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 (PQ), was whisked off the stage by guards while giving her speech and was uninjured. 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 Commander Ian Lafreniere said the gunman opened fire in the back of the hall while Marois was giving her victory speech to hundreds of supporters at the Metropolis auditorium. The 62-year-old gunman then fled outside where he set a small fire before he was captured, police said.
Police said they did not 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.
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 did not 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 did not 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 yesterday.
“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 PQ 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.