MONTREAL – Thirty years ago today, a heavily armed man dressed in combat fatigues entered the National Assembly in Quebec City and killed three government employees.
Thirteen others were injured, and if it weren’t for the level-headed response of the National Assembly’s Sergeant-at-Arms, many more could have been hurt.
It was an event that shocked the country.
On May 7, Canadian Forces Corporal Denis Lortie left the CFS Carp in Ontario, rented a car, drove to Quebec City and took a guided tour of the parliament building.
The next day, he dropped off a sealed envelope containing an audiotape at a local radio station. It was a recording of Lortie, talking about his issues with the ruling Parti Quebecois’ pro-French language policies.
At one point he said, “No one will be able to stop me – not the police, not the army – because I am going to carry out destruction and then destroy myself. It will be a first for Canada.”
By the time radio staff called police, his plan had been put into action.
Armed with two automatic weapons and an Inglis pistol, Lortie entered the National Assembly at 9:45 a.m., reportedly shouting, “Où sont les députés? Je vais les tuer!” (Where are the MNAs? I’m going to kill them!).
Quebec Premier René Lévesque and his cabinet were not in the National Assembly at the time. Ministers that were in the building had time to barricade themselves in the restaurant, but government workers had no warning.
As Lortie walked through the halls, he shot and killed three employees, Georges Boyer, Roger Lefrançois and Camille Lepage, and injured 13 others.
Eventually, Lortie ended up in the Assembly Chamber, where he was found seated in the Speaker’s chair by Sergeant-at-Arms and retired army major, René Marc Jalbert.
Jalbert offered the Corporal a cup of coffee and a cigarette, saying: “I see you’re an army man. I’m an army man myself.”
The dramatic moments were recorded by a television camera permanently installed in the Assembly Chamber.
Jalbert then persuaded Lortie to come to his office, where, four hours later, a police negotiator convinced him to surrender over the telephone.
Lortie was later convicted of first-degree murder, and eventually pleaded guilty to reduced charges of second-degree murder. He was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the attack.
Jalbert was honoured with Canada’s highest civilian award for bravery, the Cross of Valour. He died of cancer at the age of 74 in 1996, the same year Lortie was released from prison on parole.
Hélène LeFrancois, whose husband was killed that fateful day, told Radio-Canada in January 1996, “I have tried to forget, but in the last 10 years nothing has eased the grief I felt at the loss of my husband.”
© Shaw Media, 2014