Quebec National Assembly shooting remembered after 30 years

The hearses of three civil servants stand in front of the Quebec National Assembly building in Quebec City on May 11, 1984. Hans Deryk/The Canadian Press

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 car used by Denis Lortie and left outside the National Assembly stands idle during the hostage and shooting spree that left three people dead in Quebec City on May 8, 1984. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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!).

Blood stains are seen on the floor of one of the rooms in the National Assembly building where Denis Lortie shot and killed three people and injured 13 others in Quebec City on May 8, 1984. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Sergeant-at-Arms and retired army major, René Marc Jalbert talks with Canadian Forces Corporal Denis Lortie in Quebec’s National Assembly on May 8, 1984.

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.

A member of the SWAT team runs with the car carrying the gunman that shot and killed three people and injured 13 others at the Quebec National Assembly building in Quebec City on May 8, 1984. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Jalbert then persuaded Lortie to come to his office, where, four hours later, a police negotiator convinced him to surrender over the telephone.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Denis Lortie, the suspect of a shooting spree at the Quebec National Assembly in Quebec City, arrives to appear at the Quebec Sessions Court, May 9, 1984. Lortie pleaded not guilty to three counts of first degree murder. Tim Clark/The Canadian Press

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.”

The coffins carrying the bodies of the three National Assembly employess who were killed in the shooting spree May 8, 1984, lie in front of their families during a church service May 11, 1984, in Quebec City. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Sponsored content