“The government now in power is going to be destroyed.”
Those were the chilling words spoken by former Canadian Army corporal Denis Lortie, who walked into the Quebec National Assembly on May 8, 1984 carrying an assortment of weapons, including a submachine gun.
Lortie entered the building at 9:45 a.m. ET shouting “Where are the MNAs? I want to kill them,” according to witnesses.
Moments later, three non-elected government employees were dead and 13 others were injured by bullets fired by Lortie, who would eventually make his way to the Speaker's chair in the assembly, where he continued to fire rounds towards people cowering in the aisles.
Where are theMNAs?I want to kill them.- Former Canadian Army corporal Denis Lortie
The dramatic moments were recorded by a single television camera setup permanently in the assembly room.
The confrontation took an even more dramatic turn when Sergeant-at-Arms René Marc Jalbert, the picture of calm neutrality in a beige overcoat, with an unlit cigarette in his mouth, stepped in to calm Lortie down. Over the next hours, Jalbert — a veteran of the Second World War and the Korean War — talked with the troubled soldier.
Despite his cool demeanour, Jalbert later recalled how nervous he was.
“I said, 'If you keep on shooting we can’t have a conversation,'” Jalbert told CBC News after the ordeal was over.
Jalbert eventually convinced Lortie to move to his basement office, where the situation came to an end.
A year later the dramatic footage from the National Assembly was released and the CBC’s current affairs program The Journal created an English-language audio re-enactment using the original footage. The result is dramatic and raw, giving audiences their first look at the events behind the story that had dominated headlines around the country.
In 1985, Lortie was convicted of first-degree murder and eventually pleaded guilty to reduced charges of second-degree murder. He was released from prison in 1996 on parole. Jalbert died of cancer that same year at the age of 74.