10 years on: recalling the Dawson College shootings and learning from tragedy

For the 10th anniversary of the shooting, we spoke to two MUHC physicians who played important roles in treating the victims

On September 13, 2006, Dawson College was forever changed when an armed gunman entered the school grounds and began to shoot bystanders at random. The Montreal General Hospital played an integral part in treating the victims of the shooting. Its Trauma Centre is located 5 minutes from Dawson College, and the first victim arrived less than 10 minutes after the Centre received the initial call from Urgences-santé.

For the 10th anniversary of the shooting, we spoke to two MUHC physicians who played important roles in the trauma and psychosocial services teams treating the victims, and asked them to share their thoughts on what happened that day.

Peace GardenDr. Tarek Razek, Chief of Trauma Services for the adult sites

“For me personally, what struck me in working with the team at the Montreal General Hospital was the resiliency of the both the people directly involved and of our clinical teams and trauma teams and how we were able to respond as a city from the police and the first responders, the ambulance technicians and our services, and how well everyone rose to the challenge and was able to do what we needed to do. It also stimulated our city to have a much more proactive training environment for these kinds of unfortunate events that might occur in such a large urban context.”

Dr. Nadia Szkrumelak, Psychiatrist in Chief, Mental Health Mission

“It was amazing how this tragedy galvanized the psychosocial response. From the moment we heard what was happening, there was a multidisciplinary team that came together to access the psychological needs of the victims as well as receive and provide support to family members and friends. In the days and weeks following the event, we worked closely with the Dawson community to organize the reopening of the school and to provide with our community partners the psychological support the students and faculty needed.”

Following the Dawson College incident, the MUHC conducted an extensive debrief and used the experience to refine and improve its external crisis plans for the future. The MUHC code orange plan (the term for describing a major external emergency) has been used as the model for hospitals to follow, both within Quebec and across Canada. Since the Dawson College incident, the MUHC has held three large scale simulations in partnership with the Montreal police, Urgences-santé, the City of Montreal, and the Canadian Armed Forces, in order to test and further refine our emergency measures plan.

In 2010, a research team from the MUHC and the Research Centre of the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal presented the findings from a three-year study on the evaluation of the emergency psychological intervention plan. Up to that point, few research studies had been conducted on the psychological impact of such events on the survivors and no studies had ever evaluated the effectiveness of psychological interventions. One of the research team’s recommendations was the creation of the SECURE (Support, Evaluation and Coordination United for Recovery and Education) program. The SECURE program would involve educational institutions, hospitals, social services and various ministries of the Quebec government to work together in close collaboration in the event of a similar incident happening again to provide timely and streamlined services.

Dawson College will mark the anniversary with Peace Week, which will include two lectures open to the public. For more information, visit https://www.dawsoncollege.qc.ca/peace-centre/peace-week/.

Research on phsychological impact of shooting at Dawson College sheds light on post-traumatic disorders

The life and death game

Code Orange Simulation