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Canadian Victory Party Interrupted By Gunfire


Last night in Montreal, Pauline Marois, the leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois, was celebrating a victory at an election night rally. She had led the PQ to a plurality of seats in the provincial parliament of Quebec, enough to form a minority government for the French-speaking Canadian province.

PAULINE MAROIS: (Speaking in French)

SIEGEL: And as she spoke of her conviction that the future of Quebec is to become a sovereign country, two aides hustled her off stage to the alarm of the crowd.

A gunman had entered the hall and opened fire. One man was killed, another injured. And after the suspect, who was later identified in news reports as Richard Henry Bain, was taken into custody, he shouted in French "Les anglais se reveillent," the English are waking up. Well, joining us to talk about this and the election result that last night's shooting has overshadowed is Sophie Cousineau, who covered this election for the Globe and Mail newspaper. And first, Sophie, is anything more known about the gunman or the shooting last night?

SOPHIE COUSINEAU: No. The only thing that we know is he was hospitalized as he was interrogated by the police. This man is from north of Montreal and he's a businessman who owns a fishing and hunting camp. He seemed to be politically motivated if you take what he said literally, but when you saw the images, was rambling. So he seemed to be maybe suffering from a mental illness.

SIEGEL: Well, let's talk about the election result. The Parti Quebecois came in first in the election, but didn't win a majority. How strong are they, and how strong is separatist sentiment there in Quebec?

COUSINEAU: Well, they're strong in the sense that they won, but it's a very weak mandate. As you may know, in a parliamentary system, if you have the majority of the seats, no one can touch you. But if you just have a plurality, then it forces you to compromise on many of your issues. So in that sense, it's quite doubtful that they will go ahead with their plans for a nation, because right now the sentiment in Quebec is really not to the effect of another, a third referendum on sovereignty. There's quite a lot of fatigue over this debate.

SIEGEL: Yes, there have been two referenda in the past in Quebec. And in each case, the idea of an independent Quebec was defeated. It still polls well below a majority of people there?

COUSINEAU: Yes it does. It's actually at a low point. If you - the latest crowd poll, which was done last week, they said when Quebecers are asked the question if they would vote yes, only 28 percent would say so and two-thirds of Quebecers don't even want the question to be asked.

SIEGEL: Well, if the PQ, if the Parti Quebecois, they've seen the same polls that you're talking about, and they see that there isn't real support there for a referendum on independence, what sorts of nationalist programs might they push short of a referendum?

COUSINEAU: Well, they've been very vocal about language law. And that has disturbed the English community in Montreal. They proposed that, for instance, if you're an immigrant in Quebec, you would have to pass a French proficiency test to run for public office. They would also force students who are about 17 and 18 years old who go to a CEGEP, which is a program in Quebec which is between high school and university, to go to a French school unless their parents had been schooled in English previously. And also, they have been very vocal about having the Quebec pension fund invest more money in Quebec, and these are the types of very nationalistic policies that the government is hoping to put in place.

SIEGEL: I would imagine that at coming political events in the province of Quebec, there will be more security then there was at this one.

COUSINEAU: Yes. Yes. And you have to realize in Canada it's quite different than in the U.S. These are not airport tight security events. There's no metal detectors and basically anyone could walk in. And this guy basically parked his car behind the alley where the theater was, and walked about 50 feet with a robe, a gun that looks like an AK-47 and a hood, and was not stopped until he had shot two people. So I think there's going to be a before and an after in this case, and we might see more, I guess, U.S.-style security.

SIEGEL: Well, thanks for talking with us about it.

COUSINEAU: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: That's Sophie Cousineau, who is the chief Quebec correspondent for the national Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.



This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.