Even today, it’s hard to comprehend what happened that day. I was a young reporter working on a West Coast newspaper when the first bulletins started coming in. A man with a gun…a campus in Montreal…there were bodies…. It was December 6, 1989, less than three weeks to Christmas, and one of the defining images the next day, in the stunned aftermath, was of a custodian at École Polytechnique removing decorations as a body lay slumped in a chair. But, along with the passing of time, there is another way to deal with the massacre that tragically ended 14 promising young lives. And that is to honour the memory of those women by carrying on their journey and their passion for science and learning. As we near the 25th anniversary of remembrance, École Polytechnique is doing just that – by taking another defining image from this tragic event and attaching it to the same hope and promise felt by Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Nathalie Croteau and the 11 other women killed that day.
Polytechnique Montréal is announcing the Order of the White Rose and the Week of the White Rose – taking advantage of a flower that has become a symbol of remembrance. Both initiatives are designed to encourage young women and girls to develop their passion for science. The Polytechnique Montréal
Order of the White Rose is a $30,000 scholarship that will be awarded annually to a Canadian student to support her graduate studies – wherever her studies take her, be it in Canada or anyplace else in a world that will be hard-pressed to contain the aspirant’s ambition. Polytechnique Montréal will also initiate the Week of the White Rose as part of an ongoing fundraising campaign. Donors will be encouraged to buy “virtual” white roses and bestow them upon any recipient they choose. All proceeds will go to Folie Technique, the university’s science camp, where girls from underprivileged communities can take part in science day camps, clubs and activities. The Week of the White Rose will be held the week prior to December 6 but you can donate any time on the website at
whiteroseweek.org What happened that day was heartbreaking and deeply disturbing, but it was also galvanizing. These initiatives help us deal with that darkness while encouraging the inheritors of the victims’ aspirations. The benefactors of these initiatives likely weren’t yet born when death stalked the corridors of École Polytechnique, but the white rose and what it symbolizes impart hope and healing – 25 years later.
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