A humble lighting technician was laid to rest in a civic funeral attended by people with fame and power, as churchgoers mourned his death in a shooting with political overtones.
The funeral of Denis Blanchette offered striking contrasts.
On one side of the church, there was premier-designate Pauline Marois and a number of famous politicians Monday. On the other, weeping relatives and friends — some of them wearing casual work clothes.
The sorrowful event was prompted by a killing that made international news: a shooting at the Parti Quebecois’ election-night party that police say might have been targeting Marois.
Two people were struck by bullets. Blanchette, a $15-an-hour technician who had filled in for a colleague’s shift earlier in the day, was killed instantly.
In his eulogy a close friend suggested Blanchette’s courage might have prevented a bigger bloodbath. Blanchette was in back of the club when the shooter entered and some witnesses have suggested he might have obstructed him.
“You left through the big door, buddy — true to yourself,” said his friend, Denis Bourgault, in the eulogy.
“You thought about others, not yourself… Au revoir, my brother. I love you.”
After that eulogy, a tearful note to Blanchette was read from the altar.
Outside the church, there was heavy security.
A perimeter of nearly a full city block was erected outside the church in east-end Montreal. A crowd of onlookers gathered in the distance, beyond the line of red police tape.
Marois was at the funeral, as were a number of other dignitaries and federal and provincial politicians. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and outgoing premier Jean Charest were not there but were represented by cabinet ministers.
In his sermon, the priest presiding over the Roman-Catholic mass asked everyone to pray for the other shooting victim, Dave Courage, who is recovering in hospital. He also asked churchgoers to pray for everyone impacted by the event which, he said, came in “a context of violence, of folly.”
As guests entered St-Donat church in east-end Montreal, a violinist had greeted them with sorrowful songs, including the Beatles’ Yesterday.
A framed photo of Blanchette was on a stand in front of the altar.
Civic funerals are usually reserved for public figures as well as police officers slain in the line of duty.
The idea of honouring Blanchette came up last week when the PQ leader, Marois, and outgoing premier Jean Charest met to discuss the transition of power.
The flag at the Quebec legislature is also flying at half-mast.
The man charged in the killing of Blanchette, Richard Henry Bain, faces 16 charges including first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and arson.
Police are investigating whether the suspect might have been trying to kill Marois. Authorities say it’s possible other charges might be added.
Bain next appears in court Oct. 11 to face the charges.