Election shooting stuns Quebec
A masked gunman shot dead one person inside the Montreal theatre where the leader of Quebec's separatist Parti Quebecois was addressing supporters in the wake of a narrow election win in the Canadian province, police said today.
The incident was shocking for Canada, where crime rates are relatively low and political violence is unheard of.
The shooting eclipsed the news that the Parti Quebecois had only just defeated the ruling Liberals and would have to be content with a minority government, effectively ruling out another referendum on breaking away from Canada.
Pauline Marois, the first female premier of Quebec, had just told her supporters the province would one day be independent when her bodyguards rushed her from the stage. She later returned to finish her speech.
Montreal police spokesman Danny Richer said a man aged about 50 entered the back of the Metropolis theater at about midnight (4am Irish time) and shot two people. Police said a man in his 40s died on the spot, another was taken to hospital in a critical condition. The suspect also set fire to the back of the building.
RDI television showed pictures of police subduing a large man with a rifle who was dressed in a black cape and a black face mask.
He appeared to shout in French the phrase "The English are waking up". Ms Marois had promised to strengthen laws designed to ensure the dominance of the French language, which has worried some in the minority English-speaking community.
"We are appalled by this violence," said Carl Vallee, a spokesman for federal prime minister Stephen Harper.
La Presse newspaper cited security sources as saying Montreal police had cordoned off a truck they suspected contained weapons. Other Canadian media outlets said the dead man was a technician at the theatre and the badly wounded man was a driver of the PQ campaign bus.
The last political killing in Canada occurred in October 1970, when a radical Quebec nationalist group kidnapped provincial Labor Minister Pierre Laporte and a British diplomat. Laporte was later found strangled.
The PQ won 54 of the 125 seats in the provincial legislature, ending nine years of rule by the Liberals.
Previous PQ governments held independence referendums in 1980 and 1995, but both failed. Although Ms Marois is promising another vote when the time is right, that could be years away. The most recent poll shows only 28 per cent of Quebecers back separation from the rest of Canada.
Ms Marois had promised to concentrate first on the economy, in particular tackling the province's large debt, imposing higher tax and royalty rates on mining firms and making foreign takeovers of Quebec companies more difficult.