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

The president and chief executive officer of BC Ferries promises additional reviews to help sustain BC Ferries. (Black Press Media File)
BC Ferries to review expenditures following 43 per cent passenger drop in 2020

Promise from CEO follows new figures showing significant decline in passengers

Local MLA Adam Olsen, a member of the Tsartlip Nation, here seen before the 2020 provincial election, said a new report finding “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system does not surprise Indigenous people. (Hansard TV)
Island MLA: ‘You cannot address systemic racism one silo at a time’

Adam Olsen calls for comprehensive approach in the wake of damning report of racism in health care

Police in Nanaimo never know what they’ll encounter when called upon to check on the well-being of people. (News Bulletin file photo)
A few weeks in the life of the wellness of a community

Nanaimo RCMP find heart-breaks and smiles during a sampling of recent wellness checks

The Port Alice Community Centre opened its doors to the public Wednesday through Friday morning, offering coffee, tea, hot soup, meals and warmth. Cots were available for overnight stays. The centre had a generator, so people were able to charge their devices. Approximately 75 residents passed through during the three-day outage. (Debra Lynn photo)
Three days in the cold: remote Port Alice survives the power outage

The Port Alice Community Centre opened its doors to the public Wednesday through Friday morning.

Christmas tree file photo
EDITORIAL: An ongoing need for generosity

Food banks need community support throughout the year

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

The CVRD will reconsider its policies on fireworks after receiving complaints. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Regional District considers options for fireworks after complaints

Distict only allows fireworks on Halloween and New Year’s Eve, with a permit

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Patricia Kent, 25, was reported missing over the weekend, as her family has been unable to reach her, say police. (Photo submitted)
UPDATE: RCMP say missing Nanaimo woman found

Patricia Kent, 25, has not been seen nor heard from since Saturday, say police

(Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
Second driver facing impaired charges after View Royal traffic stop leads to loaded firearms

West Shore RCMP stop swerving motorist and Saanich woman who came to pick her up

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Most Read