C'est arrivé près de chez nous

On December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine, a 25-year old man, entered the École Polytechnique of the University of Montréal and gunned down 14 female students before killing himself. Lépine did apparently this horrible act because he was not admitted to study at Polytechnique where, according to his own twisted mind, the affirmative action policy of the school towards females has secured places for these students at his own expanse.

This tragedy happened two years before we left Paris to settle in Montreal. At the time, we were in discussions with my husband's potential employer in Montreal and we considered calling off the scheduled interviews, meetings and job's and immigration procedures. However, getting to know Quebecers and Montrealers, we came to realise that this was a peaceful community which abhorres violence and that Montreal was a place where our children can grow up safe. The Polytechnique tragedy was commemorated, a national day for remembrance was decided, a monument was erected, colloquia were held on the subject and the young women's parents, supported by the community and by Canadians at large, actively and successfully lobbied the government for a country wide gun registry and a ban on the sale of heavy arms.

The gun registry was finally put into motion three years ago by the liberal government and more or less successfully completed. Last January, conservatives were elected with a slight majority to form a government. They immediately criticised the gun registry program calling it off, arguing it is costly.

Today, a man walked with an assault riffle into Dawson college at 12:44 p.m. in downtown Montreal and started shooting at students in the cafeteria. The police arrived quickly, three minutes after the first shooting. After an exchange of fire, the gunman was killed. before he was killed, he was able to inflict life threatening injuries on some 14 students and kill one of them, 8 are actually in critical condition. Students were running everywhere in the college and outside. Some locked themselves in the offices and rooms that were available. A state of panic has descended on the college, its surroundings and the city.

Students were communicating with the outside with their cellphones. One student, Michel Boyer, told CTV news: "I'm only 19 and to have flashes of your life and the people that you love going by you, it should not be allowed."

Dawson college is located in the heart of downtown Montreal and hosts some 10000 students. I go in this area with my family very often. There is an entertainement center and movie theaters which are less than 50 meters from the college in a building, the Montreal Forum, that was not long ago, the home of the Montreal Hockey team, the Canadians. In 1993, I watched, from the 12th floor of the Montreal General Hospital where I was working, the Canadians climb Côte-des-neiges (the snow hill) between the Forum and the hospital in a victory walk celebrating their Stanley cup win. Today, the Côte must have been busy with ambulances transporting wounded and traumatised students to the hospital.

Recently, there were similar public shootings in Toronto area. I fear these events are becoming more frequent in Canada and that we are no exception anymore to the fascination for arms and violence that has taken hold of America and that is eating our societies and our youths. And as long as we allow people to own heavy weapons, we allow insanity to become murder and we do this in contempt of life, of the lives of our own children, under the cover of good governance caving to the pressure of powerful arms lobbies whose only concern is to maintain their industry and their profits alive.

It occured to me that America's imperial wars, which are supported by our Canadian conservative government, proceed with the same political, financial and commercial logic combining insanity and heavy weaponry to kill indiscriminately innocent youths and civilian populations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon

We hear many reasons to all this violence. 'Our Democracy and Freedom require heavy sacrifices', four French Academics were writing in Le Monde yesterday in defence of Israel's war in Lebanon. Lets hold our doubt for a second and believe them. Can they tell us in defence of what the same administrations that support wars support relaxed gun laws allowing people to own guns and all sorts of weapons to their liking ?

At the bottom of the problem of violence in our cities and violence we inflict with our armies on others lie two simple facts:

- Guns and weapons exist. There is somebody there who invest and employs people to fabricate them and sell them. There are people in this chain making profit from this sinister industry and there are people who buy them. At the end, these weapons are going to be used in a moment of insanity, in a moment of despair, in a moment of loss of control, in a lapse of consciousness, in a moment of criminal calculation...

- And why do people use them against other people ? Because they can.

We send our armies abroad to conduct wars against terrorists and we let terrorists from within and from abroad thrive in our own cities and among people we cherish most. We let foreign citizens and our soldiers die abroad and we fail to protect our citizen at home. We let civil wars make their way among civilian populations abroad and we let some of our citizens, and the most dangerous among them, arm themselves against other citizens in our apparently peaceful cities.
We have to open our eyes and realise that allowing citizens to own guns and heavy weaponry is allowing crime to take hold of our cities and our countries. We have to open our eyes and realise that sending our armies abroad is not protecting us from terrorism at home and that there is no benefit for ordinary citizens in both policies.

The only 'benefit' that these policies are producing are the ones that are being cashed by the death industry, the arms industry, the silent and sinister sponsor of our pro death and pro war governments.

Boyer, the 19 year old student, is right: ''to have flashes of your life and the people that you love going by you, it should not be allowed.'' Yes this should not be allowed.

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Since March 29th 2006