December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women, enacted by the Canadian government after the murders of 14 women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal. On Dec 6th, 1989, an armed man walked into an engineering class, forced the men to leave, ranted about how he hated feminists, and shot at the women left in the room, leaving 14 dead and 10 wounded.
The UBCO Women in Engineering planned a number of events during the week of November 25th-28th, including an annual painting of the EME E to white, in remembrance and recognition of the tragedy and the subsequent day that serves as a “reminder of the gender-based violence against women in Canada and around the world that persists today”. Unfortunately, the E was later painted gold, for an unknown reason.
The E is infamous for its frequent paintings and involvement in group rivalries, so the painting doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary for a normal situation. It is unclear whether the vandals were aware of the significance of the white E. Nonetheless, ignorance is no defense; it’s easy enough to pay attention to campus activities, and the E is painted white every year in remembrance of the shooting.
Holly Denby, president of the Engineering Society, said, “The Society takes care of the E. Normally we encourage faculty rivalries but only when the E is painted it’s normal colour (being red). If anyone wants to paint the E for an event or initiative they can contact the Engineering Society for approval. For example, a couple years ago we painted it rainbow for Out Week. We’ve also painted it orange for Engineers Without Borders Run for the Cure”.
If the E was vandalized on purpose, the vandals have done a pretty great job of demonstrating their lack of empathy and care for the day of remembrance. The Polytechnique shooting was a dark day for Canada, and for women who became aware that their lack of safety extended into their very own schools. Hopefully, the vandalism was not purposeful, but regardless, it showed a distinct lack of and awareness that I am sure our campus does not want to be known for.
According to Denby, a group repainted the E white on December 6th, the actual national day of remembrance and action. The E will hopefully stay white now. If anything, this incident has taught the UBCO campus an important lesson about paying attention, and about the ability of our campus to rally and support a cause such as the week of remembrance.