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March 10, 1959 |
|Occupation||Military Supply Technician|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment with no parole for ten years.|
|Criminal status||Full parole in 1996|
|Motive||Anger over the Parti Quebecois's advocating of a Francophone identity for Quebec, as well as alleged mental illness.|
|Conviction(s)||Second-degree murder in 1987|
|Date||May 8, 1984|
|Location(s)||National Assembly of Quebec, Quebec City, Canada|
|Target(s)||Premier René Lévesque, and other members of the governing Parti Quebecois.|
Denis Lortie (born March 10, 1959) is a former Canadian Forces corporal. In 1984, he stormed into the National Assembly of Quebec building and opened fire with several firearms, killing three Quebec government employees and wounding 13 others. The National Assembly's Sergeant-at-Arms, René Jalbert, constituted himself hostage and negotiated with Lortie for four hours to convince him to surrender. After a 1985 conviction of first-degree murder was overturned by the Quebec Court of Appeal, Lortie pleaded guilty to reduced charges of second-degree murder in 1987, for which he was convicted to life imprisonment with no parole for ten years. Lortie was granted day parole in 1995, then full parole in 1996, and has since kept a low profile.
|Years of service||? - 1984|
|Unit||Royal 22e Régiment|
|Relations||2 children (son and daughter)|
|Other work||Convenience store clerk (after release)|
Lortie was long victim to a speech impediment that caused him to slur his words, which was especially prominent when he tried speaking his native language, English, a language that he had apparently learned incorrectly.
Blaming the governing pro-sovereignty Parti Quebecois for his problems (disliking the party's advocation of a "Francophone identity" for Quebec), he planned a killing spree as a means of broadcasting his discontent.
Prior to the shooting
On 7 May 1984, Lortie left the CFS Carp military base (better known as the location of a Diefenbunker) pretending that he needed time off to arrange a divorce with his wife. Instead, he rented a car, drove to Quebec City and took a guided tour of the Parliament Building. He then rented a room in a motel on Laurier Boulevard for the night.
Lortie had previously attempted to leave, but was refused. It was during this encounter that Lortie later claimed he saw the face of his father on the face of the officer that denied his request.
The next day, 8 May 1984, at 9:30 a.m., Lortie walked into CJRP radio station in Quebec City, identified himself as "Mr. D", and dropped off a sealed envelope containing an audiotape for one of the station's hosts, André Arthur. He instructed the radio staff not to open the envelope until 10:30 a.m. but they opened it anyway, discovering that it was a statement of Lortie's plans, in which he declared, "The government now in power is going to be destroyed." However, by the time radio staff contacted police, Lortie's plan had already been put into action.
At 9:45 a.m., Lortie entered the Parliament Building through a side door located on Grande-Allée. He was dressed in combat fatigues and armed with two C-1 submachine guns, an Inglis pistol, a duffel bag containing four hundred rounds of 9mm NATO ammunition, as well as a knife strapped to his leg. As he entered the building, he shot and mortally wounded a receptionist, then killed a messenger whom he encountered in a corridor. He then went into a smoking room and shot and wounded a person there before moving to the cafeteria, but finally found his way into the Assembly Chamber, outside of which dozens of armed Sûreté du Québec (SQ), as well as over a dozen Groupe d'Intervention operatives and Quebec City Police (many carrying M2 carbines), helicopters, and snipers were taking position.
Based on later testimony, it is clear that he intended to assassinate Premier René Lévesque and other members of the governing Parti Québécois. His plan was to enter the Assembly Chamber during the parliamentary committee meeting, which was starting at 10:00 that morning. However, instead of using a watch, Lortie timed his attack by listening to CJRP and waited for the station's host, André Arthur, to end his segment. Fortunately, on that day, Arthur ended his broadcast 20 minutes early, leading Lortie to enter the building and make his way to the Assembly Chamber while it was mostly empty. Lortie opened fire on the government employees still inside the Assembly Chamber, killing two and wounding 11 others. No politicians were killed or wounded.
The National Assembly's Sergeant-at-Arms, René Jalbert, was informed that there was a man in military uniform with a gun in the Assembly Chamber. Upon stepping out of the elevator, Lortie asked him why he came, and fired his C-1 Submachine gun inches from his face.
Jalbert proceeded to inform him that he too had been a soldier with the Van Doos (slang for the Royal 22e Régiment), and that if Lortie would allow it, he would show him his discharge card. Lortie agreed, after which Jalbert persuaded him to show his own identification.
After this exchange, Jalbert persuaded Lortie to come into his office to discuss the matter, and release the other civilians in the Assembly Chamber. Jalbert talked to Lortie for over four hours, ultimately promising him that he would be able to surrender to military police (since he was unwilling to surrender to civilian police). At 2:15 PM, Lortie surrendered to officers of the SQ, Quebec City Police, and the National Assembly security.
For his heroic act which likely prevented further death, the Canadian government awarded Jalbert the Cross of Valour several months later, in the same National Assembly chamber that Lortie burst into.
The following were killed in the shooting:
- Georges Boyer
- Camille Lepage (not to be confused with the late French photojournalist Camille Lepage, who was also the victim of an apparent murder)
- Roger Lefrançois
One of the contributing factors to the shooting was, allegedly, the easy access that Lortie had to both weapons and ammunition. Unlike other non-combat Canadian Forces Bases, CFS Carp, the base at which he was stationed, apparently did not have an armory, or even ammunition lockers.
According to psychiatrist Pierre Mailloux, who was assigned to the case, Lortie suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had organized his crime during a psychotic episode, believing that he was acting on instructions given to him from God. Nevertheless, in 1985, Lortie was convicted of first-degree murder, but a new trial was ordered when the Quebec Court of Appeal determined the trial judge had made errors while instructing jurors about how they should weigh testimony from psychiatrists heard in the case.
Lortie pleaded guilty to reduced charges of second-degree murder in 1987.
In 1995, Lortie was released on day parole to a halfway house in Hull, Quebec, after being released from a minimum security correctional facility north of Montreal where he had been undergoing psychiatric treatment, classes to deal with aggression, and serving a life sentence with no eligibility for parole for 10 years. According to officials from the Parole Board of Canada, Lortie no longer posed a threat to society, and "patched his life together despite being responsible for one of the most notorious events in Quebec history."
Under the release terms, Lortie was required to spend every night at the halfway house between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. He was also required to let parole board supervisors know where he was at all times, and was restricted to a 40 kilometer (24.8 mile) radius from the house. The relatives of some of Lortie's victims believed he was not punished severely enough, with some believing he should have been executed, a punishment that could not and cannot be applied as Canada abolished its death penalty in 1976.
Granted full parole in July 1996 (the same year Jalbert died of cancer), he has since kept a low profile.
He is last known to have worked at a dépanneur in the Hull-Aylmer district of Quebec, and is now married, with a steady job and a house, and has reportedly been forthcoming with "the people who monitor his case."
- Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a 2014 shooter who attacked the Canadian Parliament Buildings Centre Block
- Paul Joseph Chartier, who attempted to bomb the Canadian Parliament Building in Ottawa in 1966
- CBC Archives
- French article in the newspaper Le Soleil describing the events
- French web article about the events
- Article at Time Magazine
- French article describing the event on its 20th anniversary in 2004
- Bergande, Wolfram: The Père-version of the Political in the Case of Denis Lortie, in: The Sinthom 15, www.lacan.com