It is a Monday, April 23, and it is beautiful. Clear, warm. A big blue sky.
Exiting a Traveler’s Canada panel on distracted driving at the Economic Club, I stepped onto Yonge Street and ran into Mark Warner, one of Canada’s best trade lawyers. We talked about how Chrystia Freeland and team were doing with NAFTA (exceptionally well), and how Kathleen Wynne and team were doing with avoiding a third-place finish (exceptionally badly). I then went down into Toronto’s subway system, heading North, towards Sheppard.
We hadn’t gotten very far when a female announcer came on. Everyone would have to get off before we got to the Sheppard-Finch area, she said. Buses would take us where we needed to go. “Police action,” she said, giving no other explanation.
On the subway, we all looked at each other. Some of us had never heard an announcement like this before. Switch trains, sure. But get off the Yonge-University line altogether? That was unusual.
What was happening a few minutes to the North, of course, is now known to the world. A homicidal monster – a “man” who wasn’t a man, a “man” who apparently hated women because they wouldn’t have sex with him – had commandeered a rental van and used it to kill ten people, and maim many more on Yonge Street.
Most of those he killed, most of those he hurt, the police would later say, were women.
Twenty-nine years earlier: it is around four o’clock in the afternoon, on a bitterly-cold Wednesday. I am a lawyer at an Ottawa valley law firm, and volunteering for Jean Chretien, who is also working as a lawyer, at the firm next door. We are preparing for Chretien’s announcement, in just over a month, that he is going to seek the Liberal Party leadership. And then the news starts to trickle in.
A “man” with a rifle has started shooting up the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. He has wounded dozens of people – and he has slaughtered 14 young women. Because they are women.
Stunned, we listened to Michael Enright interview a student at the school, Genvieve Cauden, on CBC Radio. What happened, Enright asks her.
“We all go on the floor and we go under the desks. After, he shot people. He shot girls. I just closed my ears and closed my eyes. I didn’t want to know what’s going on. I received a shot in my head,” and then she paused. “But it’s not bad. It’s OK.”
“It just grazed your head,” Enright says.
“Yeah, that’s it,” Cauden says. “After, the guy killed himself.”
The guy in Toronto, who was apparently following the precisely same Satanic, women-hating manifesto, didn’t kill himself. As the entire world saw, he wanted a Toronto cop to do that for him. The cop – amazingly, bravely – refused, and arrested the alleged mass-murderer without firing a shot.
After his arrest, the usual bullshit happened. Politicians offering “thoughts and prayers,” instead of actual policies and measures to prevent something like Ecole Polytechnique and Yonge Street from happening again. Online losers, sitting in their mom’s basement and calling it Muslim terrorism – when it was decidedly neither. Media lavishing attention on the alleged killer, instead of his many victims. The usual bullshit.
So, on Wednesday, seventy-two hours later, another Economic Club panel takes place. It has been organized – full disclosure – by my Daisy Group firm, and is called “Standing Together: Highlighting the Voice of Women in Canada.” The panel is moderated by my partner Lisa Kinsella, and includes radio host Supriya Dwivedi, Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation Chief and lawyer Kelly LaRocca, and Conservative MP Michelle Rempel.
The subject of the Monday massacre in Toronto – and the killer’s apparent desire to kill women – doesn’t take very long to come up. All four of the women have something to say about what happened, but it is clear they are also still processing it.
A “man” – the alleged killer – was angry that women wouldn’t have sex with him. So he declared that he was something called an “incel” – an involuntary celibate. And, on an apparently-genuine Facebook post made just before the slaughter, he declared his intention: “The incel rebellion has already begun!”
All of the women sound, in turns, angry and upset and shocked. They struggle, a bit, to describe it. Michelle Rempel, the MP, says it best.
“I am so, so sick of this,” she says. “Sick of it.”
We all are.