On December 6, 1989, a man wielding a gun entered a mechanical engineering classroom at Polytechnique Montréal (formerly known as École Polytechnique de Montréal) and brutally killed 14 women in a horrific act of gender-based violence. Today, the event known as the Montréal Massacre is commemorated with the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Carleton University and its Faculty of Engineering and Design will honour the memory of the women who were killed with a commemorative video and will take a stand against gender-based violence by calling on the community to take an allyship pledge.

“This day recognizes the destructive, far-reaching impacts of gender-based violence in our society and aims to spread awareness and support for victims of gender-based violence everywhere,” says Onita Basu, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“While much progress has been made since this tragedy took place, there is still much to be done as a nation, as a community and as individuals to advance women’s equality and promote diversity and inclusion across all fields.”

Basu underscores our collective ability to promote change and create healthy learning environments for women.

A photo of Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Onita Basu

Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Onita Basu

Historically, systemic discrimination against women within engineering saw them discouraged from pursuing an education in science or mathematics and prevented them from accessing equal opportunities.

To help address this, Basu notes, the Faculty of Engineering has committed to developing initiatives to support women in engineering and information technology (IT).

One such measure is the Women in Engineering and IT (WiE&IT) Program, supported by 16 industry and government partners, which aims to help close the gender gap in in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields by providing women students with access to networking, mentorship and soft skill development opportunities. As well as resources shared through their monthly newsletter for allies to better support women in engineering and IT.

Biomedical and electrical engineering student Erin Lui-Hing, who also serves as vice-president with the Engineering Student Societies’ Council of Ontario, appears in the video and calls on the Carleton community to take action—both in society and in their own lives.

“Be thoughtful and turn inwards with a shared understanding that closing the gender gap is deep rooted and takes work to dismantle, including within ourselves,” she says.

“It requires all of us to support a more inclusive future and I ask that you reflect on the gravity of gender-based violence so that we may actively work towards eliminating it within our community.”

A photo of engineering student Erin Hui-Ling

Biomedical and Electrical Engineering student Erin Lui-Hing

Carleton’s President Benoit-Antoine Bacon, who lived in Montreal at the time of the attack and witnessed gender-based violence in his home growing up, reflects on the necessity of speaking out on the ongoing problem of gender-based violence.

“As we think about these brutal murders, the lives of 14 women were cut short specifically because they were women, it’s vital that we also acknowledge the less recognizable forms of gender-based violence that are all around us and are often unseen,” says Bacon, noting that Carleton is focused on creating a positive environment where violence is strictly unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

“There is much that can be done within our communities. December 6 is about honouring those who have experienced gender-based violence but it is also about taking action and about the collective understanding that our actions matter,” he says.

“Together we can continue to build upon Carleton’s culture of respect for all.”

On December 6, the Faculty of Engineering is encouraging members of the Carleton community to take part in its allyship accountability pledge—to listen, support and empower women in order to take a stand against gender-based violence.

Monday, December 6, 2021 in
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