On December 5th 1989 I was eight months pregnant with my second child. My son was three and a half, and I was hoping for a baby girl. That is until the evening of the following day: December 6th 1989.
Having graduated from university in the spring, I was working in a private group home for abused adolescent girls. These were inner city Toronto girls. I loved my job, I loved my girls, they drove me crazy, but I loved my girls. We had incredible discussions about rights, appropriate behaviour and the ability to say NO. Nothing was sacred we would talk about anything. Sex, drugs, being a parent, cooking – I even taught them to make peach jam. They ate toast for a month with a great sense of accomplishment. I tried to teach them there were no boundaries to what they could achieve. They believed me…until December 6th.
On December 6th 1989 one man killed 14 women simply because they were women.
On December 6th I decided I wanted my baby to be a boy. In that moment I could not see the future for a girl. Could I protect a girl against such rage? Could I teach her to reach for the stars, but watch her back while she was doing it? Being a child was hard enough, being female just seemed to make the children even more vulnerable.
My girls at work demanded answers to questions I could not answer. This was all the proof they needed. They felt they didn’t stand a chance, life had already dealt harshly with them, victimized them because they were girls, and life would continue to victimize them. Never having learned age appropriate behaviour, for being forced into sexual maturity too early, they didn’t know how to dress normally. This became a cycle. Getting treated like property, they believed they were property, no one had taught them different. Society wasn’t helping change their minds either.
As we watched the Nation mourn, the answer came. It came slowly and quietly but it was there. Women stood up and said enough. Meetings were held. Everyone wanted to do something. There was a need to do something.
Many men grew weary of being blamed for actions they had no involvement in. They would declare that the Montreal Massacre as an actions of one deranged individual, not a conspiracy of the male gender. Yes, that was true, but women now had a focal point. It wasn’t an event to be hushed by the neighbourhood, as often happens with domestic violence. This wasn’t an assault that could be dismissed as the victim ‘bringing it on herself’. There would be no tired and trite explanation for this event.
How can gender be a crime, or the fault of someone?
The men joined in too. They all had mothers, sisters and daughters; they wanted the violence to end too.
Twenty four years later how do we mark this day?
For me I light a candle and pay tribute to those who died. Some said the man who killed them would have a greater place in history than those who died. We’re not going to let that happen. Their names are written here, his is not.
Barbara Maria Klucznik
Their average age was 23 and a half.
As for my baby, my second son? Six weeks after the massacre, a daughter was born. I remember being afraid, wondering about the world she would grow up in. Those of you who know my daughter will chuckle at my fears. She’s strong, fights battles even at the age of almost 24. She demands equality from everyone, and doesn’t back down. I still worry, but then I’m the mom, and that too is my job.