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MPs mark École Polytechnique massacre - but Tories aren't welcome

A child plays on a monument dedicated to Annie St-Arneault, one of 14 women slain at l'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989.

PAUL CHIASSON/PAUL CHIASSON/The Canadian Press

As women across Canada mark the 22nd anniversary of the massacre at Montreal's École Polytechnique on Tuesday, Conservative women on Parliament Hill continue to work to scrap the long-gun registry that was created in response to those shootings.

That has people on the Hill so upset that government MPs have been purposely shut out from officially speaking at and attending an event on Parliament Hill to honour the 14 young women who were shot dead in 1989.

The two opposition leaders, Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel and Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae, will be there to speak, as will Bloc Québécois MP Maria Mourani.

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"Even as we mourn the 14 women killed at l'École Polytechnique, this government is taking the last remaining safeguard off the very weapon that murdered these women," Ms. Turmel said. "The Conservatives are recklessly dismantling the only positive thing to come out of the tragic events of Dec. 6."

The politicians will be joined by Wendy Cukier, president of the Coalition for Gun Control, and Suzanne Laplante-Edward, whose daughter, Anne-Marie, was killed by gunman Marc Lepine.

"There's nobody from the Conservatives, that's for sure," said Wendy Sol of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, which is organizing a conference about violence against women Tuesday in Ottawa. About 400 participants from the conference are expected to march from the venue, an Ottawa hotel, to Parliament Hill for the commemoration.

They are to be joined by other pro-gun-registry demonstrators. Two family members of the victims will also be there.

"They [Conservative MPs]were deliberately not invited but they are certainly welcome to come and change their position," Ms. Sol said.

The legislation to end the gun registry is expected to pass through the House to the Senate before the Christmas break.

Meanwhile, Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose will be attending a vigil but it's not clear where. A source said that for her it's "very personal" and "very emotional." But she will not be speaking.

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Candice Hoeppner, the Manitoba Conservative MP who has been leading the charge to scrap the long-gun registry, did not respond to a query as to whether she would be attending a vigil to honour the 14 young women.

In an e-mail response, however, Ms. Hoeppner said that Dec. 6 is "a solemn day to remember the victims of violence against women, especially the victims of the attacks at École Polytechnique."

But she argues that the Conservative government is committed to putting "those who commit violent crimes with firearms behind bars."

"That is where our government places its focus, not on wasteful and ineffective measures that have not stopped a single crime or saved a single life," she wrote. "We will end the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry and continue to focus on keeping dangerous criminals behind bars where they belong."

Carolyn Bennett, chair of the Liberal's women's caucus, calls the debate to scrap the registry the "ultimate [example]of ideology over evidence.

"It's just always such an upsetting day anyway," she said. "I think everything we fought for after 22 years is being actively dismantled. It's very sad."

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Ms. Bennett marks the occasion at Women's College Hospital in Toronto. She has done so every year since 1989, missing only once for a vote on Parliament Hill.

Justin Trudeau, a Liberal MP from Montreal, was in high school when the shootings occurred.

"I will be attending the Peace Tower vigil at 10:15, where our leader will be speaking, and where the Conservatives are unwelcome," he told The Globe.

"The Conservatives have tried to separate the gun registry from the issue of violence against women in a way that is not just unethical, but also completely counter to factual evidence," he said. "The gun registry saves lives. They are eliminating it."

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