(Amqui) The Premier of Quebec walked on Thursday at the scene of the Amqui tragedy, where 11 pedestrians were deliberately hit by a driver on Monday. He spoke for almost an hour with a large crowd and promised to invest more in mental health.
“We have difficulty finding words. We feel a little guilty. We think, what more can we do for mental health? It’s not always easy,” said François Legault. “People have to agree to go get help. Sometimes you may have to force them to seek help. »
“I can’t reveal everything, it’s March 21,” added Mr. Legault in reference to the tabling of the next budget expected on Tuesday. “But what I can tell you is that yes, we will add funding for health, social services and mental health. It’s important to keep investing. »
The Prime Minister visited Amqui on Thursday along with the leaders of the opposition parties, Marc Tanguay, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.
The municipality of Bas-Saint-Laurent was shaken by the mad dash of Steeve Gagnon, a citizen of Amqui who ran into innocent pedestrians with his van. The elected officials laid flowers not far from the place where Gérald Charest, 65, and Jean Lafrenière, 73, were fatally struck.
The Prime Minister’s team did not expect such a dense crowd. Some 150 people showed up and the visit lasted longer than expected.
“It’s warm that the Prime Minister comes to see us at home, it’s a balm,” said Jean-Eudes Fournier, who narrowly avoided the wheels of the driver’s black Ford F-150.
“My wife saved my life. If she hadn’t pushed me, the truck would run over me, ”said the man who was able to tell his misadventure to the Prime Minister. Just before the vehicle rolled out, Mr. Fournier was in conversation with Gérald Charest. “I was the last to speak to him. »
Viky Durette also came to speak to elected officials. “It’s surprising to see all these people in Amqui. We feel visible, when we often have the impression of being invisible. »
She was still trying to understand how the municipality of 6,200 inhabitants lived through such a tragedy. “We have so much sweetness in our valley,” she said. We are so calm. »
The Prime Minister had traveled to Laval a few weeks ago for a similar tragedy, when a man drove into a daycare center with a bus.
“It’s true in Quebec and it’s true elsewhere in the world: there are more and more of these kinds of acts as a result of mental health problems. We added resources with the pandemic, but we need to add even more,” said François Legault.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister invited the people of Amqui to “stick together”. He asks them to walk back downtown so that “hope triumphs over madness”.
” It’s hard. When you’re in a smaller town, everyone knows each other. It’s the wife, the brother, the brother-in-law, the son-in-law… So it’s even harder, he said. But the good thing is that people know each other. I ask people, on the weekend, stick together, don’t be alone. »
Monday’s attack left two dead, nine injured and left the small town in shock. The residents, like the police, are still trying to understand why the 38-year-old trucker committed these seemingly deliberate actions.
Steve Gagnon keeps his secret. The man appeared at the Amqui courthouse on Tuesday and did not say a single word as he walked past reporters.
He was charged with dangerous driving causing the death of Gérald Charest and Jean Lafrenière, both of Amqui. The Crown is not ruling out the possibility of laying murder charges if the investigation permits.