Montrealers quietly mark anniversary of Polytechnique shooting

'Even if we have COVID, even if we cannot gather all together, this is better than nothing,' said survivor Nathalie Provost.

Even without a large public ceremony, the city mourned the 31st anniversary of the killings

Marie Bolduc places candles on the commemorative plaque on the wall of École Polytechnique in Montreal on Dec. 6, 2020, the 31st anniversary of the murder of 14 women in an anti-feminist attack at the school. (The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes)

Sunday marked 31 years since 14 women were killed in a mass shooting at Montreal's École Polytechnique.

This year, ceremonies were scaled back and mostly held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were only a handful of people at a vigil held in Côte-Des-Neiges.

Survivor Nathalie Provost said this year was particularly difficult, but she still had to find a way to honour the women who lost their lives in 1989.

"Even if we have COVID, even if we cannot gather all together, this is better than nothing," she said.

"They're not just names, they're real people for me."

Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the École Polytechnique shooting in 1989, said the victims are not just names to her, but friends and colleagues. (The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes)

For organizers, Sunday was also an opportunity to shine a light on the broader issue of violence against women. 

Canada has designated Dec. 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, a chance to mourn and demand concrete policies to protect women across the country.

Fourteen beams of light, representing each of the Polytechnique victims, were projected into the sky from a lookout on Mount Royal on Sunday evening.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, Polytechnique director Philippe Tanguy, and the sister of one of the victims, Catherine Bergeron, laid a wreath of roses in honour of the women who died.

École Polytechnique massacre remembered 30 years later

3 years ago
Duration 6:24
Canadians marked the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre by remembering the 14 women killed. This is the first time the mass shooting was officially recognized as an anti-feminist attack, with many vowing to do more to prevent violence against women.

Plante also encouraged local residents to light a candle in memory of the victims.

For Provost, although she couldn't mark the anniversary as she usually would, she said her thoughts are with the families and she wanted them to know their loved ones will never be forgotten. 

"I love them," she told CBC. "I have the profound conviction that those 14 women are still with us, alive in a way. They are alive in me."

With files from Josh Grant and The Canadian Press