Marie-Jo remembered Denis Blanchette on Wednesday as someone who willingly filled in for her on a job, even though he had already been working steadily. The father of a young daughter himself, he sympathized when she had to pick up her child at school.
Then the woman, who didn’t give her last name, went to vote in the election which would be forever marked by her colleague’s death.
She bristled at suggestions that the slaying of the man she called her best friend had any political overtones when he was fatally shot by a gunman trying to crash premier-designate Pauline Marois’ victory party Tuesday night.
“Stop with the politics, OK?” Marie-Jo shouted at one point to a candlelight vigil Wednesday evening outside the club where Mr. Blanchette was killed. “There was nothing political about this. A damned mental case killed my friend.”
To his friends, Mr. Blanchette wasn’t a symbol of political violence or tensions between English and French in Quebec.
He was a dedicated father, a rock-steady colleague and a good buddy.
And Wednesday evening those friends — and hundreds who didn’t even know the 48-year-old lighting technician — packed a downtown Montreal street to remember him in an act of togetherness that sought to sweep aside the political overtones that tainted the last moments of his life.
Finger-pointing had followed the attack, which also saw another man wounded and an attempt to burn the back of the building where thousands had gathered to celebrate the Parti Quebecois’ return to power.
Some people blame the incident on tensions in the wake of Ms. Marois’ vows to toughen language laws when a suspect arrested by police proclaimed anglophones were “waking up.” Others blame unrest from student protests. Many francophones also point fingers at anglophone media for stirring up anti-PQ hatred.
Marie-Jo would have nothing of it.
“He gave his life for $15 an hour,” she said.
Marie-Jo, who worked with Mr. Blanchette at Productions du Grand Bambou, described how technicians there are a close-knit group, sometimes spending 80 to 90 hours a week with each other.
“We’re a family,” she said. “Today, we’ve lost a member of our family.”
Mr. Blanchette was the father of three-year-old daughter who lives in Rouyn-Noranda.
“She lost her father today,” Marie-Jo thundered, her anger at the unjust loss wrestling with her obvious grief.
Another friend, who gave no name and pulled a baseball cap low over his face, cracked a beer and took a sip in a toast to his friend before placing it in a sidewalk shrine outside the club where people had laid flowers and other tributes, including technicians’ cables.
Despite the feelings of brotherhood, a few people groaned when one of the organizers said he wanted to address them in English near the start of the gathering but that was not a prevalent feeling.
“We are here today, united as a family, crying for what we love — Quebec,” said George Stamatis, one of the organizers of the vigil. “Yesterday was a sad night for Quebec.
“We are crying here today because this act does not represent any of our values .... This act does not represent democracy, this act does not represent who we are as Quebecois.”
Mr. Stamatis, who didn’t know Mr. Blanchette, helped organize the event via social media. Besides the testimonials, people also observed a moment of silence.
Mr. Stamatis, who said he helped organize response teams in the aftermath of a gunman’s rampage at Montreal’s Dawson College in 2006, said afterward he was stunned when he learned what had happened at the PQ celebration.
“I almost fell off my chair,” said Mr. Stamatis, who was watching election coverage with a friend. “I couldn’t believe it.... I can barely stand thinking about it.”
Follow us on Twitter: