Quebec City sword attacker on narcissistic quest, psychiatrist says

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Sylvain Faucher testified 26-year-old Carl Girouard was perfectly aware that his actions were wrong when he killed two people with a sword and attacked five others on Oct. 31, 2020.

Last Crown witness takes stand in Carl Girouard's 1st-degree murder trial

Psychiatrist Dr. Sylvain Faucher is the Crown's second expert witness and the last to be called to testify at Carl Girouard's first-degree murder trial. (Radio-Canada)

Carl Girouard, the man charged in the 2020 Quebec City sword attacks, was on a narcissistic quest, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Sylvain Faucher testified at Girouard's murder trial at the Quebec City courthouse Thursday. 

Faucher, the Crown's last witness, appeared calm and poised as he made the case that the 26-year-old defendant was perfectly aware that his actions were wrong when he killed two people with a sword and attacked five others on Oct. 31, 2020.

Girouard faces two charges of first-degree murder and five charges of attempted murder. He has admitted to carrying out the attacks, but his defence team argues he cannot be held criminally responsible because he had a mental disorder at the time.

Faucher said that Girouard has resented society since he was a teenager. 

By the time Girouard turned 16 and started thinking about killing people, Faucher testified, he had been shunned at school for being different and told his behaviour was inappropriate, and he had been asked to change.

Carl Girouard, 26, began expressing disdain for the modern world and planning to make a grandiose gesture to shock society when he was still in his mid-teens, the jury has heard. (Illustration by Hbé)

As a result, said the psychiatrist, the young man had accumulated a lot of resentment and anger toward others.

Faucher met Girouard for nine hours in March 2022, during which time he said Girouard told him he might not have carried out the attacks, had he found love and had a relationship with a woman.

Girouard told the psychiatrist he felt ashamed that he had never had sex and that he wanted a girlfriend but was too shy to find one. 

Girouard's shame and his fear of rejection contributed to his desire to do something shocking that would get him recognized, said Faucher.

Narcissistic quest to end suffering

Faucher testified that Girouard displayed signs of having hypervigilant narcissistic personality disorder from a young age.

The expert said Girouard began craving attention when he was in kindergarten, and sought to get that attention through problematic behaviour. 

In notes taken from Girouard's medical records, Girouard's mother admits her son didn't get a lot of attention as a young child because she was pregnant with her youngest son and also had to take care of her older son, who has autism.

Psychologists' reports from Girouard's youth show his mother Monique Dalphond was a caring parent, but she had a lot of on her plate with three other sons to look after. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

As Girouard entered adulthood, the pain of being different and failing to measure up to other people grew more intense, according to Faucher.

"There is suffering behind all this," said Faucher. "The more time went by, the wider the gulf grew between himself and his peers."

To alleviate that suffering, Girouard developed a fantasy based on video games, in which he was a winner, Faucher said.

The psychiatrist testified that the desire to be seen as a good person is typical of someone who is a hypervigilant narcissist.

"That's why I think [we're seeing] a narcissistic quest," he concluded.

Psychosis 'highly unlikely'

Carl Girouard told experts the 'bad Carl' was gone immediately after his arrest. (Service de police de la Ville de Québec)

In his 56-page report, Faucher ruled out the theory that Girouard's mission was a delusion or that the defendant was psychotic.

"It's highly unlikely," Faucher told the jury.

The expert testified that Girouard displayed few symptoms associated with schizophrenia, such as shunning relationships or feeling like you're being followed.

He also pointed out that when someone is delusional, they will be convinced what they're doing is right.

That wasn't the case for Girouard, who expressed doubts about the relevance of his mission after he had attacked some of his victims, Faucher said.

And while some someone who is psychotic can be upset by what they've done, they'll go back to defending their actions in the hours and days following the events, he said.

But Girouard showed no signs of psychosis after his arrest, Faucher said. 

The defendant was able to recognize what he had done was bad right away and said the "bad Carl" was gone immediately after the attacks, Faucher said.

He testified that in his entire career, he had never seen someone snap out of a delusion as quickly as Girouard said he did. 

"It's possible, maybe, but for me, that's exceptional." 

Faucher's testimony comes after the defence spent more than a day questioning the Crown's first expert witness, neuropsychologist Dr. William Pothier.

Both Crown expert witnesses directly contradicted forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gilles Chamberland, who testified for the defence that Girouard was delusional and in psychosis at the time of the attacks.

Psychiatrist Dr. Gilles Chamberland, left, and defence lawyer Pierre Gagnon, right, say Girouard didn't know what he did was wrong at the time of the attacks. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

Girouard understood mission was wrong

Faucher told the jury he believes Girouard was aware that his mission to kill people had some illegal and immoral elements.

At one point in 2015, Faucher said, Girouard told a social worker he had decided he no longer wanted to kill people because he was scared of going to prison.

Girouard also kept asking to see the social worker's notes, to make sure they reflected exactly what he thought and to make certain the social worker didn't misperceive what he was planning.

Girouard also hid his plan from his family, his only social circle, Faucher said.

"To some extent, he knows it's not right," the psychiatrist said.

At the start of his testimony on Wednesday afternoon, Faucher told the jury that criminal responsibility is a black or white question — that there is no in-between.

He said often perpetrators of grotesque or freakish crimes are not mentally ill, even if it appears that way because their crimes are so baffling.

Instead, the person finds reasons to give themselves permission to commit their crime, Faucher said.

He also said even if someone has schizophrenia, that doesn't necessarily mean they will commit a crime — or that a crime they do commit is linked to that mental illness.

Girouard's lawyer Pierre Gagnon will begin his cross-examination of Faucher on Friday.