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Canada École Polytechnique victims honoured on 24th anniversary of Montreal Massacre

Several women attend a demonstration in Montreal, Friday, December 6, 2013, to highlight violence against women. 14 female students lost their lives at the hands of a gunman at the Ecole Polytechnique on this day in 1989.

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Fourteen young women who were killed in Canada's worst mass shooting were remembered on Friday amid repeated calls for more to be done to eradicate violence against women.

Outside the École polytechnique engineering school where the slayings occurred on Dec. 6, 1989, bouquets of white and red roses were placed at the foot of a wall plaque with the names of the victims.

A demonstration was also held on the steps of the Montreal courthouse where the names of the women were read aloud.

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The women were killed in what has become known as the Montreal Massacre, when lone gunman Marc Lepine rampaged through the halls of the engineering school ranting that feminists had ruined his life.

He also wounded a number of other people before taking his own life in one of the classrooms.

The killings spurred greater calls for gun control and led to the creation of the federal firearms registry, which was eventually scrapped by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.

The president of Quebec's main women's federation told the courthouse gathering the victims of the École polytechnique cannot be allowed to fade into history.

"Twenty-four years later, what we're doing is reminding society why they were killed and we're looking at how much we've achieved," said Alexa Conradi.

"Are we doing better today? Ultimately, we're not doing as well as we'd like.

"There's still tremendous amounts of violence against women."

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But Conradi said some things have improved over the years.

"Women are much quicker to denounce violence against women, which is great news . . . . There is a sense that women know they don't have to go through it."

In Ottawa, MPs observed a minute's silence before question period.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

"On Dec. 6, 1989, the lives of 14 innocent and promising young female students were taken in a depraved act of violence at l'Ecole polytechnique de Montreal, simply because they were women," Harper said.

"While we will never fully understand this atrocity, our government is committed to helping ensure that it does not happen again by making our streets and communities safe for women, girls and all Canadians."

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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who took part in the event outside the Montreal courthouse, said it is important to remember the 14 women who died in the "horrible tragedy."

"We need to underline the passing of 14 extraordinary young women who were killed just because they were women," he said.

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