by René Bruemmer,
The Gazette

Dozens of women and a handful of men gathered near the Universite de Montreal on a bright winter's morning today to remember some of the darkest hours in the city's history, armed only with white roses and a plea: break down the walls of silence.

Eighteen years after 25-year-old Marc Lepine entered the Ecole polytechnique engineering school and murdered 14 women for the crime of being women, social awareness has improved, participants in today's commemoration of the events of Dec. 6, 1989 said, but the dangers and the suffering persist.

"When I'm still afraid to walk alone at night at 3 a.m., it's obvious that there are still problems," said Eve Cantin Lafrance, 23, a feminist studies major at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.

"You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists," Lepine told the first group of women he encountered as he stalked the school, before he shot them.

Today's event came as part of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, named by Canada's Parliament in 1991 in response to the shootings. Flags on federal buildings flew at half mast today, and universities across the nation observed a minute of silence.

Nearly 100 women and a handful of men huddled in the -10C cold, listening to speakers from a variety of women's groups. As the names of 14 women killed in the massacre were read, participants laid a sole white rose on the 14 stainless steel statues in the Place du 6 decembre square at the top of Queen Mary Rd. A minute of silence followed.

Six-hundred and sixty-four women have been murdered in Quebec since Lepine's rampage, the speakers noted.