1989—14 women were murdered because they dared to study engineering. IN CANADA! I did not know this relatively recent history in the struggle for civil rights.
Women in engineering comprised less than 20 percent of any engineering student body in 1989. That statistic is virtually the same today. So where was the threat? There are plenty of spots for guys in engineering, and for white guys it’s a coup. But writer Ursula K. LeGuin explains why even a small number of women engineers could spark fear in some: “One alien is a curiosity, two are an invasion.”
It is the 24th anniversary of that massacre at École Polytechnique. And while tiny lights flicker in my neighborhood and a balsam-scented candle burns atop my wood stove, I cannot help but remember. These women have haunted me since I committed to writing their story. I have visited Montreal. I have met those left behind. I have witnessed the pain and shock that remain because there are so very little tools to heal but education, and education is still so fraught for women and girls.
At the international colloquium “The Massacre at École Polytechnique 20 Years Later: Male Violence Against Women and Feminists” in December 2009 at the University of Montreal at Quebec, a man at one of the coffee breaks asked me about the book I was writing. I told him that I am telling the story of the women killed or targeted in the massacre.
“What story?” he asked. “They have no story. They were victims.”