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Dec 5, 2022

It Could Have Been Me

As we commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the December 6, 1989 Massacre at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, I am finally able to articulate and come to terms with my own anxiety surrounding this horrific event. 

Growing up as the child of a Holocaust survivor in Montreal, I certainly feared antisemitism throughout my childhood (and even to this day). However, I also felt the safety and security of living in Canada, in the thriving Jewish community in Montreal.

Any field of education was open to me. From high school, I chose to follow the science streams. My university years at McGill University began with one year in Architecture (1977-78) which was “not for me” (too much on the art side and not enough science), followed by undergraduate years in Mathematics, and ending with graduate studies and post-graduate studies in Computer Science.

Particularly in the years after undergraduate studies, women were very under-represented – I was one of only three women in the Computer Science Masters program in 1984! I can honestly say that I never felt discriminated against or undervalued by any of my male colleagues (students or faculty).  

Throughout my years at McGill, I had classes and/or an office in the various engineering buildings on campus. This was my “workplace” for at least six years. Remember – no Internet yet, so no working from home (even though I was working with state-of-the-art technology and involved in technology research!). I was hanging out in the cafeterias and lounges when not in lecture halls or faculty offices.

So where was I on December 6, 1989? Home with two toddlers, now a full-time mom, watching the news on TV on a dark, snowy evening. First mass murder in Montreal. In the engineering building of a Montreal university. Target is women. Probably women who study engineering. 14 women murdered! I reflected in horror that night – that could have been me!! Chilling thoughts…

In the 33 years since then, there has been much reflection and some action on mental illness and gun control. I choose to focus on the root of this tragedy – the hatred of women, misogyny, that leads to discrimination and injustice in its weaker forms, and abuse, rape, and femicide in its most abominable forms.

Let us remember the 14 victims of December 6, 1989. Let us strive for a world where women are equal, respected, valued, and safe. The contributions of women in all fields are critical to our future society.

Brenda is a member of Na'amat Canada Montreal

The views and opinions expressed in this post are the writer’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Na’amat Canada.