Thousands of police officers from across Canada gather in Trois-Rivières, Que., to mourn slain SQ officer
Sgt. Maureen Breau, killed during an arrest, had 2 children and a spouse who is also an officer
As the Quebec provincial police officers following Sgt. Maureen Breau's funeral procession arrived at the basilica in Trois-Rivières, Que., Thursday, their quiet walk turned into a march and the crowd outside the church began to clap.
The funeral for Breau, the Sûreté du Québec police officer who was stabbed and killed two weeks ago while making an arrest, took place today following a three-kilometre procession of thousands of officers in mourning.
Breau was a veteran provincial police officer with more than 20 years experience. She was stabbed while she and her colleague read a man his rights before arresting him. Breau's colleague was also injured.
The man, 35-year-old Isaac Brouillard Lessard, was shot and killed when two more police officers arrived.
Led by bagpipers, a cortège of about 4,000 police officers from forces across the country and eastern United States began following the funeral procession under a warm April sun shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday.
Their somber procession began at the Complexe Sportif Alphonse-Desjardins and culminated at the Basilica of the Sanctuary of Notre-Dame Du Cap by the St. Lawrence River.
Family members of Breau — including her two young children, Khéraly and Emrick, as well as her partner Daniel Sanscartier, also an SQ officer — could be seen in black vehicles following the hearse.
An officer walking behind it held Breau's peaked cap on a cushion. People lined the street in front of the basilica to watch.
A screen outside the basilica broadcast the ceremony to officers and reporters outside.
Sgt. Véronique Nadeau, a close friend and colleague of Breau's, struggled to deliver her speech. She said she and Breau had been scheduled to work together three days after she died.
"There wasn't a day working alongside you that felt like work. I was just excited to have coffee with my friend," Nadeau said. "You were my best friend, a sister.… You cared so much about this career that cost you your life."
Breau's locker was filled with photos of her children and of Sanscartier, Nadeau said, addressing the three of them: "You were everything for Maureen. She was so proud."
The president of Quebec's provincial police officers' association, the Association des policières et policiers provinciaux du Québec, Jacques Painchaud, called Breau's death "a nameless tragedy."
"Maureen was a spontaneous, dynamic person, who was full of energy. She dedicated her professional life to the safety of the population," he said, growing emotional.
The lieutenant-governor of Quebec, J. Michel Doyon, said "Ms. Breau's death is a reminder that these men and women, despite their dedication, despite their commitment, are first and foremost human beings, who are presented with difficult, dangerous and sometime dangerous conditions."
Lise Gilbert, 65, and Robert St-Jean, 66, sat on folding chairs near the basilica. Their daughter, Joëlle, a Sûreté du Québec (SQ) officer and police academy instructor, was among the officers marching solemnly.
"As parents, it always worries us. It's something that hits close to home," said St-Jean.
Gilbert said their daughter is friends with the officer who was working with Breau that night and who was seriously injured.
"It could have been our daughter," Gilbert said. Both parents are retired health-care workers specializing in mental health. They said they want to see more measures taken by the justice system before people with mental health issues are released back into the public.
The couple had heard of the suspect, Isaac Brouillard Lessard, some years ago from a psychiatrist friend of theirs who was assaulted by him, the couple said.
Nearby, two retired SQ officers, Laurier Grandbois, 80, and Henri Deschênes, 81, sat in a bus shelter.
They had seen each other by chance outside the basilica.
"It really affects us," said Grandbois, who was with the force for 25 years. "I had seen enough by the end," he said.
Being outside the ceremony, Grandbois said, was bringing back a lot of close calls to memory.
He recounted a holdup in the 1970s when he and a colleague had been shot at. His colleague was struck in the shoulder.
"I didn't know if he was alive or dead at the time," he said. "It makes me tear up."
Deschênes said he heard Breau had attempted to protect her colleague when she was killed.
"She was brave," he said.
An online obituary says Breau was about to turn 43 and that she had two children with her long-time partner, Daniel Sanscartier, an investigator for the SQ. According to TVA, Breau was days away from beginning a new job as an investigator.
Breau's death is the first in 33 years at the Sûreté du Québec. Sixty-seven others died before that, said Quebec Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault.
"It's a life choice that is exceptional and dangerous," Guilbault said.
Suspect had extensive criminal justice history
Lessard, the man suspected in Breau's death, has an extensive history with the criminal justice system.
In the last decade, he was charged with uttering threats and assault multiple times.
In three separate court proceedings, he was found not criminally responsible for his actions due to mental illness. In 2021, he pleaded guilty to assault and he was released on conditional discharge, given two years of probation and assigned to 200 hours of community service.
Yvon Deshaies, the mayor of Louiseville, said last week he hoped the investigation would shed light on whether Lessard had received enough treatment after being found not criminally responsible.
"Who treated him, who didn't treat him?" Lessard asked. "That's what we want to know. Who didn't do their job? We want to speak to those people."
The Quebec government is holding a public inquiry into Breau's death.
Watch | Police officers from across the country attend funeral of Sgt. Maureen Breau:
Quebec's provincial police officers' association, led by Painchaud, launched a petition shortly after Breau's death calling for an information-sharing protocol to notify officers about someone's potentially dangerous medical history before they interact.
Public Security Minister François Bonnardel said he was looking into whether something of the sort would be legally feasible.
Breau was the eighth police officer to be killed in the last seven months in Canada. Last week, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police requested an urgent meeting with Canada's premiers to discuss bail reform and the recent killings of officers.
Last month, Const. Brett Ryan and Const. Travis Jordan were fatally shot by a 16-year-old boy in Edmonton while they were responding to a family dispute.
With files from The Canadian Press