Canadians were encouraged to wear white ribbons or observe a moment of silence Friday to mark the 24 years since 14 women were gunned down at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.

On Dec. 6, 1989, gunman Marc Lepine walked into the school and went on a shooting rampage, murdering 14 female engineering students. Nine others were wounded before Lepine turned the gun on himself.

Candlelight vigils are held every year to remember the victims of the Montreal massacre and commemorate Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Outside the school Friday, bouquets of white and red roses were placed at a plaque dedicated to the 14 women.

In a statement, Minister of Status of Women Kellie Leitch encouraged Canadians to wear a white ribbon, observe a moment of silence or attend a vigil.

“The actions that Canadians take today will help increase awareness, inspire change and bring an end to violence against women and girls,” Leitch said.

Events are taking place this year in cities including Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver.

In Montreal, a noon-hour demonstration was held outside the Montreal Courthouse to mark the end of a 12-day Quebec campaign to eliminate violence against women. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau attended the event, and touched on the issue of gun violence.

“I’m committed to gun control and making sure that Canadians who are united in seeing less gun violence find a way that doesn’t set Canadians against each other,” Trudeau told reporters.

Alexa Conradi of the Quebec Federation of Women attended the courthouse event to remember the victims.

“I wake up every Dec. 6 with sadness in my heart, but also the sense that those women --we’re not going to forget them”

A memorial was also held at Chambly Academy on Montreal’s South Shore, where students remembered the Ecole Polytechnique victims, and Anastasia De Sousa, who was killed seven years ago at Dawson College.

De Sousa’s mother, Louise De Sousa, believes gun laws need to change.

“What we’re fighting for here in Quebec is the gun control – at least that’s a big stop, that’s why we want to keep our registry,” she told CTV News.

In a statement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the lives of 14 “innocent and promising young female students” were taken in a “depraved act of violence.”

He said the anniversary is a reminder that violence against women and girls is “a sad daily reality” that takes a heavy toll on individuals and communities.

“As we continue to work to eliminate violence against women, let us remember and commemorate the lives of all women who have been victims of gender-based violence,” Harper said.

On Parliament Hill, flags flew at half-mast to honour the day of action and remembrance.

In question period, NDP MP Libby Davies urged the governing Conservatives to commit to a national action plan to eradicate violence against women, who “continue to be victimized, facing violence at home, work and in their communities.”

Davies also called on the government to convene a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

“We’re still not doing enough to support safe environments for women escaping violence,” she said. “The tragedy of the missing and murdered indigenous women has affected generations."

Susan Truppe, Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Status of Women, said her party has invested $62 million in funding for over 300 projects to end violence against women and girls, which is the “highest level” of funding in the “history of our government.”

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women was established by Canada’s parliament in 1991.

Speaking to CTV’s Power Play Friday, Minister of Status of Women Kellie Leitch emphasized the importance of participating in the international “16 days of activism against gender violence” campaign, which culminates on Dec. 10.

“One thing that I would emphasize is that this is something that we need all Canadians to participate in,” she said. “Making sure that your community is safe, and that Canadians of all walks of life – particularly young women and girls – are protected in their local communities.”