After a stabbing last week, Longueuil courthouse steps up security

Officers are conducting mandatory searches at the Longueuil courthouse after new security measures came into effect.  (Valérie-Micaela Bain/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Officers are conducting mandatory searches at the Longueuil courthouse after new security measures came into effect. (Valérie-Micaela Bain/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Quebec has heightened security measures at the Longueuil courthouse, after an interpreter was stabbed there last week.

Special constables stationed at the courthouse are now equipped with hand-held metal detectors to search all visitors and inspect their bags.

The new measures took effect Tuesday morning and will remain in place until further notice. But certain courtroom regulars, such as lawyers, are exempt, provided they are able to identify themselves.

The offices of Quebec's Public Security Ministry and Justice Ministry confirmed in a joint statement to CBC News that they have deployed special constables and officers to meet the security needs of workers at the courthouses.

"It is important to remember that courthouses are safe," it said.

They added that they are assessing whether they should add more special constables and boost security measures at other courthouses in the hopes of maintaining a sense of safety.

Call for increased safety measures

The stabbing of interpreter Hai Thach, 68, at the Longueuil courthouse on Jan. 9 raised concerns about the effectiveness of security measures already in place to protect employees.

Alexandre Garcés, 44, was arrested and charged with attempted murder after attacking Thach with a knife.

Thach translates for those who speak only Vietnamese, Mandarin or other Chinese dialects.

The motive for the attack is not yet clear.

The searching of coats and bags was reinforced in the wake of the attack, but its application has varied from one day to another.

The legal community has long called for security to be strengthened in Quebec courthouses and Chief Quebec Superior Court Justices Henri Richard and Marie-Anne Paquette did so again in a letter sent Jan. 12, three days after the stabbing, to Public Security Minister François Bonnardel and Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette.

In their letter, obtained by CBC News, the judges said the stabbing points to security failures at courthouses, especially the absence of walk-through metal detectors, which only the Montreal courthouse has.

"The credibility and maintenance of the justice system are at stake," the letter reads. "With respect, describing the situation that occurred at the Longueuil courthouse last Tuesday as an 'isolated act' is not likely to reassure us or the population."

Justices Richard and Paquette asked the ministers to provide all courthouses in the province with walk-through metal detectors and to update the number of vacant special constable positions and the turnover rate, by courthouse. (They say the latest information available is from June 8, 2023)

They also want the government to share the measures that will be put in place to promote the attraction and retention of special constables, beyond creating new training cohorts, and to give a timeline for the installation of devices like surveillance cameras to ensure the safety of outdoor parking for judges.