The victory celebration of Quebec’s separatist party, Parti Québécois, was interrupted after someone tried to assassinate its leader and province’s new Prime Minister, Pauline Marois, on Tuesday night.
Shouting “The English are rising!” in French, a man clad in a blue bathrobe opened fire on Marois as she gave her victory speech to jubilant supporters celebrating the party’s rousing electoral win.
Live bullets whizzed past Marois, who did not know what was going on until security quickly pulled her off stage in the middle of her speech.
Police knocked the deranged man to the ground, but not before two people were shot. A 40-year-old man was killed during the melee, and a 20-year-old man was wounded. A third man was treated for shock, officials report.
The incident marred a triumphant evening in which Marois won 55 seats, short of the 63 seats needed for a majority in the 125-seat National Assembly, but enough to make her Quebec’s first woman premier.
In her speech, Marois vowed to be the premier of “all Quebecers” but also put the party’s separatist agenda in play.
“We want a country. And we will have it,” she told a sea of supporters waving the province’s blue fleurdelisé flags at the PQ’s packed Montreal headquarters.
“I want to address our neighbours across Canada. You must understand that as a nation, we want to make our own decisions about those things that concern us … I invite you to welcome these aspirations that we have with openness,” she said.
Then the PQ leader turned her remarks to the supporters gathered in the theatre.
“I said it during the campaign. I’m saying it now, and I will continue to say it: I have the conviction that Quebec must become a sovereign country.”
The PQ ran a stridently French-nationalist campaign, with promises to confront Canadian PM Stephen Harper on sovereignty issues, and introduce numerous controversial measures intended to boost French culture, language and identity in Quebec. For example, the PQ wants to introduce new language laws that would force small businesses to work in French and cut down on the use of English, which Marois claims is on the rise in big cities like Montreal.
The election result was a bruising defeat for the incumbent Liberals, who have run the province for the last decade. Their leader, Jean Charest, lost his own seat during a campaign that showed the party to look old and worn out.
Despite the loss, the Liberals turned in a surprisingly strong second-place showing with 49 seats, saving themselves from an embarrassing third-place showing that many pundits had predicted. The upstart Coalition Avenir Québec led by François Legault won 10 more seats in parliament, putting their standing at 19.