Shortly before 10 a.m. ET on May 8, 1984, an armed man dressed in military fatigues walked into the National Assembly in Quebec City and opened fire, threatening to destroy the Parti Québécois.

When the standoff ended, 13 people were injured and three were dead:

  • Georges Boyer, 59.
  • Camille Lepage, 54.
  • Roger Lefrançois, 57.

All three were government employees.

No politicians were injured or killed thanks in part to the heroic actions of the assembly’s Sergeant-at-Arms, René Jalbert who, after being shot at and taken hostage himself, convinced the gunman to surrender.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of that event, one that many who were on the scene remember vividly.

CBC’s Senior Quebec Political Analyst Bernard St-Laurent was CBC Radio’s legislative reporter at the National Assembly in 1984.

He was at home the morning of the shooting, but rushed to the scene after his mother called to see if he had been injured. He remembers the blank look on the faces of the people fleeing the building, the haunting images of the dead in the next day’s paper and the way access to politicians in the province was forever changed.   

“Before that, you could walk around the National Assembly, you didn’t need ID,” he said.

“I remember I used to walk through the floor of the legislature to get from one side of the building to the other … Gradually over time, the guards were replaced by Sûreté du Québec officials, metal detectors were installed.

"I think there was also a psychological effect in the sense that before you could engage in conversations with politicians in an informal way — you could talk about stuff, you could debate. It was much easier …Things were never the same after that day.”

The gunman, Denis Lortie, eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder following an appeal of a first-degree murder conviction.

He was paroled in 1995.

Jalbert, who was later awarded the Cross of Valour for his bravery, died of cancer in 1996 at the age of 74.