Canadians will mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on Thursday, which is the 23rd anniversary of the deadly shooting at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique that took the lives of 14 women.

Flags have been lowered to half-staff at the school and -- in what has become an annual tradition -- 14 white roses will be laid in front of a plaque honouring the dead. Flags are also flying at half-staff in Ottawa.

The Quebec Women’s Federation will host a ceremony at noon in front of the Montreal courthouse. In Toronto, a ceremony will be held at the Women’s College Hospital, with the province’s health minister Deb Matthews scheduled to attend.

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women was established in 1991, two years after the fatal shooting.

In addition to honouring the victims who were killed, the day is meant to be a day for Canadians to reflect on violence against women and discuss ways to fight it.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canadians must stand united in their efforts to fight violence against women and girls.

“Around the world, violence against women and girls is a sad daily reality. Our government strongly believes in protecting the most vulnerable in society and continues to take a stand in combatting violence against women, at home and abroad, to help put an end to tragedies such as that of the Montreal Massacre,” he said in a statement.

On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lepine entered the Montreal-based engineering school, separated the men from the women and then shot and killed 14 female students. He also injured nine other women and four men, before turning the gun on himself. Lepine left a note blaming feminists for ruining his life.

The 14 women who were killed were: Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault,Annie Turcotte and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.

Several memorials for the victims have been built in cities across Canada. Memorials honouring the victims have been erected in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and Hamilton.

A large plaque bearing the names of the victims has also been mounted outside the engineering school itself.