap videos where the star is surrounded by gold jewelry, expensive cars and a bunch of scantily clad women or the end of numerous movies where the heroic man finally gets the woman who’s been dodging his advances up to that point.
We do a fine job of presenting women as property and less fine a job of presenting them as human. No man deserves a woman just because’s he’s a man. A relationship with a woman is something that is earned, not given.
And that brings me to my next point. The murders in Montreal shook the Canadian national conscience and brought about a lot of change for my country.
The massacre galvanized the Canadian women’s movement, who see it as a symbol of violence against women. “The death of those young women would not be in vain, we promised”, Canadian feminist Judy Rebick recalled. “We would turn our mourning into organizing to put an end to male violence against women.”
In response to the killings a House of Commons Sub-Committee on the Status of Women was created. It released a report “The War against Women” in June 1991, which was not endorsed by the full standing committee. However, following its recommendations, the federal government established the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women in August 1991. The panel issued a final report, “Changing the Landscape: Ending Violence - Achieving Equality”, in June 1993.
In addition, the violent acts also led to, guess what? Stricter gun control laws.
The massacre was a major spur for the Canadian gun control movement. One of the survivors, Heidi Rathjen, who was in one of the classrooms Lépine did not enter during the shooting, organized the Coalition for Gun Control with Wendy Cukier.Suzanne Laplante-Edward and Jim Edward, the parents of one of the victims, were also deeply involved. Their activities, along with others, led to the passage of Bill C-68, or the Firearms Act, in 1995, ushering in stricter gun control regulations. These new regulations included requirements on the training of gun owners, screening of firearm applicants, rules concerning gun and ammunition storage and the registration of all firearms.
Unfortunately, some of those tight restrictions have been successfully rolled back by the current Conservative Government in Canada:
Between 2009 and 2012 survivors of the massacre and their families publicly opposed legislative actions by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government aimed at ending the long-gun registry. A bill was narrowly defeated in September 2010, but following their 2011 majority election win, the long-gun registry was abolished by the Harper government in April 2012. The Quebec government subsequently won a temporary injunction, preventing the destruction of the province’s gun registry data, and ordering the continued registration of long guns in Quebec.
Those laws will probably be reinstated in some form after the Conservatives lose power, but the main point I am making here is that it’s clear the Isla Vista shootings will have nowhere the impact on the American people that Montreal incident did on the Canadians.
And that’s quite telling. Because it means no real change will occur. Women will continue to be objectified, guns will continue to be easily available.
Sooner or later, another Marc Lepine/Eliot Rodger/will come along and we’ll have the same conversations all over again.
With the same results.