Quebec Premier François Legault visited the grieving community of Amqui, Que., where a driver rammed a pickup truck into a throng of pedestrians, killing two.
“I think if there is a message to send today it’s that Quebec is Amqui,” he said Thursday. “All of Quebec is with Matapédia, with the Bas-Saint-Laurent.”
Legault was alongside the leaders of opposition parties to offer support in the wake of the alleged attack that has rocked the small town in eastern Quebec. He spoke to residents, gently taking them by the hand to offer his condolences, and urged them to seek help if they need it.
Two men were killed and nine others — including two young children — were injured in the crash Monday afternoon. Quebec provincial police have said the alleged attack was intentional, with a driver plowing into pedestrians at random.
Steeve Gagnon, 38, has been charged with dangerous driving causing death and Crown prosecutors have said more charges are possible as the investigation continues. The case returns to court in April.
Legault said it was difficult to find the words, but that more has to be done for mental health. Answering a reporter’s question, he said it was important to invest in mental health services, and that more would be revealed in the upcoming provincial budget next week.
“I think it’s important to tell the people who may have some difficulties to ask for help,” Legault said. “Help is available. It’s available right now, right here.”
The premier also thanked local leaders, first responders and bystanders who swiftly took action as the emergency unfolded. He said his thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones.
“Courage, everyone. We’re with you all,” Legault said. “We’re thinking of you.”
While Legault told people to support each other in their mourning, he also encouraged them to move forward, reclaim the downtown and gradually return to normal life.
“Madness can’t triumph over hope,” he said. “We have to be able to rediscover the joy of living.”
Flowers, candles and stuffed animals lined the steps of a church in Amqui, where residents have gathered in the days following the crash. A similar memorial was set up near the scene of the fatal collision, where Legault and other elected officials placed bouquets of white flowers.
A candlelight vigil is planned for 7 p.m. in front of the Saint-Benoit-Joseph-Labre church.
— with files from The Canadian Press