The accused gunman in Quebec’s fatal election-night shooting has been sent for a psychiatric assessment after delivering a prolonged courtroom rant in which he cast himself as a divine emissary on a mission to fight separatists.
Richard Henry Bain entered a Montreal court and in short order called out, “God bless you all,” to the assembled crowd. He then launched into a lengthy tirade that touched on Christianity, language rights, separatism and the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbour.
Mr. Bain is charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 4 shooting outside the Parti Québécois victory rally in Montreal that claimed the life of a stagehand. As he was led away by police that night, he shouted, “The English are waking up.”
Public figures, mindful of political and language tensions in the province, initially cast the violent attack as the work of a disturbed individual. But in comments aired this week, Premier Pauline Marois took the unusual step of weighing in on the case, calling the shooting a politically motivated attempt on her life. Ms. Marois was giving her victory speech to supporters inside the downtown Métropolis concert hall when the violence erupted outside.
“That person might have had major psychological problems, I understand,” Ms. Marois said on a television talk-show aired last Sunday. “But when he made his move, he made it against a sovereigntist while demonstrating the fact he feared for anglophones. I believe there was a political aspect to the attack.”
The Parti Québécois Premier said it was only later in the night that she came to realize: “I was the target.”
Mr. Bain’s behaviour in court is likely to fuel further questions about his politics and his state of mind. First, the 62-year-old hunting-lodge operator started off in court by invoking Friday’s date – Dec. 7, the anniversary of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour – and called it a “holy day of remembrance.” He said that Allied soldiers fought for the freedom to speak one’s mother tongue, and he was engaged in the same fight.
“The Lord has given me a vision for peace and harmony for all Canadians,” he went on to say.
“This national separatist problem has been ongoing for 45 years, but no more,” he said. He called himself as the ambassador of Jesus Christ, and said Canadians would “never surrender to fight the evil separatists.” Asked by his defence lawyer, Elfriede Duclervil, whether he understood he was accused of murder, he replied: “Yes,” before adding, “Christian soldiers don’t murder.”
Before being led away with a slightly bemused look, he waved and smiled to the people in the courtroom – including a friend of slain stagehand Denis Blanchette – then again called out, “God bless you all.”
Quebec Court Judge Robert Marchi agreed to send Mr. Bain for an independent psychiatric evaluation to weigh whether he is fit to stand trial. Outside the courtroom, Ms. Duclervil said she has had trouble getting her client to provide her with information to allow her to prepare her defence. “Each time, he speaks this way,” she told reporters.
Mr. Bain faces 16 criminal charges including first-degree murder, attempted murder, arson and weapons-related charges. He returns to court on Dec. 17.