Dec. 4, 2020

Online ceremony a vital reminder of Montreal's tragic massacre

University hosts virtual National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women observance Dec. 4

In a typical year, it would be one of the most public events on campus.

Dr. Laleh Behjat, PhD, was instrumental in making sure of that, because she believed the University of Calgary’s ceremony to remember 14 women targeted for attending an engineering school should be held in the central atrium of one of Canada’s largest engineering schools.

“People from all over the campus work together to make this ceremony to remember and take action on violence against women, and we wanted it to be seen by as many people as possible” explains Behjat, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Those women were singled out and murdered, because someone believed they shouldn’t be at an engineering school, and this is a day when we remember that we need to occupy that space and show that we belong.

Ceremony Friday, Dec. 4 at noon

The University of Calgary’s ceremony to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women won't take place in the Schulich School of Engineering atrium this year.

But it will be highly visible. As with so many occasions restricted by the pandemic, the event will take place online, starting at noon on Friday, Dec. 4.

Candles will be lit, somber music will play, and thoughts will go back to Dec. 6, 1989, the day an unstable misogynist gunman targeted women at Montreal’s  L'Ecole Polytechnique, simply for being who and where they were.

Poignant day for new NSERC chair

For Behjat, this year’s memorial has taken on extra meaning, because she was recently named NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (Prairies), with a goal of increasing the participation and retention of women in science and engineering.

The engineering researcher sees it as an opportunity to help Canada continue with change that has already come so far.

“You don’t have to go far in the world to see places where women are trying to claim their space,” says Behjat, who grew up in Iran.

“In this country it’s no longer a question of ‘do I belong?’ and that’s a great achievement. That’s the beauty of our faculty, that we have women, and students from all over the world, and we are striving to increase diversity in all areas.

“There is of course room to improve, and movements like Black Lives Matter show us we still have a long way to go — but this isn’t just a day of remembrance.

"It’s a day of action, and we can’t forget to act, and stand up for one another.”

Learn more about this livestreamed event.

Laleh Behjat with Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered the first pulsar in 1967, during her visit to the University of Calgary in 2018.

Laleh Behjat with Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered the first pulsar in 1967, during her visit to the University of Calgary in 2018.