Quebec Story of the Decade: Dawson Shooting (Sept. 13, 2006)
Brian Daly, ctvmontreal.ca
Published Thursday, December 31, 2009 10:19AM EST
The early-semester buzz at Quebec's largest CEGEP turned to terror as shots rang out at Dawson College on the afternoon of September 13, 2006.
Kimveer Gill, a gun-collecting loner from Laval, shot several people outside the downtown building before continuing his rampage inside.
For reasons unknown, he singled out 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa, shooting the first-year business student several times in front of a friend in the school cafeteria. De Sousa died and 19 others were wounded.
Gill then held police at bay for several minutes as students, teachers and staff ran for the exits or barricaded themselves inside classrooms. In total, he fired 72 times with a semi-automatic rifle and six times with a handgun.
The standoff ended when Gill shot himself in the head.
Montrealers are no strangers to deadly school shootings, having lived through the Polytechnique massacre in 1989 and the deadly rampage by deranged professor Valery Fabrikant that left four dead at Concordia in 1992.
But for those too young to remember the tragedies of the past, Dawson served as a vivid reminder that guns and violence are among us and will be for some time.
More than three years after the shootings, students and staff are still struggling with the psychological effects.
A study conducted by the MUHC and the Louis-Lafontaine psychiatric hospital found that four in ten Dawson students and staff still had mental health problems 18 months after the tragic events.
The shootings have also played a role in deepening the divide between Quebec and the rest of Canada when it comes to gun control.
Kimveer Gill used a Beretta CX4 Storm semi-automatic carbine as well as a handgun in the violent rampage -- weapons he acquired legally. That breathed new life into the gun-control movement, which now has a new mission -- to stop Stephen Harper's Conservatives from abolishing the long-gun registry that came about following the Polytechnique killings.
The registry could be shut down if a private members' bill passes through Parliament in the New Year, and a recent poll suggests most Canadians outside Quebec wouldn't be sad to see it go.
Annual Dawson tributes, coupled with Polytechnique commemorations that are now entering their third decade, keep the issue fresh in Quebecers' minds but the issue might not resonate as strongly in the rest of the country.
The issue has led to a simmering political battle, with the Quebec government joining gun-control advocates in a public lobbying effort to save the registry.
While the political fallout from the Dawson shootings remains in flux, there has been a lasting legacy on other fronts.
Montreal health-care professionals have implemented an emergency psychological intervention plan and the shootings have also led to improved campus alert systems.
A flowering almond tree, planted in De Sousa's memory, will be at the center of a "Peace Garden" that will be inaugurated in 2011, on the fifth anniversary of the shooting.