CBC News Montreal host Debra Arbec moderated the interactive discussion.
“Polytech was a game-changer, not only in police operations but also in how we see things. I’m not going back that many years, when sexist jokes were permitted,” said Jacques Duchesneau, former politician and chief of the Montreal Police. On December 6th 1989, he was the officer in charge at the Polytechnique.
“In a way, [the victims] forced us to rethink the way we acted in society.”
Duchesneau said that since the shooting where 14 women were killed and 14 others injured, police have revised their operations.
“It brought a re-engineering of how we proceeded. Now police officers are trained not to protect the crime scene, like it was in 1989, but to target the attacker — move in and destabilize the attacker.”
Da-Eun Kim, a fourth year mechanical engineering student at McGill University, wasn’t even born when the shooting happened.
“I remember feeling a little bit confused [when I first learned about it.] I felt like it didn’t really apply to the times I live in now. I think that I was confused and not willing to accept that could happen,” said Kim, who is now the web manager for P.O.W.E (Providing Opportunities for Women Engineers).
Jeff Perera was a 13-year-old boy living in Toronto when the shooting happened.
“I was sitting on my living room floor, watching the news with my dad...they were pulling bodies out of the school. I remember it being women’s bodies being pulled out. I asked my father, ‘What’s going on? Why is someone killing women?’ He was silent. That silence swept across the nation.”
Perera is now a community and program manager at White Ribbon. He talks to men and boys about stopping violence against women.
“Too many men are fluent to the language of violence … Why do we commit these acts? Why is it the go-to?”
Sue Montgomery, a reporter at The Montreal Gazette, recently co-created the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported to push for a more significant conversation about sexual assault and gender inequalities.
“I remember there being quite a backlash shortly afterwards of people not wanting to recognize the misogyny of this crime...and wanting to shut us up. After that, feminism became a bad word, and a lot of people shut up and shut down because of it,” Montgomery said during the live web chat.
The number of women enrolled at ÉcolePolytechnique has grown from 16 per cent in 1989 to 27 per cent in 2014.
“It could be better,” said Duchesneau.
“This is an opportunity to move forward and create a new definition of feminism,” said Jennifer Drummond, an advocate and counsellor at Concordia University's Sexual Assault Centre.
“We’re not just talking about sexism, we’re talking about racism, ableism, transgenderism.”
“Keep talking., That’s the only way we’re going to improve the way we treat our people,” Duchesneau added.
In case you missed it, watch the web cast here.