Masked assassin opens fire during speech by new Quebec leader (+video)
A gunman in a black ski mask opened fire while Pauline Marois was giving her victory speech as Quebec's new premier. The gunman killed one, wounded another. Pauline Marios favors separation for the French-speaking province from Canada.
A masked gunman opened fire during a midnight victory rally for Quebec's new premier, killing one person and wounding another. The new premier, Pauline Marois of the separatist Parti Quebecois, was whisked off the stage by guards while giving her speech and uninjured.Skip to next paragraph
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It was not clear if the gunman was trying to shoot Marois, whose party favors separation for the French-speaking province from Canada.
Montreal police Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere said the 62-year-old gunman, who has not been identified, opened fire in the back of the hall while Marois was giving her victory speech to hundreds of supporters at the Metropolis auditorium. She had just declared her firm conviction that Quebec needs to be a sovereign country before she was pulled off the stage.
"What's going on?" Marois told her security detail as they grabbed her arms and took her off the stage during the celebration of her party's victory in Tuesday's provincial election.
The gunman then fled outside where he set a small fire before he was captured, police said.
Police said they didn't know the gunman's motive. As the suspect was being dragged toward the police cruiser, he was heard shouting in French, "The English are waking up!"
Marois returned to the stage after the shooting and asked the crowd to peacefully disperse and then seemed to finish her speech. She left the hall amid a tight cordon of provincial police bodyguards.
The attack shocked Canadians who are not used to such violence at political events.
The suspect was a heavy-set man wearing a black ski or balaclava mask and a blue bathrobe over black clothes. Police didn't identify what weapons he had but camera footage showed a pistol and a rifle at the scene. Police said there is no reason to believe there are other suspects.
Police said a 45-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene and a second man in his 30s was wounded. A third man was treated for shock. Police didn't identify the victims so it was not clear if any of them were party officials. The crowd was apparently unaware of what happened when Marois was whisked off the stage.
Marois said her thoughts were with the family of the victim in a statement issued early Wednesday.
"Following this tragedy all Quebecois are mourning today before such a gratuitous act of violence," she said. "Never will a society such as ours let violence dictate its collective choices."
The separatist party won Tuesday's provincial election, but failed to win a majority of legislative seats. Though the Parti Quebecois wants the province to break away from Canada, its victory is unlikely to signal a new push for independence. Opinion polls show little appetite for a separatist referendum. Previous referendums on separatism had been rejected by voters in 1980 and 1995.
Marois herself has left much uncertainty about if and when a referendum would be held. But her party will push for more autonomy from the federal government.
The attack took place just after Marois began speaking in English — a rare occurrence in a speech at a partisan PQ event. She had promised English-speaking Quebecers that their rights would be protected, following an emotionally charged campaign that saw her party focus on language-and-identity issues. Earlier in the evening, people in the crowd booed when they heard outgoing Liberal Premier Jean Charest speak English in his concession speech, ending nearly 10 years in power. Analysts said the PQ victory had more to do with weariness with the Liberals after three terms.