RMC commemorates l’Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal tragedy with vigil and synchronized beam of light

The weather in Kingston is similar to the tragic day, Dec. 6, 1989, when 14 female university students lost their lives, because they were women. 

It is -3 with snow falling. This year marks the 30th anniversary.

The students at the Royal Military College of Canada were one of 14 universities across the country that marked the tragedy by sending a beam of light into the night sky and hosted a vigil to remember the 14 women that were studying engineering at l’Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal. 

*Photos courtesy of RMC Canada CMR Facebook page.

On that fateful day, a man walked into the school’s engineering classroom, asked all the men to leave, and then opened fire, shooting the women and then himself. 

In an interview with Global News Brigadier-General Sébastien Bouchard, commandant and vice-chancellor at RMC noted, “Gender-based violence is something we have to stand against. So for us, it is a message we are sending to the cadets the values we want to defend.

“The values they will defend in a few years. But also it is a message we want to send to the rest of the country.”

Hundreds of people, including cadets, college staff, and members of the Kingston community, gathered at the parade square to remember the young women. The cadets and college staff wore white ribbons, with cadets offering them to those that came to mark the solemn occasion in Canadian history.  

The beam of light that shined up into the sky from RMC’s parade square, was synchronized with 14 other universities across Canada. Similar to the 14 beams shining over Montreal from Mount Royal. 

Like Canadian flags across the country today, the flag that proudly flies on the Mackenzie Building is at half-mast. 

Two RMC professors, Dr. Erika Behrisch Elce and Dr. Marie-Michèle Doucet, read poems, one in French and one in English to remember the young women, who were full of promise. 

Dr. Marie-Michèle Doucet recited “December Flowers” by Chantal Lavoie, which begins, “Each December we stand in the darkness to remember the pain.”

*Photos courtesy of RMC Canada CMR Facebook page.

After the poems were read, 14 officer cadets one by one came forward to recite each name of the women that died: 

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

A minute of silence and reflection ended the ceremony.

Turned on at 5:10 pm, which marked the time the shooting began, the beam of light tried to pierce through the cloudy, dark sky. 

Bill Griffis, executive director, Royal Military Colleges Club of Canada, and a class of ’89 cadet, came from his office across the parade square to participate in the vigil. 

“I remember it well because I graduated from RMC in May of 1989. I remember it happening in the fall. It’s tragic. I have two girls who are adults now. It represents the hate in the world that we fight against,” said Griffs.  

*Photos courtesy of RMC Canada CMR Facebook page. 

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Tonya De Agostinis

From Montreal, Tonya joined the military community late in life when her husband joined the forces after a public service career. Now in Kingston, she is navigating the trials and blessings that come from having her own career, raising children, and being the partner of someone on a high readiness unit and the DART.

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