Even though 25 years have passed since the Polytechnique massacre, when the lives of 14 young women were ended by bullets fired by a crazed gunman, the event will never fade into the past for the victims' families, nor for those who were wounded or the witnesses to this horrible tragedy.
Each anniversary marking this terrible event has brought its share of sadness and bewilderment. Over time, it has also brought its share of hope. For Polytechnique, the memory lives on. Driven by a duty of remembrance, the Polytechnique community is ready now to transform the memory of this dark page in its history into a new chapter. To mark the 25th anniversary of the tragedy of December 6, 1989, Polytechnique is launching two initiatives that it wants to see become permanent.
Order of the White Rose: a $30,000 Canada-wide scholarship
The white rose has, over the years, become the symbol of Polytechnique's commemorative activities. On December 6, 2014, this symbol of peace will become the image for future annual events.
In tribute to the victims, the wounded, the faculty members and the employees and students who were at the heart of the tragedy, Polytechnique has created a scholarship to be known as the Polytechnique Montréal Order of the White Rose.
This $30,000 scholarship will be awarded annually by the Polytechnique administration to a woman engineering student who wishes to pursue her passion for engineering by enrolling in a graduate program (master's or doctoral level) at the institution of her choice, in Canada or elsewhere in the world. During this first year, a call for applications will be launched at Canadian universities that offer engineering programs. The name of the first winner will be announced in December 2015.
With great pleasure and goodwill, Nathalie Provost has agreed to be “Godmother of the Order of the White Rose” and of this scholarship, and Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire, Chair of the Polytechnique Montréal Board and the first woman to graduate in civil engineering from Polytechnique in 1963, has consented to chair the selection committee.
“I am very touched that the Order of the White Rose is a scholarship created in honour of my sisters, whose right to practice the wonderful art of engineering was taken away from them,” Ms. Provost says. “In addition to honouring their memory, the scholarship is a helping hand extended to the next generation, and will enable a young woman to go a step further in fulfilling her dream of becoming an engineer.”
For her part, Ms. Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire – the first woman to hold the position of Chair of the Board of the Corporation de l'École Polytechnique de Montréal – states: “If I were a young women receiving the Order of the White Rose, I would feel privileged to be able to perpetuate the legacy of women engineers and to add my contribution to our society's scientific heritage. I hope the first recipient will feel this pride.”
Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire and Nathalie Provost
A prestigious jury
Ms. Thibodeau-DeGuire will chair the scholarship selection committee. The other members are:
- Elizabeth Cannon, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calgary;
- Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University;
- Cristina Amon, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering of the University of Toronto;
- Patrik Doucet, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering of Université de Sherbrooke;
- Joshua Leon, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering of Dalhousie University;
- Pearl Sullivan, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Waterloo; and
- Kimberly A. Woodhouse, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science of Queen's University.
Week of the White Rose to benefit Folie Technique science camp
Once again using the white rose symbol, this year Polytechnique will inaugurate the Week of the White Rose. This is an annual fundraising drive whose theme will be “The future blooms in our hands.” Polytechnique will be inviting its community and the general public to make donations by buying virtual white roses.
All funds collected will go initially to Folie Technique, Polytechnique's science day camp, to provide girls from less affluent communities with an introduction to science and engineering.
“Confidence in their own abilities to succeed in science is often more fragile among girls and
young people from disadvantaged backgrounds,” says Folie Technique Director Marie-Claude Hamel. “We promote a
positive attitude among girls toward these fields and sufficient self-confidence for them to consider a career in science one
day. These young people are also the future that is blooming.”
A permanent activity
In coming years, Polytechnique will promote the Week of the White Rose in the week prior to December 6. The website, however, will be accessible at all times. People from all backgrounds and all walks of life can visit it to purchase and give white roses to a loved one on a special occasion. Businesses can do the same to mark a corporate anniversary or to send year-end best wishes, for example. Income receipts will be issued by the Fondation de Polytechnique upon request.
- A $10 donation will buy one rose and pay transportation for a girl to attend a science activity;
- A $50 donation will buy 14 roses and fund a science activity in an elementary school classroom;
- A $150 donation will buy 25 roses and enable a girl to attend a one-week science day camp during the summer.
In its fall 2014 issue, POLY magazine presents a major post-tragedy feature report. It includes accounts and thoughts from women and men who experienced the event up close. The issue will be online (in French only) at http://kiosque.polymtl.ca/.
On Saturday, December 6, at 7 :30 p.m., the Orchestre de l'Université de Montréal, under conductor Jean-François Rivest, will present En souvenir d'elles, a concert marking the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, at the Faculty of Music's Salle Claude-Champagne www.calendrier.umontreal.ca/musique/.
Finally, and also on Saturday, December 6, a bouquet of 14 white roses will be placed at the commemorative plaque by Ms. Thibodeau-DeGuire; Christophe Guy, CEO of Polytechnique; Romain Gayet, President of the Polytechnique students' association; and Raphaël Beamonte, President of the Polytechnique graduate students' association. On this occasion, the flags in front of the institution will fly at half-mast.
All of these initiatives will never alter the past, but they celebrate the importance of developing the inspiring talents of today and tomorrow. The engineering profession and society as a whole need all the talents of women and men who can contribute to it.