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On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lepine opened fire at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique, killing 14 women
On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lepine opened fire at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique, killing 14 women

Norman Spector

Anniversary of a massacre Add to ...

Today is the 20th anniversary of the massacre at the École Polytechnique in Montréal.

For some, the horrific murder of 14 young women has long been seen as an example of the inherent misogyny of Canadian society. For others, the commemoration of this horrific event has served as evidence of the need for the gun registry. À chacun son goût, as they say in Montréal.

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This year, the Gazette in an editorial very gingerly alludes to a point about the murderer, Marc Lépine, that has long been suppressed in the mainstream media and still generally is, judging from coverage of the anniversary this year:

"The young man who had been so badly beaten by Monique Lépine's husband, Rachid Liass Gharbi, walked into the Polytechnique to take revenge on 'feminists' - a word he used as an insult, even a curse. He killed 14 women and injured another 14 people before killing himself."

Consulting Marc Lépine's entry in Wikipedia, one reads a more direct description of the murderer's antecedents:

"Lépine was born Gamil Rodrigue Liass Gharbi, in Montreal, the son of a Canadian nurse and a Algerian-born businessman. Gharbi was a non-practicing Muslim, and Monique Lépine, a former Catholic nun who had rejected organized religion after she left the convent. Their son was baptized a Roman Catholic as an infant, but received no religious instruction during his childhood; his mother described her son as 'a confirmed atheist all his life'.

"His father … was an authoritarian, possessive and jealous man, frequently violent towards his wife and his children. Gharbi had contempt for women and believed that they were only intended to serve men. He required his wife to act as his personal secretary, slapping her if she made any errors in typing, and forcing her retype documents in spite of the cries of their toddler.

"He was also neglectful and abusive towards his children, particularly his son, and discouraged any tenderness, as he considered it spoiling. In 1970, following an incident in which Gharbi struck his son so hard that the marks on his face were visible a week later, his mother decided to leave. The legal separation was finalized in 1971, and the divorce in 1976. Following the separation, Lépine lived with his mother and younger sister Nadia; soon after, their home and possessions were seized when Gharbi defaulted on mortgage payments. Lépine was afraid of his father, and at first saw him on weekly supervised visits. The visits ended quickly, as Rachid Gharbi ceased contact with his children soon after the separation. Lépine never again saw his father, and in the future refused to discuss him with others."

Also in yesterday's Gazette, Janet Bagnall, a feminist who sits on the Gazette editorial board and I suspect wrote the editorial, writes in her column:

"Marc Lépine's deadly goal was to punish the ambitious, clever women who had taken what he thought was his rightful place in the world. Many men before him - and many after - have also turned to violence in an effort to impose male primacy.

"The Taliban are today's most notorious example, throwing acid in schoolgirls' faces, firebombing schools that dare teach girls. The men who carry out 'honour killings,' or murder young brides over their dowries are also part of a rearguard action that wants to deny women the right to be equal.

"When we commemorate the 14 young women killed by Lépine that icy cold Dec. 6 in 1989, it is a yearly reminder that the misogyny we associate today with the Taliban erupted in violence here, too, in a civilized, cosmopolitan city in a wealthy country.

"There's never been a satisfactory explanation."

In the wake of the Fort Hood massacre, there was considerable soul-searching in the U.S. media about politically-correct reporting on the murderer. I don't have a satisfactory explanation of these horrific multiple murders in Montréal either, but perhaps we would have been closer to one had the mainstream media done a better job reporting on this incident over the years.

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