Mother of Ecole Polytechnique killer shares her story
After the massacre at Ecole Polytechnique, it took Monique Lepine almost 17 years before she was able to publicly speak about the actions of her son.
Marc Lepine opened fire at the engineering school on December 6th, 1989, killing 14 women and injuring 13 other people. After the 20-minute rampage, he turned the gun on himself.
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of what became known across the country as the "Montreal Massacre", CTV Montreal's Caroline van Vlaardingen sat down with Monique Lepine and spoke to her at length about that terrible day, and her life since.
Here are excerpts from that interview:
CTV Montreal: December 6, 1989 changed so many lives. It changed the city...but I think people forget that it changed your life too didn't it?
Monique Lepine: Yes. For sure. I lost my child too, and my daughter who could not accept this fact. She died also after seven years because she was not having enough strength in her...and while she was not having the same name as her brother, while she was going to school, they (people) were talking about it. She didn't want to mention that it was her brother that did such a thing. And the shame that she had...she just went on drugs. So I lost both of my children you know. My son, and seven years later, I lost my daughter...and that's when I was still down, you know, completely.
CTV Montreal: That day, so many of us remember where we were when it happened -- when we found out the news. What do you remember about that day?
Monique Lepine: Well, I had organized a three-day session from the 6th of December...it was for nurses, because I'm a nurse myself. I had completed my first day of training, and when I came home that night, I just opened my TV as usual, you know? And I remember it was a Wednesday because on Wednesday, I was always going to a prayer meeting. And that evening they were showing us the terrible shooting at the Ecole Polytechnique and I was feeling very bad about it...and when I went to the prayer meeting, I saw myself asking for prayers for the mother of the killer...not knowing it was me. It's only the next day that the policeman came to announce that I was the mother and it was only during the evening. So I had two days of training, and not knowing that it was me.
CTV Montreal: They (police) wanted to know if you had seen any behaviour that might have tipped you off to this?
Monique Lepine: Of course...and after I was just...I saw few things afterward, because when it happened, I didn't have a clue that my son could do such a thing, such an act. I didn't even know he could hold a gun, you know? To tell you the truth, I just questioned his roommates, and also his friends, and nobody could imagine that such a thing could happen. It didn't show up!
CTV Montreal: Marc left a suicide note...
Monique Lepine: He did...I read it once. I saw the note only two months after when I came back home and the police said: 'Madame, you have to give us anything you find.' To me, the relationship with the police was one I had to obey...and I did call them right after I found the note. They were there so fast that they took everything and I never saw the note again.
CTV Montreal: So you never read it (fully)?
Monique Lepine: No...I read it once but I remember just the two first words.
CTV Montreal: What were they?
Monique Lepine: In French, "Desole, c'etait inevitable." (I'm sorry, it was inevitable.) That's all I remember. Actually, he was telling me that. I don't know...what he couldn't cope with...but certainly that his life maybe was not very happy for some reason.
CTV Montreal: He did say that he hated feminists, and the survivors said that he hated feminists...and you felt perhaps that was meant at you?
Monique Lepine: Well, you see, I just asked myself what was his definition of a feminist. So if his definition of a feminist was a woman that has a good job, has a good salary, is autonomous in life -- I could correspond to that. So was he after me? I don't know. Nothing in his behaviour alerted me...but I was wondering after...was it me or his sister because we were just two women in the house when he was growing up? It's like something mysterious for me, and he died with his mystery. Mysterious things, you know?
CTV Montreal: You wrote the book "Aftermath". Why did you decide to write that book?
Monique Lepine: It's after the murder at Dawson College in 2006...because that evening...I felt the same anxiety as I did in 1989, and I remember going to bed that night and saying, 'God please come and get me.' I was really fed up...and the next day I had an e-mail from a journalist, Harold Gagne. Harold knew some people that I knew and he was always sending me letters asking for an interview. I had never given an interview to a journalist since that time...and that morning, I felt like I had to say yes. I knew that I was going to be on TV that same day, and it did happen. So finally this interview was on TV and it was called "After 17 years of silence". Harold received a prize for that interview, and following that we did get a lot of letters from people asking us to go further...and that's when Librex -- Libre Expression branch of Quebecor -- came to us and asked if we wanted to write the book...and with Harold I said, 'Yes, I will.' With that, I was telling Harold everything inside of me. He wrote the book finally, and it came out last year at this time. It was translated too. My book is called 'Vivre', because I chose to live...and after it was called 'Aftermath' by Penguin books.
CTV Montreal: How did speaking out publicly help you? Or did it help you?
Monique Lepine: It did help me, but not only me, because I'm liberating myself of all of these reflections I have. In the book, we go and see the people that took care of my children, we see the people that were living with my son, the boyfriend of my daughter...we saw the director of Polytechnique, the police. It's like I was closing some relations that were still open and these people that I was talking with. I could see the liberation in them as well. Not only me, but them...because nobody speaks about what they feel inside. But 20 years after, you have time to think...and then we could do it without crying...and it did a lot of good, I'm sure, to everybody.
CTV Montreal: And you actually did go to the Polytechnique yourself?
Monique Lepine: Oh yes, I did go because I believe that if you want to heal you have to look at your suffering in the face. I went to Polytechnique to see that and I saw where everybody was killed and it was terrible. But at the same time it helped me to finish my mourning process. Now, there's nothing that I don't know about the Polytechnique event...but it's not the event that is interesting to me. What is interesting to me is the people that are suffering...if I'm cured, if I'm healed, it's because God helped me. I'm a believer, a strong believer...and the second thing is I decided to live because I wanted to help people that are suffering in silence, and a lot of people are suffering in silence.
CTV Montreal: Do you feel like you have to spend a lot of your life apologizing for what your son did?
Monique Lepine: Well I did it, and I will do it for a second time, but I don't want to keep doing it for the rest of my life. The thing is to deal with your emotions. That's the difficult part. When I had to go back to work three months after, because nobody sent me money to pay my rent...that was a very difficult decision. I was not sure if I could go back to work but... it's not my type to be on social insurance. So I went back to work, but I could see that people are seeing me as if from December 6, 1989...as if my life started there. So every time I saw new people -- especially the first three months after when I was having a meeting -- we had to take the emotional tension first and then we could go into the meeting. And if I see people that didn't see me since that date, they will automatically bring me to December 6, 1989...so therefore I cannot fight against that. I am the mother of Marc Lepine, and I will still be the mother of Marc Lepine. My son, I don't see him in the last hour of his life. He did something very bad, and I agree with that. But my son...I have other memories of him and I'm trying to see his entire life. I had good times with my son. I loved my son, but he did something very bad in the last hour of his life...but for me, he's still my son...and I still love him.
CTV Montreal: Do you ever go through a day now where you don't think about it, where it doesn't even cross your mind anymore?
Monique Lepine: Yes, I can. I live in harmony. I live one day at a time...I decided to live, right? And again, I do my lectures because as I told you I'm a believer... I read the bible every day, and I try to apply the principles and be a good a person.
CTV Montreal: When you think of your son now, what do you think of?
Monique Lepine: Well for me, he's a tender boy...he was a kind boy to me. He was an easy boy to live with. The only thing is he was too secretive. I would have liked him to succeed in life for sure...but again, I don't know the reason he did such an act. So if I want something to tell the mothers...well, if your kids are too secretive, try to find out what they are thinking...and if they are too quiet, watch because maybe something can happen. Madame Gill (mother of Dawson college shooter Kimveer Gill) didn't expect her son to do such an act either, I'm sure. I pray for that mother. I pray for other mothers whose sons are killers. You don't raise a child to be a killer. You are a mother...just remember that I still love my son.