1 year later, Quebec City remembers victims of horrific Halloween stabbing attacks

·4 min read
A woman places a white rose in front of a temporary memorial set up in honour of François Duchesne, who was killed a year ago in the fatal stabbing attacks at age 56. (Émilie Warren/CBC - image credit)
A woman places a white rose in front of a temporary memorial set up in honour of François Duchesne, who was killed a year ago in the fatal stabbing attacks at age 56. (Émilie Warren/CBC - image credit)

It was under pouring rain and gusts of cold wind that politicians, neighbours, friends and families came together at 1 p.m. on Sunday to commemorate the victims of last year's fatal stabbing attack on Halloween in Quebec City.

The ceremony, which was organized by the city, took place simultaneously at three different locations where the attacks occurred in the city's historic district.

François Duchesne, 56, and Suzanne Clermont, 61, were killed on Oct. 31, 2020 when a man dressed in medieval clothing attacked them with a sword. The man wounded five more people that night, three of whom attended the sombre event.

"We are here to never forget," said Quebec's outgoing mayor Régis Labeaume in an opening speech in front of city hall.

"To never forget Suzanne Clermont, to remember her love of life, her kindness, her cheerfulness," he said. "To never forget François Duchesne, to remember his goodness, his devotion, his commitment to the arts and to his city."

Émilie Warren/CBC
Émilie Warren/CBC

Labeaume also saluted the five victims who were injured, letting them know Quebecers were with them in their healing journey.

A minute of silence followed his speech, after which Labeaume invited friends and families of the victims and everyone else in attendance to walk with him to the two locations where Clermont and Duchesne were killed and where pictures of them had been set up to honour them.

People paid tribute to Clermont at a bench dedicated to her on des Remparts Street, as one of her favourite songs, Charles Aznavour's La Bohème, played over speakers in the background.

Hadi Hassin/Radio-Canada
Hadi Hassin/Radio-Canada

At the site dedicated to Duchesne at Place d'Armes, a well-known square in the centre of Old Quebec, people paid their respects amid the sound of classical music, including the symphonic performance of Histoire sans Paroles, which Duchesne was fond of.

Loved ones placed bouquets of white flowers wrapped in music sheets at each location, hugging each other for support.

A plaque honouring the victims was also unveiled in front of city hall for the event.

"The day after this tragedy, Quebec's population and the entire world was with five people on their way to recovery, and mourning the deaths of two of their own," the plaque reads. "Their memory is forever engraved in the heart of our city."

Émilie Warren/CBC
Émilie Warren/CBC

The memorial will be set up permanently at Place d'Armes in the spring of 2022.

There was increased police presence at the event, with officers blocking the roads and surveilling the area – providing a sense of security that contrasted sharply with the uncertainty and terror that reigned on the night of the attacks.

Psychosocial intervention workers from the local health authority were also on site to provide psychological support to those in attendance who needed it.

Camille Carpentier/Radio-Canada
Camille Carpentier/Radio-Canada

A painful commemoration for the families

Clermont's husband, Jacques Fortin, was not present at the ceremony, saying on Facebook that being there would have been too painful.

He told Radio-Canada that he had instead decided to spend the anniversary of her death in Paris in front of the Eiffel Tower, a monument he says she adored.

"My little commemoration was done in private and with the love of my beautiful and adored Suzanne," he posted on his social media after the event.

Fortin told Radio-Canada he still thinks about his wife everyday.

Jacques Fortin/Facebook
Jacques Fortin/Facebook

"We travelled, we laughed, we ate well," Fortin said. "We were an ordinary happy couple and then this tragedy changed everything."

Fortin's son Julien St-Pierre Fortin attended the commemoration.

He described Clermont, his stepmother, as a very smiley and funny woman. "She was so invested in her neighbourhood, with the people that she loved," he told Radio-Canada.

He said the ceremony was a "beautiful gesture" from city hall. "We feel very supported, we feel so much love around us," he said.

Clermont's friend Michel Mercier, who was at the ceremony, told Radio-Canada that it was very important for him to commemorate the first anniversary of her death.

"It's an unimaginable event, we are still very sad about it," he said.

Franca G. Mignacca/CBC
Franca G. Mignacca/CBC

Duchesne's loved ones also attended the ceremony but declined to do interviews with the media, saying they were not ready to speak publicly about what happened.

They told Radio-Canada that the commemorative ceremony means a lot to them.

"The world is a lot less beautiful without François, to cherish his memory in the heart of the city he loved so much, gives it back some colours," said his sister Marie-Josée Duchesne in a written statement to Radio-Canada.

"All the gestures and the showings of solidarity, small or big, mean a lot and we are very receptive and grateful for them."

The suspect, Carl Girouard, 25, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.

His trial is set to start in December.

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