Herstories: E-book honours 14 ladies killed at Polytechnique 30 years in the past


Geneviève Bergeron; Hélène Colgan; Nathalie Croteau; Barbara Daigneault; Anne-Marie Edward; Maud Haviernick; Barbara-Maria Klucznik-Widajewicz; Maryse Laganière; Maryse Leclair; Anne-Marie Lemay; Sonia Pelletier; Michèle Richard; Annie St-Arneault; and Annie Turcotte.

Their names are etched in bronze on a memorial plaque. They’re learn aloud with nice solemnity at a remembrance ceremony yearly. They’re synonymous with a tragedy that haunts this metropolis.

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They’re represented by white roses and pillars of sunshine beamed into the heavens. They’re usually referred to collectively as les filles de Poly, sleeping beauties, the misplaced ladies.

However 30 years later, how a lot do we all know concerning the ladies who died within the taking pictures at École Polytechnique? What did every accomplish in her quick life? What hopes and goals did she leaved unfulfilled when she was gunned down on Dec. 6, 1989?

As a sombre anniversary dawns, these are among the many questions addressed in a brand new e book by journalist Josée Boileau. Ce jour-là: Parce qu’elles étaient des femmes revisits a darkish day in historical past.

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Second by second, the e book reconstructs the 20 minutes it took a gunman to burst into lecture rooms of the Montreal engineering faculty, separate the ladies from the lads, slaughter his feminine targets, roam the constructing firing on extra college students then intrude on one closing class to kill ladies earlier than he took his personal life.


“They had been ladies who had been going to forge their very own path,” says journalist and creator Josée Boileau.

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Boileau dissects the social context during which these stunning slayings occurred. She examines the lengthy and painful reflection that came about afterwards, resulting in the eventual consensus that Polytechnique was an assault on ladies.

“It was necessary to return to the tragedy for individuals who weren’t there or have no idea about it, and to inscribe the occasion within the historical past of ladies in Quebec, within the context of feminism,” Boileau mentioned in an interview.

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“As a result of 1989, it didn’t come out of nowhere.”

The responsibility to recollect the occasion is powerful three a long time later. However what concerning the private toll? The e book additionally units out to rediscover the 14 ladies who died, to revive their stolen humanity.

“What was necessary to me was that every one has the fitting to be remembered for who she was when she was alive, that they’re not simply victims … however ladies who had been fighters, who assumed their place, who acquired good grades, who had been concerned of their communities, who appreciated to have enjoyable,” Boileau mentioned.

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“Sure, there should be a plaque, a monument to recollect the 14 collectively. However every should be remembered individually.”

And so she got down to elaborate on the sketches that emerged in information studies, burnishing them into enduring portraits of ladies with many skills and shining personalities.

A number of had been musicians or singers. There was a sculptor, a poet and a cook dinner. Some had athletic prowess; one was an uproarious insurgent woman; one other was a veteran of far-off political struggles. One cherished horses, whereas one other had a manner with kids. Two had been devoted wives.

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All had been distinctive. And but, Boileau found, they shared many traits.

“What additionally characterised the 14 was this mentality of ‘Assume what you need; I’m doing this.’ It was very, very current,” she mentioned. “They weren’t revolutionaries. However they had been ladies who had been going to forge their very own path and never let anybody get of their manner.”

To get into Polytechnique within the first place meant they had been clever and decided. And to outlive the aggressive first 12 months — to thrive with the group work required, to slot in to a male-dominated area — meant they had been good, assured and fearless.

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“It’s not by chance that these ladies had a lot in widespread,” Boileau mentioned. “A woman who wasn’t prime of her class would by no means have gotten in to Poly.”

Boileau didn’t resolve to put in writing the e book concerning the occasion, which she coated as a rookie reporter two weeks into her first job at Le Devoir. She was recruited by the Comité mémoire, which has been organizing commemoration occasions because the 25th anniversary.


“The e book represents what we need to depart folks with on the 30th anniversary,” say Catherine Bergeron, who misplaced her sister Geneviève within the taking pictures rampage at École Polytechique.

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Catherine Bergeron, who misplaced her older sister Geneviève Bergeron within the taking pictures, heads the group. To her, the e book will not be solely important to capturing the spirit of every sufferer, as recollections fade and members of the family age; it’s a manner of guaranteeing the ladies are remembered by youthful and future generations.

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“The e book represents what we need to depart folks with on the 30th anniversary. We’re doing the identical ceremony that we’ve carried out for the final 5 years. However that’s ephemeral, it occurs on the sixth solely,” she mentioned. “A e book is one thing very concrete. It’s one thing to the touch, to put in writing notes in, to maintain, to place within the library, to return to. It’s an necessary legacy to go away.”

The seed was planted by organizing committee member and former Montreal police chief Jacques Duchesneau, who was on the scene at Polytechnique the evening of the taking pictures. He helped with a few of the analysis. Bergeron was instrumental in reaching out to the households of the opposite victims and wrote a foreword.

“There was a little bit little bit of uncertainty as a result of plenty of these households have been by way of a lot, and been by way of it publicly. However we didn’t need to work that tough to persuade them, as soon as we described the mission, what we needed to do,” Bergeron mentioned.

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“There was plenty of openness, although it’s true that it was tough for some households. Some had been more durable to succeed in. Some have been very discreet through the years. In order that was a problem.”

Not everybody needed to speak, however everybody needed their daughter, sister, good friend, girlfriend or spouse remembered.

“For my household, it’s a present, it’s an exquisite tribute to Geneviève,” mentioned Bergeron, who at all times spoke of her late sister brazenly together with her personal kids. “There have been so some ways she’s been honoured through the years, however by no means in a manner that was so private. It’s balm on the center. … It’s a consolation.”

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Bergeron dealt together with her sister’s slaying by studying every thing she might concerning the taking pictures, from newspapers to coroner’s studies. However she discovered new issues from the e book.


Fourteen beams of sunshine level skyward on Mount Royal on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy on Dec. 6, 2014.

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Breaking a 30-year silence, a employees member offered a chilling account of hiding college students below the ground of the server room close to the pc lab because the shooter stalked the corridors. There’s a heartbreaking interview with a lady who lastly confronted as much as the grief of dropping her childhood finest good friend solely three a long time later.

“In studying the portraits of the others, I spotted I knew virtually nothing concerning the different ladies. I simply knew that they had been all extraordinary and had a number of power,” Bergeron mentioned.

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“However to see all these footage, to see them with their boyfriends, with their households, at Christmas … it makes all of them the extra valuable, these 14 ladies, and I hope it will likely be the identical for folks typically.”

For Boileau, an amazing sense of duty got here with writing a e book that isn’t solely a definitive account of the Polytechnique bloodbath, however a tribute that can protect the 14 victims’ life tales forever. But as she toiled away all summer time on a decent deadline, she mentioned she felt surrounded and supported.

“It’s my e book, it’s my phrases, sure, however … I used to be not alone. All these folks had been behind me, so many individuals had confidence on this e book and agreed to speak,” she mentioned. “I used to be not crushed by the duty, however I felt an unimaginable responsibility to do it nicely.”

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The e book kindles the flame of reminiscence for 14 ladies who had been robbed of the prospect to make necessary contributions. However Boileau mentioned many nonetheless made an indelible mark.

“They left one thing behind. I didn’t know that Quebec was marked by their presence. A park, a library, a group centre, within the Gaspé, in La Tuque, at John Abbott Faculty. For individuals who open their eyes, their reminiscence is current.”

14 ladies remembered

Geneviève Bergeron, 21


Geneviève Bergeron

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Bergeron spent her youth immersed within the arts at École FACE in downtown Montreal, the place she was a gifted singer and clarinet participant. However when it was time to decide on a profession, the favored daughter of pioneering metropolis councillor Thérèse Daviau, selected engineering.

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She proved herself equally gifted in sciences, incomes a scholarship in her second 12 months at École Polytechnique. Whereas at college, she sang in a choir directed by Iwan Edwards of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. She was usually described as a ray of sunshine who was good at every thing she tried.

Bergeron was concerned in campaigning together with her mom, and even went door-to-door for Jean Doré when he was working for election because the mayor of Montreal. She additionally used to babysit his younger daughter.

Hélène Colgan, 23


Hélène Colgan

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Colgan was among the many first to appreciate the hazard when the shooter walked in her classroom. Since her brother was a hunter, she acknowledged a .223 calibre on sight.

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Whereas at Collège Montmorency, the Laval resident appreciated to exit dancing together with her buddies. However as soon as she began at Polytechnique in mechanical engineering, she buckled down and devoted herself to her research.

She was on the verge of getting her bachleor’s diploma and was already entertaining job gives. However with goals of in the future constructing bridges, Colgan was planning to proceed her research with a post-graduate diploma.

First, nevertheless, she was additionally wanting ahead to a getaway to Mexico together with her good friend Nathalie Croteau. The pair had been set to depart Dec. 29.

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Nathalie Croteau, 23


Nathalie Croteau

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Rising up in Brossard, Croteau was a member of the air cadets and helped plan her highschool’s promenade. She had an curiosity in engineering from a younger age, and was a semester away from finishing her mechanical engineering diploma.

She was wanting ahead to a vacation after Christmas together with her classmate Hélène Colgan.

In 1993, the town of Brossard named a group centre in her honour. After a hearth, the Centre Communautaire Nathalie Croteau was rebuilt and reopened in 2015.

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Barbara Daigneault, 22


Barbara Daigneault

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Daigneault was named Barbara after a line in her mom’s favorite poem by Jacques Prévert.

As a teenager, she took piano and violin classes. She later attended École Joseph-François-Perrault, a Montreal highschool that focuses on music, the place she performed the upright bass and studied voice.

She adopted in her dad’s footsteps into engineering. Whereas attending Polytechnique, she labored as a instructing assistant at ÉTS (École de technologie supérieure), the place her father was the primary director of the college’s mechanical engineering program.

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After her dying, it turned a convention to promote white roses each December at ÉTS to assist a scholarship created in her honour.

Daigneault’s ashes had been later entombed in a column of École Polytechnique’s reconstructed cafeteria. It bears a tiny plaque with a line from the Prévert poem that impressed her identify.

Anne-Marie Edward, 21


Anne-Marie Edward

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Edward was a ball of power who not solely excelled at her research in chemical engineering, she did so whereas competing for the Université de Montréal ski crew. She spent the weekend earlier than her dying at a ski-a-thon within the Laurentians elevating cash for most cancers analysis.

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Edward cherished the outside. She was an avid kayaker and sailor, spending summer time holidays at her household’s cottage in Shediac, N.B. She adored the neighbour’s horse, Cristo. Apart from driving him, her mom joked she stored his stall cleaner than her personal bed room.

She not solely spoke French and English, however she discovered Spanish and later studied German to be able to take part in an alternate to Bavaria.

She labored with handicapped kids at Stewart Corridor and the Pointe-Claire YMCA. She performed piano and guitar. She discovered to stitch and designed her personal costume.

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When she attended John Abbott Faculty, she plunged into softball, soccer and swimming, to call however just a few of her actions.

Edward spent a summer time at Monsanto, the place her father labored. After her dying, workers raised cash for a bursary in her reminiscence. John Abbott Faculty named a brand new science pavilion after Edward in 2013.

Maud Haviernick, 29


Maud Haviernick

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Older than a few of her classmates, Haviernick already had levels and work expertise below her belt.

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She was a gifted artist and a sculptor. She studied inside design at CÉGEP de Vieux Montréal. She obtained a level in design and the setting from Université du Québec à Montréal, the place she met her future companion, Serges Gagnon.

They arrange home within the Ste-Rose district of Laval and Haviernick quickly discovered work as as an inside designer. However she realized she would by no means be accountable for a mission with out an engineering diploma. So she went again to high school.

First, she needed to get a science diploma from Collège Lionel-Groulx. Then she went to Polytechnique to check supplies engineering. She balanced her lessons with work in a café.

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A scholarship was arrange in Haviernick’s identify at UQAM in 1992 and a basis aimed toward ending violence in opposition to ladies was established in her hometown of Deux-Montagnes.

Barbara-Maria Klucznik-Widajewicz, 31


Barbara-Maria Klucznik-Widajewicz

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Identified affectionately as “Basia” to her household, Klucznik-Widajewicz already had an engineering diploma from a college in her native Poland. She was finding out nursing at Université de Montréal when she was killed.

She and her husband Witold Widajewicz had been energetic within the Poland’s Solidarity motion, which restricted their future alternatives, so that they fled their homeland in 1987, finally settling in Montreal. They lived in Parc-Extension at first, with Klucznik-Widajewicz working as a nanny for a household in City of Mount Royal and her husband doing the graveyard shift at a nursing house.

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Widajewicz’s purpose was to be a physician. Realizing in Quebec this is able to imply an eventual transfer to the areas, Klucznik-Widajewicz determined to retrain as a nurse to make herself extra employable.

The younger couple noticed their new life in Montreal as a grand journey, regardless that they had been minimize off from their beloved households again house. The autumn of the Berlin Wall, spelling the tip of Soviet domination of Jap Europe, occurred barely a month earlier than the Polytechnique taking pictures.

The pair usually ate within the cafeterias at U de M, which is what they had been doing the evening of Dec. 6, 1989, when the taking pictures began.

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Klucznik-Widajewicz’s physique was repatriated to Poland after her dying.

Maryse Laganière, 25


Maryse Laganière

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Laganière was the youngest of 13 kids and grew up in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

She labored within the finance division of École Polytechnique and met her husband, Jean-François Larivée, when he was a pupil within the engineering school. He was late paying his tuition charges one 12 months after being stranded by a hurricane over the Christmas holidays, and Laganière helped him out.

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After years of relationship, Laganière and Larivée married in August of 1989. Her funeral was held in the identical church as her marriage ceremony had been celebrated 4 months earlier.

Maryse Leclair, 23


Maryse Leclair

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The oldest daughter of a police officer, Leclair was a insurgent who cherished punk and new wave music.

As a lady, she dreamed of being an astronaut and was closely concerned within the Scouts group.

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In highschool, she chafed on the strict uniform code at Collège Regina Assumpta, so she transferred to the extra liberal Mont-de-La Salle in Laval.

She cherished sports activities, together with handball, snowboarding, climbing and windsurfing. She signed up for a summer time of fundamental coaching on the navy base in Valcartier, however she injured her knee and determined military life was a bit too regimented.

After stepping into HEC enterprise faculty and discovering it not as artistic as she hoped, she switched to supplies engineering at Polytechnique.

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Throughout the summer time of 1988 she labored at Ball Packing within the West Island, the place she thrived being the one lady amongst 80 workers.

She drove a Honda Civic that was coated in graffiti.

The night of her dying, her boyfriend was imagined to attend her closing class presentation. However the class modified rooms on the final minute and he couldn’t discover it.

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Her father, Pierre Leclair, was director of communications for the Montreal police. The evening of the taking pictures he gave a information convention outdoors to gathering media. He went inside to get extra data and found his daughter’s physique in her classroom.

Anne-Marie Lemay, 22


Anne-Marie Lemay

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A good friend who misplaced the usage of his legs impressed Lemay to enter mechanical engineering.

She paid weekly visits to the boy as he went by way of rehabilitation remedy. At first Lemay considered changing into a physician. However finally her purpose modified to designing more practical prosthetics limbs.

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Raised in Boucherville, she attended Collège Charles-Lemoyne and later Collège de Maisonneuve in Montreal. Whereas at Polytechnique, she lived close to campus with two buddies, however would return to the South Shore on weekends to observe her different ardour: singing. She was concerned with two choirs, one in every of which sang at Sunday mass.

In the summertime of 1989, she turned the primary ladies to work on the native Speedy Muffler in Boucherville.

In 1991, a park in Boucherville was named after Lemay.

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Sonia Pelletier, 28


Sonia Pelletier

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From the village of St-Ulric within the Gaspé, Pelletier was the youngest of eight kids.

She was extremely artistic, drawing portraits of her family and friends members. She obtained a diploma in architectural research at CÉGEP de Rimouski earlier than transferring to Montreal to check mechanical engineering at École Polytechnique.

In her down time, Pelletier cherished to cook dinner elaborate meals for her roommates.

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In July, a riverside park in St-Ulric was named for Pelletier to mark the 30th anniversary of her dying.

Michèle Richard, 21


Michèle Richard

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Mimi to her buddies, Richard spent her youth in Lac-Mégantic, the place she was instrumental in serving to set up La maison des jeunes for native teenagers.

She remained hooked up to Lac-Mégantic, returning to go to a number of occasions a 12 months, even after her mother and father divorced and she or he moved together with her mom and sister to Montreal.

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Richard studied pure sciences in faculty and was doing a presentation on metallurgy with Maud Haviernick the evening she was killed.

Annie St-Arneault, 23


Annie St-Arneault

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As a lady rising up in La Tuque, St-Arneault was recognized for her curiosity within the arts. She performed the flute, was concerned in theatre productions and wrote poetry.

However she was additionally taken with science. She was the one woman in her highschool’s science membership, so enrolling in male-dominated mechanical engineering at Polytechnique was no huge deal for her.

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St-Arneault was attending her closing class earlier than graduating and already had job gives when she was killed.

The municipal library in La Tuque was named after St-Arneault in 2015 — a becoming tribute given her love of poetry and studying.

Annie Turcotte, 21


Annie Turcotte

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Turcotte grew up in Rigaud and Granby with two huge brothers.

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She was a aggressive swimmer, giving classes to handicapped kids in addition to informally instructing the children within the pool on the motel her mother and father operated. Youngsters cherished her as a lot as she cherished them.

Turcotte had her personal automobile and didn’t drink, so she would chauffeur her buddies round once they went out. The automobile was previous and she or he repaired it herself.

She spontaneously joined her oldest brother on a biking tour of the Gaspé the summer time earlier than her dying, managing to maintain up with out having skilled for the journey.

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Turcotte adopted each her older brothers to Polytechnique and was in her first 12 months of engineering research. She shared an condominium close to campus with the youthful of the 2. Their mailbox was adorned with their first names and an enormous smiley face.

Yearly her household nonetheless gathers on March 1, her birthday.

Ce jour-là: Parce qu’elles étaient des femmes (Les Éditions La Presse, $29.95) by Josée Boileau has its official launch Dec. 6. There are plans for an English translation.

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ahanes@postmedia.com

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