(Amqui) The Premier of Quebec, François Legault, and the three leaders of the opposition met Thursday morning with the citizens of Amqui, who remain affected since a van hit groups of pedestrians last Monday, killing two people and resulting in nine injuries.
Mr. Legault, Liberal Marc Tanguay, solidarity Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and PQ Paul St-Pierre-Plamondon heard from local citizens and politicians, including the prefect of La Matapédia, Chantale Lavoie, and the mayor of Amqui, Sylvie Blanchette. The Bloc member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, Kristina Michaud, and the PQ member for Matane-Matapédia, Pascal Bérubé, were also present.
“The challenge is to grieve, but then go back to a normal life,” Mr. Legault told Ms. Lavoie, who is herself a native of the city.
Prime Minister Legault also heard the testimony of a man who was also almost mowed down by the van, before being saved in extremis by his wife. He said he was talking to one of the victims, Gérald Charest, when the vehicle pulled up on the sidewalk.
“My girlfriend said, ‘Watch out, someone’s coming.’ He [the vehicle] passed within a foot of me, ”said the man, who had been going out for the first time since the tragedy.
“You owe him a whole lot,” replied the prime minister, pointing to his wife.
“I owe him my whole life. She saved me,” the citizen added.
A scrum is to take place later in the morning.
Steeve Gagnon, a 38-year-old man from the Amqui area, faces two counts of dangerous driving causing death. The prosecutor on record said other charges should be brought against the driver.
Earlier this week, Premier Legault said his visit to the shaken community was meant as a heartwarming gesture. He traveled to Laval a few weeks ago for a similar tragedy, when a man driving a Société de transport de Laval (STL) bus crashed into a building housing a daycare centre, which cost life with two children.
A candlelight vigil is planned in front of the Saint-Benoit-Joseph-Labre church in Amqui on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Friday evening, Kindé Cosme Arouko, the priest responsible for the 22 parishes of the Matapédia Valley, will celebrate a mass with the Archbishop of Rimouski, Denis Grondin, to honor the victims of the carnage in Amqui.
Father Arouko chose texts and prayers from Friday Mass, in an attempt to make sense of what is considered foolish and to provide comfort. He said he would send a message of hope and that despite the difficult times, the world does not stop.