Police cars block the Saint-Louis Street near the Chateau Frontenac, early Sunday, November 1, 2020 in Quebec City. Extra mental health supports are available for those in Quebec’s capital, which was shaken by a deadly sword attack on Halloween night. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Police cars block the Saint-Louis Street near the Chateau Frontenac, early Sunday, November 1, 2020 in Quebec City. Extra mental health supports are available for those in Quebec’s capital, which was shaken by a deadly sword attack on Halloween night. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Quebec City attack highlights need for discussion on mental health: Legault

Two people were killed and five more injured during Halloween night

Quebec Premier Francois Legault promised more investments for mental health on Monday, after a fatal sword attack in the provincial capital on Halloween night sparked a wider conversation on the need for better services.

Legault said the stabbings that left two dead and five injured raise “all kinds of questions” about mental illness, adding that his junior health minister would make an announcement on the subject later in the day.

The premier said that while services need to improve, it’s impossible to avoid all such tragedies. “We have to be realistic,” he told a Montreal news conference.

“Even if we had all the services, even if we took charge of all the Quebecers who have mental health problems, we can never avoid all the violent tragedies,” Legault said, adding that only a small minority of people with mental illnesses become violent.

Saturday’s attack in Quebec City’s historic neighbourhood was allegedly carried out by a man wearing medieval garb who travelled there from Montreal’s north shore. A 24-year-old suspect has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and five of attempted murder.

The attack prompted Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume to call for a societal debate on mental health, which he described as the biggest security issue facing Canada’s major cities in the coming years.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult to manage in our cities,” Labeaume said Sunday. “It’s become more difficult for our police officers who are almost transformed, who are becoming social workers, and that’s not their job.”

Legault said his government is considering mixed patrols composed of officers and social workers. “We see more and more these two services have to work together,” he said.

Quebec City police chief Robert Pigeon said Sunday said the suspect, who hails from a city north of Montreal, allegedly swung a katana-like sword at randomly chosen victims “with the clear intention of taking as many victims as possible.”

Pigeon said the suspect, Carl Girouard, had no known criminal record, but shared plans to commit this type of act in an unspecified “medical context” about five years ago.

Mathieu Dufour, a forensic psychiatrist at the Philippe-Pinel psychiatric hospital in Montreal, says that while he has no specific knowledge of the suspect, Pigeon’s statement as well as other elements of the case point to possible mental health issues.

“The costume he was wearing, the type of weapon he had, the way he was found in hypothermia raised the question of whether he suffered from a mental disorder or not,” Dufour said, noting that sometimes people in an “acute psychiatric state” do not dress for the weather.

VIDEO: Man charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder in Quebec City sword attack

Dufour stressed that most people with mental illnesses are not violent, and are more likely to be the victim of a crime than to commit one.

But he agreed the time is right to have a “bigger debate” on funding for mental health services, which he said are increasingly needed as more Canadians struggle with anxiety and depression linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know the funding for mental health is under-resourced, is suboptimal compared to physical health in the health-care system,” he said in a phone interview.

Dufour said early intervention is crucial for those who do have the potential to become violent, and that successful treatment ideally involves a team of supports including family and friends, family doctors, and mental health specialists.

Meanwhile, the province’s public security minister, Genevieve Guilbault, said extra mental health resources have been made available for those affected by the tragedy.

Residents of Old Quebec had already begun the grieving process Sunday, gathering for impromptu vigils for the victims, 61-year-old Suzanne Clermont and 56-year-old Francois Duchesne. Duchesne’s employer, the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec, said it would host a vigil on Tuesday in honour of a man they described as “unwaveringly positive” and cheerful.

“As colleagues of Francois, we remember his joie de vivre, his insight, his creativity, his optimism and his dedication,” the museum wrote on Facebook. “The exceptional human he was has marked us forever.”

A publication ban protects the identities of those who were wounded, but officials have said all five are expected to survive.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

mental healthQuebec

Just Posted

In less than two months, there have been two break-ins at the nonprofit Langley Habitat For Humanity ReStore, which is now planning to add bars to its windows and doors (Langley Advance Times file)
Thieves target non-profit Langley City Habitat for Humanity store, again

Bars on doors and windows will be installed following second incident in less than two months

Surrey provincial court. (Black Press Media files)
Attempted Langley carjacking suspect headed back to court

His lawyer represented the suspect at his first hearing Monday

Langley Animal Protection Society will hold their annual gala Oct. 23, 2021. (Special to The Star)
Langley Animal Protection Society sets date for annual gala to help Aldergrove critters

Dreams Do Come True gala is being planned for Saturday, Oct. 23 with COVID-19 restrictions in place

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Announced Tuesday, May 18 by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, the province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory (AP/Steven Senne)
Masks now required at all times inside B.C. gyms, including during workouts

The province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory Tuesday

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen of Abbotsford has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

The George Massey Tunnel will be closed overnight May 28 and 29 to test the tunnel’s fire suppression system and overhead lane control signals. (Black Press Media file photo)
Overnight Massey Tunnel closures coming May 28, 29

Closure to allow safe testing of tunnel’s fire suppression system and overhead lane control signals

Dr. Euiseok Kim is the medical director of the new Abbotsford post-COVID-19 recovery clinic. (Submitted)
Post-COVID-19 recovery clinic opens in Abbotsford

New facility following model of first clinic which opened in Surrey

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

Most Read