Alberta Politics
Journalist Nora Loreto (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

30 years after the tragedy at l’École Polytechnique, politicians and media are making things worse

Posted on December 06, 2019, 12:36 am
5 mins

Today is the 30th anniversary of the terrible massacre of 14 young women students at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal, apparently shot down for the imagined crime of daring study to be engineers.

One would have thought three decades ago as the raw horror of that story unfolded through the evening that by now things would be better — for young women, for society, for every one of us.

Since then, a lot of lip service, much of it sincere enough, has been paid to the need to recommit ourselves to find ways to end gender-based violence in Canada. But for all the years and all the fine words, not much has really changed.

In many ways, indeed, things are worse. Survivors of the tragedy are still battling to see simple and sensible controls on the ownership and use of firearms implemented in Canada. They are treated with scorn and, sometimes, threats. Women at work struggle to have workplace violence taken seriously as the occupational health and safety issue it is. This is a workplace reality that faces unrelenting institutional indifference from employers.

Not only has violence against women not gone away, it is actively encouraged in certain influential quarters of our society. Indeed, the Internet has created a Petri dish in which a virulent subculture of misogyny is flourishing.

This troubling state of affairs was brought forcefully to my mind yesterday morning as I waited in an airport to return to Edmonton and turned to Nora Loreto’s powerful essay on this topic in the National Observer. At the conference I had just attended, I had the opportunity to hear Ms. Loreto in person make some of the same points.

Every Canadian should read her essay — and especially every Canadian man, who should read it in a spirit of reflection and honest self-examination. For, as Ms. Loreto truthfully states, in 2019 as in 1989, “violence against women is mundane in Canada.”

“The École Polytechnique anniversary gives us a moment to confront an inconvenient truth: Politicians and corporate media are actively making things worse,” she wrote. “They have failed to understand that men are radicalizing online; and, worse, many have found ways to exploit it, diminish it or simply ignore it.”

I won’t quote the article at too much length — Ms. Loreto is a talented writer and a fine journalist who speaks for herself. But some of her observations about what’s really dangerous in the current use of the Internet as a vector for misogynistic violence, based on her experience as a young person of real courage willing to speak truths some people in our society don’t want to hear, bear repetition.

“Regardless of the threats that many of us who are high-profile receive, Canadian history tells us that their targets are rarely us,” she said. “Their violence is terrorism: it’s seemingly random and poses a danger to all Canadians.”

“The Internet’s power to destroy social solidarity has been incredible and swift and, sadly, these protectors of the status quo seem happy to watch from the sidelines, sometimes cheering, sometimes sneering, but so far, never intervening to say, wait — if we don’t find a way to stop this, more people will be murdered.”

The refusal she highlights of so many politicians and most media to stop sneering and cheering and make a positive contribution is very real.

It’s a disgrace that Ms. Loreto herself has been all but shut out of our national media because of the right-wing rage, often expressed violently, her journalistic expositions and other commentaries have provoked.

It’s an embarrassment, too, since her work continues to be featured by the Washington Post. But then, from its historical and recent political coverage we already knew the Post is braver than the likes of the Globe and Mail, Postmedia and Maclean’s Magazine, prominent among Canada’s self-appointed fearless champions of white male fragility.

Good for the National Observer for giving Canadians a place to hear Ms. Loreto’s observations. Go there and read them!

4 Comments to: 30 years after the tragedy at l’École Polytechnique, politicians and media are making things worse

  1. Just Me

    December 6th, 2019

    For many, that tragic event is still hard to come to terms with, but it shouldn’t be.

    At the time, many men I knew called it an “unusual” or an “extraordinary” event that rarely, if ever, is repeated. The only thing that struck me about that event was the magnitude of the violence. But apart from that, the causes of the event can be easily found and are happening all the time, more so today than ever. The point that everyone ignores such events. Well, evil is banal, but it’s still evil. Once we get past the sensationalism of the latest assault by a so called INCEL, or we are amused by the wider creep of the MGTOW mindset, we need to stop kidding ourselves and come to terms with the fact that things are getting worse.

    When the lyric from the song says, “Any man could have done this…” arouses venom and a chorus of anger, you know that a plain truth has been uttered.

    As for the claim about the need for “Good men with guns” time to put that lie to rest: there are no good men with guns. Just evil that waiting to happen.

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      December 7th, 2019

      I don’t own a gun anymore—haven’t since childhood (country boys usually got one before reaching double-digit years of age; but I did carry one as my boss ordered whilst in Grizzly country)—but I must take exception with the statement that “there are no good men with guns,” or that anyone wth a gun is “evil waiting to happen.” I mean, I know—I really, really know too many citizens who absolutely—absolutely, mind you—do NOT fit those descriptions.

      I believe in gun control even though I’ve recently lost some innocence by discovering that handguns are not really banned in Canada. If I had my way, the only owners of guns would be like the ones I know: men and women who own hunting rifles, mostly not even semi-automatic—and a lot of them don’t even hunt: they’re farmers who rather more euthanize sick and suffering livestock or exterminate vermin. I also know a lot of them resented having to register these “long-guns”—some of which are childhood or inherited acquisitions. I suspect there are more than a few long-guns out there that never did get registered, but not because the owners ever contemplated committing a crime with them (other than not registering their guns, most of these people have never committed any crimes at all, hence the resentment).

      I saw the long-gun registry as a very broad controversy: there were opponents and proponents in nearly every political party, more or less, including the NDP (which experienced some internal tumult as a result). I’d recognized it as, perhaps, too broad (it should have focused more on assault-style long-guns, IMO), too likely to provoke reaction; when otherwise law-abiding citizens break a law, you gotta wonder if it went too far (the GST was/is another example). In the long-gun case, there were ways to narrow the scope (no pun intended) that escaped, perhaps, the ideal more-strident gun control advocates demanded. In any case, I don’t think it was mere coincidence that, right at the same time, most of my coworkers in the West Coast woods suddenly switched from voting NDP to voting Reform (forerunner of today’s CPC), some for the very first time in their lives. Granted, the environmentalists’ “War in the Woods” of the 80s and 90s had its polarizing effect, but judging from the copies of the Byfield brother’s Alberta and BC Reports that suddenly appeared in every login-camp shitter-stall on the Coast, the long-gun registry was seized upon by the right as just the right kind of gin—that is, the right realized it could proselytize profitably among resentful lefties by way of the controversy, ginned to the max, naturally, surrounding the long-gun registry. The chauvinism exploded from that point. It worked, unfortunately.

      Plainly we have to be talking about something other than the ordinary, rural citizens described above. I do think government can do more with respect controlling and or banning certain guns that these rural hunters and farmers normally don’t have. A friend is getting his hunting licence—a six-month process that includes personal background-checks and a substantial training course on guns, hunting with them, and the responsibilities of ownership and use. If this was the only kind of guns and use, we wouldn’t need much more.

      But the availability of assault-style weapons like rapid fire automatics and handguns is another story. So is the rural movement to implement shoot-first-ask-questions-later policies, supposedly to deter theft and vandalism of farm equipment too remote for police to patrol. The government can also address this worrisome development by hiring more rural police instead of encouraging a right-to-bear-arms, drip-drip-drip of claimed, American-style rights when there are no such rights in Canada. And, of course, banning assault-style weapons and handguns outright. There is no “right” to “enjoy” target shooting, and definitely should be none to remove a handgun or assault-style weapon from a registered target-shooting facility, ever.

      The murderer at the poly technical school was meticulous, methodical and determined in his deranged, obsessive commitment to publicly perpetrate an unprecedented evil, terrible crime: the case can’t be made that he wouldn’t have dared do if it weren’t for the gun he acquired. He reopened the old debate about the availability of assault-style weapons—like all mass murders perpetrated with guns do. But we can’t say that was, in this event, a good thing. It rather reopened the debate about the lack of government action with regard those kinds of weapons. And of course, although seeking and destroying misogyny is the right thing to do, this horrible thing should never have been required to remind us. It’s impossible to say the event was so unique as to preclude any misogynistic mass-murders in the future, more than the 30 years since that sickening day. In the USA and other places, the purpose-driven evil-doer targets ethnic or religious groups—but increasingly target just anybody around for no apparent reason—as they say: “senseless.” The Montreal murderer expressly rationalized his own resentment that women were advancing into traditionally male areas of employment (that displaced him, at least in his own bent mind)—but, given the capabilities of women, or anybody, are commonly accepted three decades later, surely the number of potential misogynists must have diminished along with the general trend.

      The common element is assault-style guns, loads of ammo and, these days, opportunity to gain notoriety via the internet. But the evil men do to women, the vast majority of it, involves no weapon at all, whereas almost all one-on-one gun-homicide is of one man against another man. Thus the focus has to be, first, what men do—and especially to women, then what guns do, then what law-enforcement does, then what we as citizens do. The point is, it’s what KIND of men, what KIND of gun, what KIND of laws and enforcement, and ultimately what KIND of society we want. Remediation cannot be so absolute as to effectively accuse all men, for example, nor, IMHO, all kinds of guns, and there has to be a range of remedies to try and to settle on as we work toward a better society.

      I’m not against all guns or all gun owners, including women gun owners. I don’t think it’s evil or a lie by definition. And I’m neither evil nor a liar. Honest.

      We have to make it impolitic to gin pro-gun sentiments. If the Western provinces are any indication, we are failing there because, to my mind, that’s where “gun owners’ rights” are most particularly incorporated into a grab-bag of regional, existential complaints. On the other hand, it might be a perverse sign of progress that the gun cult seems to be getting relegated to wherever Conservatives win riding elections (remind that these are increasingly, starkly rural farming areas where gun-registry is always unpopular—but that, too, could be a good sign because most farmers are good people and responsible gun owners).

      But we have to keep trying to succeed.

      Reply
      • Jerrymacgp

        December 9th, 2019

        Mr “On Denman” … there is so much here to unpack, and so little time to do so. But I do want to commend you on your reasoned, calm comments on a topic that is so often so overheated.

        On the issue of the rural farmer or rancher who just needs a gun to put down an injured animal and defend himself from bears, at first blush that seems eminently reasonable. But, let us consider some facts. Suicide rates in rural communities are higher than in urban areas, when examined in terms of population — like, deaths per 100,000 people. Far more people die by suicide than as a result of homicide, and guns are more likely to be the cause of death in a fatal suicide attempt than anything else. In addition, access to mental health services that could potentially prevent suicides is far more limited in rural areas than in urban ones, so there are fewer resources to support a rural resident struggling with depression and thus at risk of suicide. So, the farmer or rancher is at higher risk of death, statistically speaking, by virtue of having that that gun for the [entirely legitimate] purpose you describe, than an urban resident.

        Reply
  2. Colino

    December 7th, 2019

    “For these words, I’ve been turned into one of these demons: a woman who hates white men and wants them to experience harm and misery. “- From Ms. Loreto’s essay. Nobody ever notices that Canadian families have been steadily torn apart since the 60’s when single parent families was 9% of families. Fast forward to today and they account now for about 35%. What happened in the 1960’s to cause this rising trend? It may only be coincidence but the first woman’s shelter opened in Canada in 1966. Their mandate was to protect women from domestic violence which is a noble and honorable endeavor. However it appears to be that their mandate has changed to protect women while destroying men and if you’ve ever been to a woman’s shelter as a man as I have to fix air conditioners. You would experience the dagger like looks you get for just being there. Ms. Loreto has the same kind of hate as the divorcees running those shelters who are punishing their ex’s by proxy. Nobody mentions that almost half of domestic violence is now caused by women. How many times have you read about men killing themselves and their children? It is always blamed on some poor schmuck who has lost everything because the courts are biased and influenced by institutions like the women’s shelter(institutions now financed by our governments). The man gets blamed but no one asks what caused his mental instability to the point where suicide seemed like his only option. It has now become in Canada, that you are equal before the law unless of course you are a man, because then by default you are the problem just for having a penis. I’ll probably be attacked for daring to bring up this point of view, but any institution, group or ethnicity, if given an unfettered right to never be challenged is a threat to us all.

    Reply

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