Hundreds gather in Quebec City to honour victim of Halloween night attack

·3 min read

QUEBEC — Hundreds gathered outside the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec on a chilly Tuesday evening in Quebec City to remember François Duchesne, a beloved colleague, friend and lover of the arts, who was killed in a sword attack on Saturday night.

They lit candles, laid flowers at a memorial, sang Hallelujah as a string quartet played, and heard Duschene's family members tell stories about his life.

Duschene's brother Claude stood in front of the museum, which was aglow with green light to symbolize hope, and thanked the assembled crowd for their support.

"My brother was incredible," he said. "It's hard, but to see so many people here, it helps a lot. I want to tell you what François would have wanted you all to know, to call your family, to call your friends, tell them you love them. ... François we love you, we're thinking of you."

He recalled the day François called him with the news that he had been hired to work at the museum, which was only a few feet away from where he lived.

"He called me to tell me he had his dream job," Claude said, adding that his brother had joked that he was so close to home that he could head there to use the bathroom. The crowd, which at other times was quiet and sad, laughed.

"We need to laugh a little bit," Claude said.

Jean-Luc Murray, the director of the museum, said Duchesne was luminous, exceptional and sensitive to others. He always knew what words to say to comfort others and he was always smiling, a perpetual optimist.

Murray described the act that took Duchesne's life as tragic, senseless, incomprehensible and inhuman. His voice trembled as he spoke.

"If François was with us," Murray said, "he would remind us that to be sad is to be human."

Murray announced that an art-therapy program for young adults with mental illness would bear Duchesne's name in his memory.

"As of today, we will deploy even more effort, as we see in society, so that culture can play a role to improve our world," he said.

Dignitaries and politicians attended the vigil. Nathalie Roy, Quebec's minister of culture, said all of Quebec's cultural community was grieving Duchesne's death.

She remembered the last time she had seen Duchesne. They had collaborated to announce the coming of an international Picasso exhibition to Quebec. Duchesne had been ecstatic, she said. "The memory I have of that man is that goodness, that generosity, that smile," she said. "It's said that some people shine. Mr. Duchesne was one of those people."

Those who spoke at the vigil on Tuesday spoke of their hope that, even in death, Duchesne's memory could continue to serve as a reminder of the power of art to heal and to bring people together.

Michel Duchesne, François's cousin, who is an author and a playwright, said his older cousin was a role-model and a trailblazer for him.

"François was one of my cultural pushers," Michel said. "He defended culture because he knew it could comfort and help people. It could appease suffering. ... My quiet cousin ... I hope you hear this high praise. But above all I hope that, because this era is so difficult for all of humanity, you will hear once more again music and theatre resonating everywhere."

The provincial government has established an online condolence registry that allows people to convey messages to the families and friends of both Duchesne and Suzanne Clermont, 61, who was also killed on Saturday.

The registry can be accessed at until Nov. 9. The messages will then be conveyed to the families of the victims.

Presse Canadienne contributed to this report.

Matthew Lapierre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Gazette