Dawson, Five Years On

Peace Garden Honours Shooting Victim

Photos Nicolas Martel

A commemoration was held this past Tuesday in honour of the fifth anniversary of the Dawson College shooting, which took the life of one student and injured 19 others in 2006.

“[The ceremony is] really important for everyone at the school, because we want everyone to be aware of what happened. And we want to show that, as a community, we’ve come together,” said Krista Kennedy, a Dawson College student.

Attendees gathered around the new ecological peace garden, which was inaugurated on the west lawn of the campus as part of the events. What started with a single flowering almond tree, planted in memory of Anastasia De Sousa—the lone student killed in the shooting—turned into a garden with over 8,000 plants.

The event was both a celebration of life, peace, and a community coming together, as well as a somber affair of remembrance.

“History dealt Dawson a blow of unimaginable proportions,” said Richard Fillion, director general of the school. “But the college, inspired by its academic mission and its dedicated employees, chose to turn the tragedy into a lesson we could all share.” He then quoted Maya Angelou, saying, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

The importance of not reliving history and fighting for change was continued when the current chair of the Dawson Student Union, Audrey Deveault, took the stage. Deveault spoke about the contentious federal long-gun registry, behind which the Dawson community rallied in the wake of the shooting.

“Cynics like to argue that the long-gun registry could not have stopped the events that transpired on Sept. 13, [2006],” she said. “Be that as it may, it is precisely because our community has been a victim of gun violence that we consistently come together to defend a mechanism that continues to prevent gun violence elsewhere. We choose to work on models [for] improving the system, not annihilating it.”

Algonquin elder Chief Dominic Rankin, accompanied by journalist and and author Marie-Josée Tardif, then presented Dawson College with a sacred white eagle feather.

“This feather went all the way around the planet,” said Rankin. “Everywhere I went, I was asking the people to take the white feather and to put their prayers inside of it; prayers of peace, so that we can find peace here.”

Rev. Deborah Moldow, a United Nations representative from the World Peace Prayer Society, presented Dawson with a peace pole—one of over 250,000 placed all around the world, she said.

“Every time someone passes by this peace pole, they will emanate [peaceful energy], and every peace pole all over the world will vibrate like acupuncture needles in the very skin of the Earth, helping to create a culture of peace for the entire world,” she said.

Other speakers at the event included Mayor Gérald Tremblay, MNA Line Beauchamp, Marc Parent, chief of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, as well as teachers and officials from the college.

A moment of silence in memory of Anastasia De Sousa was held at 12:41 p.m., the exact time the shooting began five years ago. Though most students in attendance were not at Dawson when the shooting took place, and probably never knew De Sousa, the sense of profound loss at a life extinguished much too soon was palpable.