Statements & Speeches

Tribute to Victims of Tragedy at École Polytechnique

December 3, 2009

Honourable senators, I am very saddened to pay tribute today to the 14 women who were killed at École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989.

I can tell you that the people of Montreal and Quebec were very deeply affected by this tragedy. It was especially heart-wrenching for women in university to see these young women die as they were just starting their adult life.

In paying tribute to them, we must also think about the lessons to be learned from this sad tragedy. We want to be sure that these young women did not die in vain, and that this incident served a purpose.

They were targeted because they were women, and misogyny is always wrong. We have worked hard through the years to combat violence directed towards women and girls, and we will continue to do so. However, we must not forget the role that severe mental illness played that day.

The members of this chamber know from their work in the area that mental illness is a serious matter. We note that it carries heavy social and economic costs. While one in five Canadians will experience some form of mental illness this year, help is often not there.

Some 20 years after the events at École Polytechnique, we are tackling the problem. Through the Mental Health Commission, we are undertaking new initiatives that will lead to real change. While we are still in the early stages, we are coming out of the shadows.

None of this work will bring back the 14 women we lost, nor will it erase the awful memories left to their families and friends, but it gives us hope that we may prevent a tragic event in the future.

In conclusion, I offer my sincerest condolences to the families of these young women. We will never forget them.