Former captive feels for Edmonton WCB hostages

A Calgary man who was held hostage in a Workers' Compensation Board office in 1993 said he hopes the victims in Wednesday's hostage-taking don't suffer long-term effects.
Joe Emond was held hostage by a disgruntled Workers' Compensation claimant in Calgary in 1993. ((Terri Trembath/CBC))

A Calgary man who was held hostage in a Workers' Compensation Board office in 1993 said he hopes the victims in Wednesday's Edmonton hostage-taking don't suffer any long-term effects.

Joe Emond couldn't believe it when he got news that a gunman, reportedly a disgruntled WCB claimant, had taken nine people hostage in the WCB building in Edmonton. The armed standoff ended peacefully, and the gunman has been charged with several offences.

"I thought, 'here we go again,'" said Emond in an interview on Thursday.

In December 1993, Emond was a courier delivering a package to the WCB office in Calgary.

"As I was walking back in, out came the gentleman from the other room with a sawed-off shotgun and told me to come in and sit down," Emond recalled.

Emond was held for several hours along with a security guard and a receptionist.

Other WCB incidents

  • September 1992: A disgruntled client uses a sledgehammer to smash the windows of the Calgary WCB office.
  • November 1991: A client uses a baseball bat to break the windows of the Calgary WCB office.
  • May 1991: Gregory Jack, a steelworker with a brain injury whose compensation payments had stopped, commits suicide in the parking lot of the former WCB office in northeast Calgary.

The gunman, later identified as Manuel Alberta Rocuant, ranted to his hostages about his frustrations with the WCB, said Emond.

"I wasn't … scared. It was, I was thinking when [was] the last time I talked to my mom," said Emond. "He kept assuring us that if we didn't do anything stupid, he wouldn't fire the gun."

Rocuant fired two shots from his gun — one into a mirror he thought hid a camera, and one into the guard's pager on the floor, which he thought was a listening device.

Emond and the other two hostages were eventually released. Rocuant collapsed and was removed from the office on a stretcher. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

"It's too bad you know, it's just unfortunately how some people, they snap to try to get a point across and it's not going to work," said Emond.

Some stress and sleepless nights followed, but Emond said he didn't experience any long-term psychological effects and hopes the Edmonton hostages make a full recovery too.

Cathy Carter-Snell, a forensic nurse and instructor at Calgary's Mount Royal University, said some hostages may experience post-traumatic stress. "A fairly significant percentage of people will develop that after hostage-taking," she explained.

"It's extremely concerning: chronic health problems, chronic diseases, cancers, all of those related to post-traumatic stress." 

Carter-Snell said people should seek help if they still have symptoms after five days.