|“||You're women, you're going to be engineers. You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.||”|
— Marc Lepine's final statement before his killing spree began
Marc Lépine (born Gamil Rodrigue Liass Gharbi) was a Canadian mass murderer and school shooter who perpetrated the December 6, 1989 École Polytechnique massacre, which left 15 people dead (including Lépine himself) and 14 others injured. His massacre gained infamy due to Lépine's anti-feminist motivation, and its anniversary has since become Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
Marc Lépine was born Gamil Rodrigue Liass Gharbi on October 26, 1964, in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Algerian immigrant Rachid Liass Gharbi and Canadian nurse Monique Lépine. His father Rachid, who was
a mutual funds salesman, was traveling in the Caribbean at the time of his son's birth. During his absence, his mother Monique discovered evidence that her husband had been having an affair. Rachid was a non-practicing Muslim, and Monique a former Catholic nun who had rejected organized religion after she left the convent. Their son was baptized a Roman Catholic as an infant, but received no religious instruction during his childhood; his mother described her son as "a confirmed atheist all his life". Gamil's sister, Nadia was born in 1967. Nadia Gharbi died in 1996 at age 28 from a drug overdose.
Instability and violence marked the family: it moved frequently, and much of Lépine's early childhood was spent in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, where his father was working for a Swiss mutual funds company. The family returned to Montreal permanently in 1968, shortly before a stock market crash led to the loss of much
of the family's assets. Rachid was an authoritarian, possessive and jealous man, frequently violent towards his wife and his children. He had contempt for women and believed that they were intended only to serve men. He required his wife to act as his personal secretary, slapping her if she made any errors in typing, and forcing her to retype documents in spite of the cries of their toddler. He was also neglectful and abusive towards his children, particularly his son, and discouraged any tenderness, as he considered it spoiling. In 1970, following an incident in which Rachid struck Gamil so hard that the marks on his face were visible a week later, his mother decided to leave. The legal separation was finalized in 1971, and the divorce in 1976. Following the separation, Gamil lived with his mother and younger sister Nadia; soon after, their home and possessions were seized when Rachid defaulted on mortgage payments. Gamil was afraid of his father, and at first saw him on weekly supervised visits. The visits ended quickly, as Rachid ceased contact with his children soon after the separation. Gamil never again saw his father, and in the future refused to discuss him with others.
Rachid stopped making support payments after paying them twice, and to make ends meet, Monique returned to nursing. She subsequently started taking further courses to advance her career. During this time
the children lived with other families during the week, seeing their mother only on weekends. Concerned about her children and parenting skills, she sought help for the family from a psychiatrist at St. Justine's Hospital in 1976; the assessment concluded there was nothing wrong with the shy and withdrawn Gamil, but recommended therapy for his sister Nadia, who was challenging her authority.
After the divorce became final in 1976, the children, then aged 12 and 9, returned to live with their mother, who was director of nursing at a Montreal hospital. In 1977, the family moved to a house purchased in the middle-class Montreal suburb of Pierrefonds. Gamil Gharbi attended junior high and high school, where he was described as a quiet student who obtained average to above average marks. He developed a close friendship with another boy, but he did not fit in with other students. Taunted as an Arab because of his name, at the age of 14, he legally changed it to "Marc Lépine", citing his hatred of his father as the reason for taking his mother's surname. Lépine was uncommunicative and showed little emotion. He suffered from low self-esteem, exacerbated by his chronic acne. Family relations remained difficult; his younger sister Nadia publicly humiliated him about his acne and his lack of girlfriends. He fantasized about her death, and on one occasion made a mock grave for her. He was overjoyed when in 1981 she was placed in a group home because of her delinquent behavior and drug abuse. Seeking a good male role model for Lépine, his mother arranged for a Big Brother. For two years, the experience proved positive as Lépine, often with his best friend, enjoyed the time with photography and motocross motorcycles. However, in 1979 the meetings ceased abruptly when the Big Brother was detained on suspicion of molesting young boys. Both Lépine and his Big Brother denied that any molestation had occurred. Lépine owned an air rifle as a teenager, which he used to shoot pigeons near his home with his friend. They also enjoyed designing and building electronic gadgets. He developed an interest in World War II and an admiration of Adolf Hitler and enjoyed action and horror movies. Lépine also took considerable responsibility at home, including cleaning and doing repairs while his mother worked.
Lépine applied to join the Canadian Forces as an officer cadet in September 1981 at the age of 17 but was rejected during the interview process. He later told his friend it was because of difficulties accepting authority, and in his suicide letter, noted that he had been found to be "anti-social". An official statement from the military after the massacre stated that he had been "interviewed, assessed and determined to be unsuitable".
In 1982 at the age of 18, the family moved to Saint-Laurent, closer to his mother's work and to Lépine's new Cégep. He lost contact with his school friend soon after the move. This period marks the beginning of
the seven years which he described in his suicide note as having "brought [him] no joy".
In August 1982, Lépine began a two-year pre-university course in pure sciences at Cégep de Saint-Laurent, failing two courses in the first semester but improving his grades considerably in the second semester. He worked part-time at a local hospital where his mother was director of nursing, serving food and doing custodial work. He was seen as nervous, hyperactive, and immature by his colleagues. He developed an attraction to another employee, but he was too shy to act on his feelings. After a year at college, he switched from the university-destined science program into electronics technology, a three-year technical program geared more towards immediate employment. His teachers remembered him as being a model student, quiet, hardworking and generally doing well in his classes, particularly those related to electrotechnology. There was an unexplained drop in his marks in the fall 1985 term, and in February 1986, during the last term of the program, he suddenly and without explanation stopped attending classes, as a result failing to complete his diploma.
He moved out of his mother's home into his own apartment, and in 1986 he applied to study engineering at École Polytechnique de Montréal. He was admitted on the condition that he complete two compulsory courses, including one in solution chemistry. In 1987, Lépine was fired from his job at the hospital for aggressive behavior, as well as disrespect of superiors, and carelessness in his work. He was enraged at his dismissal, and at the time described a plan to commit a murderous rampage and then commit suicide. His friends noted that he was unpredictable, flying into rages when frustrated.
In the fall of 1987, in order to complete his college diploma, Lépine took three courses, obtaining good marks in all of them, and in February 1988, began a course in computer programming at a private college in downtown Montreal, funding his studies with government student loans. He moved into a downtown apartment with his old high school friend, and in the winter of 1989 took a CEGEP night-course in solution chemistry, a prerequisite course for the École Polytechnique. Lépine wanted a girlfriend but was generally ill at ease around women. He tended to boss women around and show off his knowledge in front of them. He spoke out to men about his dislike of feminists, career women and women in traditionally male occupations, such as the police force, stating that women should remain in the home, caring for their families. Lépine applied again to the École Polytechnique in 1989; however, his application was rejected as he lacked required courses. In March 1989 he abandoned the course in computer programming though he performed well in the CEGEP course, obtaining 100% in his final exam. In April 1989 he met with a university admissions officer, and complained about how women were taking over the job market from men.
École Polytechnique massacre
Sometime after 4 p.m. on December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine arrived at the building housing the École Polytechnique, an engineering school affiliated with the Université de Montréal, armed with a semi-automatic
rifle and a hunting knife. He had purchased a rifle on November 21, 1989, in a Checkmate Sports store in Montreal, telling the clerk that he was going to use it to hunt small game. Lépine was familiar with the layout of the building since he had been in and around the École Polytechnique at least seven times in the weeks leading up to the event.
Lépine sat for a time in the office of the registrar on the second floor. He was seen rummaging through a plastic bag and did not speak to anyone, even when a staff member asked if she could help him. He left the office and was subsequently seen in other parts of the building before entering a second-floor mechanical engineering class of about sixty students at about 5:10 p.m. After approaching the student giving a presentation, he asked everyone to stop everything and ordered the women and men to opposite sides of the classroom. No one moved at first, believing it to be a joke until he fired a shot into the ceiling.
Lépine then separated the nine women from the approximately fifty men and ordered the men to leave. Speaking in French, he asked the remaining women whether they knew why they were there, and when one student replied "no," he answered: "I am fighting feminism." One of the students, Nathalie Provost, said, "Look, we are just women studying engineering, not necessarily feminists ready to march on the streets to shout we are against men, just students intent on leading a normal life." Lépine responded, "You're women, you're going to be engineers. You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists." He then opened fire on the students from left to right, killing six, and wounding three others, including Provost. Before leaving the room, he wrote "oh shit" twice on a student project.
Lépine continued into the second-floor corridor and wounded three students before entering another room where he twice attempted to shoot a female student. When his weapon failed to fire, he entered the emergency staircase where he was seen reloading his gun. He returned to the room he had just left, but the students had locked the door; Lépine failed to unlock it with three shots fired into the door. Moving along the corridor, he shot at others, wounding one, before moving towards the financial services office where he shot and killed a woman through the window of the door she had just locked.
He next went down to the first-floor cafeteria, in which about a hundred people were gathered. The crowd scattered after he shot a woman standing near the kitchens and wounded another student. Entering an unlocked storage area at the end of the cafeteria, Lépine shot and killed two more women hiding there. He told a male and female student to come out from under a table; they complied and were not shot.
Lépine then walked up an escalator to the third floor where he shot and wounded one female and two male students in the corridor. He entered another classroom and told the three students giving a presentation to "get out," shooting and wounding Maryse Leclair, who was standing on the low platform at the front of the classroom. He fired on students in the front row and then killed two women who were trying to escape the room, while other students dived under their desks. Lépine moved towards some of the female students, wounding three of them and killing another. He changed the magazine in his weapon and moved to the front of the class, shooting in all directions. At this point, the wounded Leclair asked for help; Lépine unsheathed his hunting knife and stabbed her three times, killing her. He took off his cap, wrapped his coat around his rifle, exclaimed, "Ah shit," and then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head, twenty minutes after having begun his attack. About sixty unfired cartridges remained in the boxes he carried with him. He had killed fourteen women in total (twelve engineering students, one nursing student and one employee of the university) and injured fourteen other people, including four men.
After briefing reporters outside, Montreal Police director of public relations Pierre Leclair entered the building and found his daughter Maryse's stabbed body.
Marc Lépine's inside jacket pocket contained a suicide letter and two letters to friends, all dated the day of the massacre. Some details from the suicide letter were revealed by the police two days after the event, but the full text was not disclosed. The media brought an unsuccessful access to information case to compel the police to release the suicide letter. A year after the attacks, Lépine's three-page statement was leaked to journalist and feminist Francine Pelletier. It contained a list of nineteen Quebec women whom Lépine apparently wished to kill because he considered them feminists. The list included Pelletier herself, as well as a union leader, a politician, a TV personality, and six police officers who had come to Lépine's attention as they were on a volleyball team together. The letter (without the list of women) was subsequently published in the newspaper La Presse, where Pelletier was a columnist at the time. Lépine wrote that he considered himself rational and that he blamed feminists for ruining his life. He outlined his reasons for the attack including his anger towards feminists for seeking social changes that "retain the advantages of being women [...] while trying to grab those of the men." He also mentioned Denis Lortie, a Canadian Armed Forces corporal who killed three government employees and wounded thirteen others in an armed attack on the National Assembly of Quebec on May 7, 1984. The text of the original letter in French is available, as well as an English translation.
The following is a translation of the suicide letter written by Lépine on the day of the shooting. The original letter in French is also available.
The letter is followed by the list of 19 names, with a note at the bottom:
"Forgive the mistakes, I had 15 minutes to write this. See also Annex.
Would you note that if I commit suicide today 89-12-06 it is not for economic reasons (for I have waited until I exhausted all my financial means, even refusing jobs) but for political reasons. Because I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker. For seven years life has brought me no joy and being totally blasé, I have decided to put an end to those viragos.
I tried in my youth to enter the Forces as an officer cadet, which would have allowed me possibly to get into the arsenal and precede Lortie in a raid. They refused me because asocial [sic]. I therefore had to wait until this day to execute my plans. In between, I continued my studies in a haphazard way for they never really interested me, knowing in advance my fate. Which did not prevent me from obtaining very good marks despite my theory of not handing in work and the lack of studying before exams.
Even if the Mad Killer epithet will be attributed to me by the media, I consider myself a rational erudite that only the arrival of the Grim Reaper has forced to take extreme acts. For why persevere to exist if it is only to please the government. Being rather backward-looking by nature (except for science), the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g. cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventative leave, etc.) while seizing for themselves those of men.
Thus it is an obvious truth that if the Olympic Games removed the Men-Women distinction, there would be Women only in the graceful events. So the feminists are not fighting to remove that barrier. They are so opportunistic they [do not] neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men through the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can. Thus, the other day, I heard they were honoring the Canadian men and women who fought at the frontline during the world wars. How can you explain [that since] women were not authorized to go to the frontline??? Will we hear of Caesar's female legions and female galley slaves who of course took up 50% of the ranks of history, though they never existed. A real Casus Belli.
Sorry for this too brief letter.
The Quebec and Montreal governments declared three days of mourning. A joint funeral for nine of the women was held at Notre-Dame Basilica on December 11, 1989, and was attended by Governor General Jeanne Sauvé, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Quebec premier Robert Bourassa, and Montreal mayor Jean Doré, along with thousands of other mourners.
Lépine shot all of his victims with a Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle. He also stabbed one victim three times with a hunting knife. Lépine deliberately targeted women in their early 20's-early 30's he believed were feminists (the true target of his rage) and most of them were engineering students.
All of the victims of the December 6, 1989 École Polytechnique massacre.
- Geneviève Bergeron, 21 (civil engineering student)
- Hélène Colgan, 23 (mechanical engineering student)
- Nathalie Croteau, 23 (mechanical engineering student)
- Barbara Daigneault, 22 (mechanical engineering student)
- Anne-Marie Edward, 21 (chemical engineering student)
- Maud Haviernick, 29 (materials engineering student)
- Maryse Laganière, 25 (budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department)
- Maryse Leclair, 23 (materials engineering student; was also stabbed three times)
- Anne-Marie Lemay, 22 (mechanical engineering student)
- Sonia Pelletier, 28 (mechanical engineering student)
- Michèle Richard, 21 (materials engineering student)
- Annie St-Arneault, 23 (mechanical engineering student)
- Annie Turcotte, 20 (materials engineering student)
- Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, 31 (nursing student)
- Ten unnamed women
- Four unnamed men
- Note: In addition, some suicides were later reported among students who had been present at the time of the massacre. At least two students left notes confirming that they committed suicide due to distress caused by the massacre.
On Criminal Minds
- Season Twelve
- "Alpha Male" - Lépine was mentioned and is believed to have made a slight influence in the episode due to his massacre being motivated by misogyny.