Vancouver Beam of Light Ceremony, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
Thirty years ago today, 14 young women were killed at École Polytechnique de Montréal because they were women.
At the time of the attack, I had recently moved from Montreal to Harvard, after completing my studies at McGill University.
I was also recently married, to Wendy Yip, a fellow McGill student, who, like the 14 Ecole Polytechnique students, was training for a career in a traditionally male-dominated field.
Therefore, the news of this terrible attack really struck home.
Today, 30 years later, Wendy and I are the proud parents of two wonderful daughters. One of those daughters is already at university, and the other in high school.
I want to ensure that they – and all young women – are able to achieve their dreams, in whatever field – without fear of being subject to discrimination, violence or worse, because of their gender.
It is up to us to ensure that they can achieve their dreams. It is up to us to act. Gender-based violence is a global epidemic that will not go away on its own.
Often the term violence is used to refer to physical acts.
However, gender-based violence also includes words or actions intended to degrade, control, humiliate, intimidate, coerce, deprive, threaten, or harm someone.
We must continue to question, call out, and speak out against acts of gender-based violence. We must strive to create a world where every young woman – every person – is safe and free to pursue their passions.
I am personally committed – and UBC as an institution – is committed to achieving this.
The University of British Columbia’s vision is to inspire people, ideas and actions for a better world. Part of this vision is ensuring that the university is a place of discovery, of learning, and of progress for all people regardless of gender.
I am honoured that UBC is one of 14 universities participating in the Beam of Light ceremony. As we join with our colleagues and friends across the country, let us honour the memory of those 14 young women whose lives the young women whose lives were cut short 30 years ago:
- Geneviève Bergeron
- Hélène Colgan
- Nathalie Croteau
- Barbara Daigneault
- Anne-Marie Edward
- Maud Haviernick
- Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz
- Maryse Laganière
- Maryse Leclair
- Anne-Marie Lemay
- Sonia Pelletier
- Michèle Richard
- Annie St-Arneault
- Annie Turcotte
They deserve to be remembered for their passions, for the plans that they had for their lives, and for how much they had to offer the world and those around them.
And let us strive to ensure that young women today get the chance to live their dreams.