Today I went to pay homage to the innocent victims of the Montreal Massacre of December 6th, 1989. On that day Marc Lépine, entered the engineering school of Montreal University, separated the women from the men in the classroom and shot the women. He killed 14 women that day.
How a people use memorials speaks volumes for how they view the subject and so their design and placement is generally meticulously planned and worth examining.
I started off my journey at one of the tourist information centers. I was chatting with the attendant, a woman around my age, about my trip so far and possible things for me to do while I am here. Towards the end I asked her if she knew where the memorial was. She said that as she knew one of the victims, she knew the memorial's location very well and marked it on my map.
I then went to the engineering school where the shooting took place and I stopped and asked various people how to get to the memorial. I asked in both English and French and I asked both men and women. No student knew. I went in to the school and asked a security guard. She did not know where it was either, but she called a fellow guard who did and gave me directions.
Eventually I made it to a snow-filed park between two busy roads and near the entrance to a graveyard. The park had two rows of trees and two rows of knee-high blocks. At one end of the park was a sign in French explaining how this park was made in the memory of the victims of the massacre and carries the hope that one day violence will end in this world. There was no explicit mention of this being a targeted attack against women.
It was a sad memorial. Not in the sense that it tried to invoke a spirit of sadness, but in the sense that I felt it was relatively unknown, neglected, mischaracterized, and small. I will admit, I am not a Quebercer. I am not from Montreal. I am not a woman studying to enter a typically "male" field. I cannot claim that how I feel on the subject should be how most of us should feel.
But I think that the difficulty I had in finding the memorial and the fact that it is far away from the school and easy to overlook says a lot about the nature of how violence against women is perceived.