Beyond the Logic of Emblemization: Remembering and Learning from the Montréal Massacre

  • Roger I. Simon
  • Sharon Rosenberg


Fifteen years ago, fourteen women were murdered at l’Ecole polytechnique (the School of Engineering) at the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada. For those who lived in proximity to these murders, the details do not need to be recalled (for it is likely that they never left us). For others, this recollection alone will be insufficient to the substance of memory. So, in brief: in the early evening of December 6,1989, Marc Lepine, a twenty-five-year-old white man, entered a university building in the city of Montréal, armed with a semiautomatic rifle. He walked into a fourth year Mechanical Engineering class of some 60 students, ordered the men to leave—which they all did—and shot the remaining six women to death, screaming the accusation that they were a “bunch of feminists” (Rathjen and Monpetit, 1999, 10). He then walked through hallways and entered other classrooms, murdering eight more women and injuring thirteen others (nine women and four men, men who were shot presumably because they attempted to impede his rampage).Then, he killed himself. In the three-page note found on his body, but not released into public circulation for a year, he described the murders as a political act and blamed feminism for ruining his life.1 These murders received widespread public attention across Canada. From grocery store lineups, to public memorial services, to campus classrooms, much was spoken and written about the killings and their significance, bringing to the fore debates about issues of violence against women in a manner that was unprecedented.


Male Student Memorial Activity Remembrance Pedagogy Male Violence Woman Student 
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  1. 3.
    Documentation of memory has taken many forms These forms include art shows such as Art against Violence against Women: A Personal Statement (Halifax, Nova Scotia: Eye Level Gallery, 1990); Don't Remain Silent (Toronto, Ontario: The Woman’s Common, 1990); Threnody (Vancouver, B.C.: The Lateral Gallery, 1990). Poetic responses include: Allison Campbell, “Not One Step Back,” Contemporary Verse 2, 14, No. 4 (Spring 1992), 26Google Scholar
  2. Maggie Helwig, “Flashpoint,” Matriarf.A Canadian Feminist Art Journal 1, No. 1 (Spring 1990), 12Google Scholar
  3. Rita Kohli, “Musings of a South Asian Woman in the Wake of the Montreal Massacre” Canadian Woman Studies 11, No. 4 (1991), 13–14.Google Scholar
  4. Gerry Rogers, After the Montreal Massacre (Montreal: National Film Board, Studio D, 1991)Google Scholar
  5. Maureen Bradley, Refraining the Montreal Massacre (Toronto: Full Frame Film and Video Distribution, 1995)Google Scholar
  6. Ling Chiu, Tee Hee Hee (Vancouver: Moving Images Distribution, 1996).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Roger I. Simon 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger I. Simon
  • Sharon Rosenberg

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