Polytechnique Massacre, 30 Years Later

Ten years before the mass shooting at Columbine High School, a gunman entered a Montreal classroom and murdered 14 women. This is the story of the first mass femicide.

The first mass femicide

On a cold December evening in 1989, engineering students in Montreal were giving presentations when an armed man entered their classroom, forced the men to leave, and shot the remaining women students. It took Marc Lépine only 20 minutes to kill 14 women, before he killed himself. Provost sustained 4 gunshot wounds — in the forehead, both legs and her foot. In a letter left behind, his motive was made clear. The suicide note was released nearly a year after the killings.

“At that time, nobody could imagine that somebody can enter in a classroom to kill people. It was unimaginable at the time. So he came, he shot one time. He asked the guys to leave the classroom and he asked the girls to stand up in the corner opposite to the door. He explained to us that he was there because for him we were feminists and we we were taking a place he wanted for him. And I just replied back, “No, we are not feminists. We're just students. And if you want to come and study with us, just apply and there would be room for you”. But I don't think I finished my sentence. And he shot all of us,” survivor Nathalie Provost tells Brut.

After the attack, Canada passed the Firearms Act, which regulated the possession of guns. But survivors are still pushing for further action, including the banning of military-style assault rifles — the type Lépine used in his rampage. Since the massacre, misogyny has motivated other mass killings. In California in 2014, 6 people were killed by a gunman seeking to “punish” women for rejecting him. In Toronto in 2018, a man drove a van into pedestrians, killing 10 people. The assailant cited the California gunman in his final message before the attack. Each year, Canadians commemorate the Polytechnique massacre. In 2019, a new plate was unveiled, finally naming the shooting an "anti-feminist attack."