Nfld. & Labrador

Montreal Massacre anniversary rings poignant for Cortney Lake's cousin

Jenna Walsh is an engineering student, like most of the women killed at École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989. She also has a personal connection to violence against women.

MUN holds annual vigil for 14 women killed in 1989

Jenna Walsh, cousin of Cortney Lake and an engineering student, said Thursday's vigil for the victims of École Polytechnique was doubly important for her. (CBC)

Jenna Walsh is an engineering student, like most of the 14 women killed at École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989. She also has a personal connection to violence against women.

Her eyes and nose bear a striking resemblance to the woman's face printed on her t-shirt — the face plastered on posters and billboards around St. John's since June of 2017.

Walsh is first cousin to Cortney Lake, a missing woman police believe was killed by her ex-boyfriend last year.

Cortney Lake was on the minds of people at Thursday's vigil, as her family wore t-shirts with her face on them. (CBC)

"Violence against women has become a much more personal issue for me," Walsh said before a vigil for the École Polytechnique victims at Memorial University on Thursday night. "So all of that will be running through my mind … She's been on my mind a lot today."

Memorial University honours the 14 victims each year in the auditorium of its engineering building. Their names are read aloud and candles are lit in their honour.

A vigil was held at Memorial University's engineering building for the victims of the École Polytechnique massacre 29 years ago. (CBC)

Each year, the missing and murdered women of Newfoundland and Labrador are never far from people's minds.

"In our case, we lost Cortney," said Donna Walsh, Lake's aunt. "It could be someone else tomorrow. It will be someone else tomorrow. We need to help these women and girls out there."

Donna Walsh said much work has been done in the 29 years since the École Polytechnique massacre, when a gunman took control of a classroom and separated the men from the women, before opening fire.

Donna Walsh lost her niece, Cortney Lake, to a suspected homicide on June 7, 2017. Her remains have never been found. (CBC)

Awareness has been heightened around the issue of violence against women and there's more resources available to victims than ever before, she said.

But there's always more that can be done to make women feel more comfortable coming forward.

"It's not enough," she said. "There's a lot of help out there, they just need to reach out, they need to ask for help."

Lake was 24 years old when she went missing from near her Mount Pearl home on June 7, 2017. She was last seen getting in a truck belonging to her ex-boyfriend, Philip Smith.

Smith killed himself on Nov. 1, 2017, in a wooded area near Bellevue Beach. Police say he was the only person ever considered a suspect in her disappearance.

Victims of the Montreal Massacre. (Canadian Press)
Victims of the Montreal Massacre. (Canadian Press)

With files from Katie Breen

now