"We've come beyond 1989": Higgins

Austin M.
Austin M. Davis
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Transition house names scholarship after Marilyn McCrea

When 14 women were murdered on Dec. 6, 1989, Martha Tracey knew it would affect the next generation, she just didn’t know how.

Rhonice McMaster (left) and Bernie Doepker took a look at old photos and stories about the Moose Jaw Transition House at the luncheon on Friday.

“I have a daughter, and she was eight at the time of the massacre,” Tracey said. “I remember wondering what this would mean for her and her life as well.

Friday marked the 24th anniversary of the massacre at Montreal’s École Polytechnique. It was also the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

At the Moose Jaw Public Library and Art Gallery, the Moose Jaw Transition House hosted its third annual luncheon and screened a film.

Twenty-four years ago, before Marc Lepine opened fire on the classroom of female engineering students, he screamed, “I hate feminists.”

Tracey is a self-described feminist.

“A lot of advancements have been made,” she said, “but I think it’s important to continue to get together and to remember. And to try and say, ‘let’s stop this.’ That involves everybody.”

Tracey’s been honouring the legacies of the 14 dead women annually since the massacre happened. She grew up in Montreal, and said the bodies of the women lay at the university building from which she graduated.

Out of that massacre, the transition house is trying to improve the landscape for women pursuing education to work in fields traditionally under-represented by women.

“As I understand it, the scholarship is going to be named today and it’s going to be named for a very close friend of mine who died this year. I’m here to remember her as well,” Tracey said.

The scholarship will be named after Marilyn McCrea, who served as executive director of the transition house for 22 years. She passed away in February.

In the mid-‘90s, McCrea suggested the transition house start a scholarship fund, but the children’s program didn’t have core funding and so all resources went to that.

The transition house has secure funding for the children’s program, and so the scholarship fund is now a reality.

“In 1989, when the 14 women were murdered at École Polytechnique, they were students and they were specifically targeted because they were females,” said Karen Closs, transition house executive director.

“It seemed fitting to us that we have a scholarship that’s meant for females that are exploring careers in fields where women are traditionally under-represented or are currently under-represented.”

The scholarships — two awards of $500 each — will be handed out for the first time in September 2014. Applications will be made available in January and the deadline will be in June.

“While we still want to remember, it’s good to know we’re also taking action and doing something positive moving forward,” Closs said.

Mayor Deb Higgins agreed with Closs about both remembering the tragedy and making positive changes.

“It really puts a much more positive outlook on it. We know we’ve come beyond 1989 and we need to start looking at young women and their options for a future,” Higgins said.

The 14 murdered women were Geneviève Bergeron, age 21, Hélène Colgan, 23, Nathalie Croteau, 23, Barbara Daigneault, 22, Anne-Marie Edward, 21, Maud Haviernick, 29, Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, Maryse Leclair, 23, Annie St.-Arneault, 23, Michèle Richard, 21, Maryse Laganière, 25, Anne-Marie Lemay, 22, Sonia Pelletier, 28 and Annie Turcotte, 21.

Austin M. Davis can be reached at 306-691-1258 or follow him on Twitter @theAustinX.

Organizations: École Polytechnique, Moose Jaw Public Library, Moose Jaw Transition House

Geographic location: Montreal

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