Man accused of crashing bus into Quebec daycare and killing 2 kids fit to stand trial

LAVAL, Que. — A Quebec man accused of killing two young children when the city bus he was driving slammed into a Montreal-area daycare has been judged fit to stand trial, and his lawyer on Friday requested that his client also be evaluated for criminal responsibility.

Pierre Ny St-Amand appeared in a courtroom in Laval, Que., where his lawyer said a psychiatric evaluation requested last week found the accused mentally able to participate in the criminal case. Quebec court Judge Marc-André Dagenais ordered that report sealed.

The 51-year-old driver with the Laval transit corporation was arrested Feb. 8 after a bus he was driving crashed into the front of a daycare in the city's Ste-Rose neighbourhood, killing two four-year-olds and injuring six other children.

St-Amand is charged with two counts of first-degree murder as well as seven other charges, including attempted murder and aggravated assault.

His defence lawyer, Julien Lespérance Hudon, requested another evaluation, this time of his client's criminal responsibility — whether the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the alleged crime. Dagenais accepted that request.

"We have reasonable grounds … to want more information regarding what happened on that morning," Lespérance Hudon told reporters outside the courtroom, referring to the day of the crash.

St-Amand's attorney and prosecutor Karine Dalphond both told the court that some elements in the sealed psychiatric report justified the request for an assessment of the accused's criminal responsibility. The evaluation will take place at a Montreal psychiatric hospital.

Unlike his court appearance one week earlier when he seemed to be in a trancelike state, St-Amand was awake and alert on Friday but did not say anything during the brief court hearing.

Last week, St-Amand appeared to be struggling to walk and had his eyes closed as he entered the courtroom. His lawyer said at the time that he was having trouble communicating with his client.

"You saw him today, his attitude in the courtroom, much more present; therefore he was able to understand the role of the Crown prosecutor, the role of the defence, the role of the judge," Lespérance Hudon said Friday.

The case will return before a judge on March 28; St-Amand is scheduled to be in the courtroom on that date.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2023.

Pierre Saint-Arnaud, The Canadian Press