Hélène Colgan would be outraged to be associated with gun control, brother says

The brother of one of the women killed in the École Polytechnique massacre says his sister would be appalled that her memory is being used to advocate for gun control.

Claude Colgan, brother of Polytechnique victim, says his sister was pro-gun

Victim Hélène Colgan was pro-gun, says brother Claude


6 years ago
Claude Colgan says the link drawn between Polytechnique and the push for gun control bothers him. 6:22

The brother of one of the women killed in the École Polytechnique massacre says his sister would be appalled that her memory is being used to advocate for gun control.

Watch the video at the top of this story for more from Ainslie MacLellan's interview with Claude Colgan

"Hélène would be outraged that her name and her death had led to the criminalization of millions of law-abiding Canadians," says Claude Colgan, the brother of Hélène Colgan. 

Colgan is now the Quebec director of the National Firearm Association, a gun-lobby group.

He said Hélène was his best friend before she died after being shot by a lone gunman at Polytechnique.

"The sole reason why Hélène died was Marc Lépine. That man decided she had to die. A gun didn't decide," he said.

The Dec. 6, 1989 massacre was the worst mass-shooting in Canadian history.

Long-gun registry debate

The shooting was the catalyst for the creation of Canada's now-defunct federal long-gun registry. 

Colgan says his whole family opposed the movement to create the registry, which included survivors and families of the Polytechnique shootings. Colgan and his father were both gun owners at the time. He says his sister was also "pro-gun."

The registry was scrapped in 2012. Critics called it an bloated bureaucratic money pit that criminalized firearm owners.

The Quebec government made its final arguments before the Supreme Court of Canada last month in a last-ditch effort to try to preserve the data on Quebec gun owners. The province plans to set up its own registry if it wins. 

Families of the Polytechnique victims and advocates for gun controls say they're frustrated to be back fighting the same battle.  

"After the Harper government got what we had won and destroyed many of our gains, our laws today are weaker than at the time of the shooting," says gun-control advocate Heidi Rathjen. She was inside Polytechnique during the shooting.

"The Harper government… destroyed something over ideological ideas, and that's not my view for Canada," says Nathalie Provost, who still bears scars from being shot at Polytechnique.

"I was not born in that kind of country, but that's the country I'm living in now."

New federal gun legislation

The federal government's Bill C-42 would make it easier for licensed owners to transport their weapons.

Hélène would be outraged that her name and her death had led to the criminalization of millions of law-abiding Canadians.- Claude Colgan, brother of Polytechnique victim

Currently, gun owners in Ontario, Quebec and P.E.I. have to apply to each province's chief firearms officer when they want to transport a restricted or prohibited weapon. Under the new rules, gun owners in all provinces would get permission to transport weapons as a condition of their licence. 

"The transport of these very important weapons will no longer be supervised," says Rathjen.

The government says the proposed legislation will protect victims, by making it easier to take guns away from people convicted of domestic violence.

The bill would also require everyone who applies for a permit to take classroom instruction on firearms safety. 

Concert to raise funds for gun control

Colgan is upset that a concert honouring the 14 Polytechnique victims, including his sister, is doubling as a fundraiser for an organization that supports gun control. 

"I find that extremely offensive," says Colgan. "It's immoral to make a buck on dead people." 

The event, "Pour Elles" at the Théatre Outremont, will feature 14 Quebec artists, including Robert Charlebois, Marie-Josée Lord, Daniel Bélanger and Betty Bonifassi.

Proceeds will go to the Coalition for Gun Control and the legal clinic Juripop. The two organizations have been part of Quebec's battle to prevent the destruction of long-gun registry data.

The show's director, Lorraine Pintal believes most people in the province support stringent gun control. 

"We have a gap between Quebec and the rest of Canada," Pintal says. "For French Canadians, we need to have a registry and we need to control the guns. Because it's too easy to have a gun right now."


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