Ottawa Shooting: Echoes of Tragedy and Heroism in Quebec City, 1984

October 24, 2014

Canada is in mourning this week, struggling to come to grips with the tragedy that unfolded when a gunmen shot and killed a Canadian army corporal before storming the parliament building.  Inside, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau exchanged gunfire with security forces.  He was eventually shot dead by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers.

The incident is eerily reminiscent of another episode that occurred three decades ago.  On May 8, 1984, a former soldier named Denis Lortie entered the Quebec National Assembly, armed with several weapons.  Within moments, he had killed three government employees and wounded 13 others.  He made his way to the front of the assembly chamber, where he sat, continuing to fire sporadically at individuals trapped in the chamber with him.  Shortly, however, Sergeant-at-Arms René Marc Jalbert entered the room and approached Lortie.  Calm despite the continued, periodic bursts of gunfire, Jalbert, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, used their shared military backgrounds to slowly establish a dialog with Lortie.  He eventually persuaded him to come to Jalbert’s office, and after what must have been an excruciatingly tense four hours, he managed to convince Lortie to surrender to police.

The negotiation and Jalbert’s courageous action were captured on a camera set up in the chamber.  In May, 30 years after the events, the CBC published the video with an audio re-enactment on its website.  It is well worth watching, particularly in the aftermath of the tragedy in Ottawa this week.

(h/t David Chmiel)


Image credit: CBC