Dr. Mona Nemer
Chief Science Advisor of Canada
Sixth ceremony of the Order of the White Rose at Polytechnique Montréal
December 3, 2020
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Hello everyone and thank you for inviting me to say a few words today. It is an honour for me to be with you on this occasion, both to commemorate the 14 lives that were taken as well as those that were wounded and to celebrate the accomplishments of a young, brilliant engineer.
I would also like to acknowledge my fellow speakers, Mr. Philippe A Tanguy, Executive Director of Polytechnique; Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire, President of the Jury of the Order of the White Rose; and Nathalie Provost, survivor of December 6, 1989, and supporter (marraine) of this event. It is an honour to be speaking alongside you today, and I have been moved by your inspirational words.
As a woman in science who calls Montreal home, every year around this time I think about the horrific massacre that took place 31 years ago. I remember it vividly. Like all of you, when I reflect on that day, I’m filled with sadness. But I also feel determined that we must make things better for the next generation of women in science and engineering -- and every generation after that.
We have made progress. Women’s participation in the scientific enterprise continues to increase and their contributions are getting the recognition they deserve. Just this year, both Nobel laureates in Chemistry and one in Physics were women. Two years ago, Canada’s own Donna Strickland won the Nobel Prize in Physics.
This year’s recipient of the Herzberg Medal, Canada’s most prestigious science award, was Molly Shoichet, an engineer!
You can see how role models like them are so important for young girls and women who dream of being scientists and engineers. As they say – if you can see it, you can be it.
This is why scholarships like l’Ordre de la rose blanche are so important, supporting the training and careers of talented women in engineering who, in the future, will in turn become role models for the next generation. They will demonstrate what is possible, and that there is no limit to the potential of women in science and engineering.
The science and engineering community in Canada, and indeed the world, will not be at its strongest until there can be inclusive participation regardless of gender, ethnicity, and other identities. There is still much work to be done. Let’s move forward together.
Congratulations to this year’s winner, Brielle Chanae Thorsen. I look forward to hearing about your future success, and working with you as well as the past winners of this prize to inspire the next generation of women in science and engineering.