The lack of public outings by elected officials from the Plante government last week following the three killings in Montreal and Laval was denounced by the official opposition at City Hall on Wednesday.
“[Il y a eu] a total lack of proactivity […]. It can be seen that this was not a priority,” protested opposition official spokesman for public security Abdelhaq Sari during a press scuffle on Wednesday.
As a reminder, suspect Abdulla Shaikh murdered the first two victims Tuesday night before killing a third the following day. The modus operandi was the same each time; he hit his presumably random targets at point-blank range with a bullet in the head.
The man was shot dead by police early Thursday morning after he was surrounded in a gun battle at a motel in the Saint-Laurent neighborhood.
But it wasn’t until after his death that Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante first spoke out, through a series of tweets. Unavailable, she spoke to the media for the first time last Sunday.
For his part, the head of Public Safety on the Executive Council, Alain Vaillancourt, addressed the media for the first time since Wednesday’s events, expressing his condolences in particular to the families of the victims and praising the work of the Montreal City Police Department (SPVM).
In a press scramble, he admitted he was abroad during the events.
“We weren’t late. A crisis team was immediately set up at City Hall. Life goes on there even though I’m not here. In such a situation, when you don’t have all the facts, it’s important to let the SPVM do its job,” he defended.
Danielle Pilette, a professor at UQAM and a specialist in local politics, draws a parallel to the Montreal floods of 1987, in which a man drowned in his car. Then-mayor Jean Doré had refused to cut short his vacation to return to Montreal to reassure citizens.
“It’s always a mistake not to have a prominent figure available to occupy the public space in case something unexpected happens,” argued Ms. Pilette. Ex-Mayor Doré made that mistake and it cost him the next election.
In the events of the past week, the city administration was content with a few short written statements and did not send anyone to public speeches.
“In the Plante administration we see that everything revolves around Ms. Plante herself. In my opinion, the members of the Board of Directors are not as mobilized for interventions in the media as they should be,” Ms. Pilette also stressed.
On Wednesday morning, during an executive committee meeting, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said she was “satisfied” to know that the coroner would be investigating the series of random killings.
“What happened last week remains an isolated event that can be compared to what happened in Quebec with this man attacking various people with a saber,” Mayor Plante said.
She then referenced Carl Girouard attacking random people with a Japanese sword on Halloween 2020, killing two and injuring five others.
“What we’re realizing in both cases is that mental health is at the heart of this insanity that has led these people to do terrible things,” Ms Plante said.
The mayor also pointed out that working on the “systemic causes” that can prompt people to take action is important for a safe city.