Montreal Massacre survivor welcomes new recognition it was an 'anti-feminist attack'
Nathalie Provost didn't see herself as feminist the day of the École Polytechnique killings, 30 years ago
Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the Montreal Massacre, has welcomed a new commemorative plaque that recognizes the violence as an "anti-feminist attack."
"I'm very happy that it clearly says what happened," said Provost, who was shot four times when Marc Lépine attacked École Polytechnique 30 years ago, on Dec. 6, 1989.
"I hadn't realized it was not obvious — because for me it's so obvious that Marc Lépine was there because he was against feminists."
Until recently, signs at Place du 6-Décembre-1989 — the memorial park in central Montreal — referred to the "tragic event" where 14 women died, but did not state that they were killed because of their gender.
A sign erected in recent weeks explicitly calls the massacre an "anti-feminist attack," and condemns "all forms of violence against women."
When the attack occurred, Provost says she didn't think of herself as a feminist.
On the day of the attack, Lépine entered Provost's classroom, separated the men from the women and said, "I am fighting feminism."
Provost told him that they weren't feminists — they were just students.
"I answered spontaneously. Did I answer that also to save my life? Maybe a bit, I will never be able to know," she told The Current.
"From my point of view at that time, I [could not] say that I was a feminist because … in my perception, I didn't have to fight to be where I was," she said.
Provost's words did not stop Lépine, who shot all nine women in the room, killing six. In total he shot 27 people, killing 14, before fatally shooting himself.
Provost didn't want to 'usurp' feminism
Provost was actually discussing feminism with another female engineering student at lunch on the day of the attack.
"[We] were saying that we felt pretty comfortable at school … we didn't have the feeling that there was any difference being evaluated as a man or as a woman," she recalled.
"So when Marc Lépine told us that he was there because we were feminists, that was so far from what I've been through, what I've lived, what I believed, and that discussion of that day."
Despite being a victim in the attack, Provost faced some backlash for what she said to Lépine.
She said some feminists in Quebec viewed it as a rejection of what they had fought for all those years.
Provost said she understands why some people were disappointed.
"After all they have done [to create] the possibility for me to be in École Polytechnique ... I was not recognizant of the fact."
At the time, Provost associated feminism with the way her mother had fought for equality and for her to have a better life.
She felt she would be "usurping" the word for herself, when she wasn't fighting the same fights as women from earlier generations.
It took almost a decade, but Provost's view of the world — and herself — changed, and she now calls herself a feminist.
"In my opinion, we have to remember what we are to be able to grow," she said.
"If we want to live a better life and to live in a better world, we have to know what's wrong with us, not just what's good."
Written by Allie Jaynes with files from CBC News. Produced by Susan McKenzie.