From The Varsity (The Monday Edition), vol. 110, no. 30., dated January 8, 1990
By T. Clive Thompson
Engineers remember victims of “senseless” murders
Over 600 U of T students and staff packed Convocation Hall last Thursday to attend the “Memorial Service for the Victims of the Montréal Tragedy” held by the U of T Engineering Society.
Cosetta Caporrella, president of the Engineering Society, discussed the “unique sorrow” felt by all members of the engineering community.
“The incredible human tragedy has emotionally touched all of us as individuals and as fellow engineers,” she said.
The huge crowd rose as Caporrella read the names of the 14 murdered women, and stood in silence for a few minutes.Dean of engineering Gary Heinke said engineers must work to ensure the tragedy does not affect women’s aspirations in engineering.
“No one can make sense out of a senseless action,” Heinke said. “This tragedy affects all of us, but it has hit engineering students and staff especially hard.”
Engineers have the responsibility to make sure women’s participation in engineering progress is not “set back by false interpretations of a senseless act of one deranged individual,” he added.
Women presently constitute 17 percent of the university’s engineering students, compared to a figure of only one half of a percent in the mid 1950’s, Heinke said in an interview.
“We’ve made several changes since then,” he said. “It’s very possible we’ll have to make more.”
Marta Ecsedi, Engineering Alumni Association president echoed Heinke’s sentiments. She said women engineers need extra support because their numbers “are not yet large enough to make a significant dint in the social factors affecting (them).”
None of the speakers said the tragedy was a result of social prejudice against women.
“It’s a known fact that (Lepine) separated the women from the men,” Caporrella said in an interview. “But I don’t think I’m qualified to make a comment on (any other motivations for the murders). I haven’t really settled the question in my own mind.”
But U of T Women’s Centre co-ordinator Sharon Lewis said the issue is clear. “I think, even on a common sense level, 14 women were massacred – that’s violence against women.
“If a president gets shot, that’s a political act, and if 14 black people get shot, then it’d be impossible to talk about that without discussing issues of racism.”
U of T students will soon have a chance to discuss the matter themselves. Gordon Cressy, vice president development and community relations, is planning a day of seminars to examine the tragedy and issues of gender relations for sometime in the spring.
“The intent is to raise awareness, and perhaps, ultimately, to change behaviour,” Cressy said.
Oddly, there’s a gap in the EngSoc Archives (unless they are misplaced somewhere else) for the 1989-1993 years of
the Cannon newspaper, so let’s make do with the above article from the Varsity, of which the UofT Archives has been currently digitizing.
For further reading/viewing:
- See a special edition of the Varsity and the discussions written from that time.
- The Huffington Post (among a number of news outlets) published an article on the incident and its 25th anniversary
- The Huffington Post also shares some tidbits regarding the 14 women and their aspirations/fields of study
- Coverage of the incident from the CBC’s digital archives
- A letter disseminated by our engineering faculty discussing the history of encouraging women to study engineering in Ontario
- For a discussion on women in engineering today, take a read in the Engineering Dimensions Nov/Dec 2014 issue, the article entitled: “L’École Polytechnique – 25 years later: What’s changed? What hasn’t?” Marta Ecsedi, who was interviewed in the above Varsity article, is again featured here, about 25 years later.
Today is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Earlier this week, there were services across U of T for this day, commemorating the (25th) anniversary of the Montréal Massacre, which at the time, stunned the nation.