For Anthony Di Monte, December 6, 1989 was the day Canada lost its innocence

He was a senior officer at Montreal’s paramedic service that day and attended the call early in the evening to the University of Montreal’s École Polytechnique, where Marc Lépine killed 14 women and injured 14 other people, including 10 women, before taking his own life.

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December 6, 1989 was in Anthony Di Monte’s consciousness the day Canada changed when the kind of violent mass shootings we had only read about elsewhere, especially in the United States – the shooting at the post office in Edward, Okla. , three years earlier, for example, or the one at a McDonald’s in San Diego two years before that – arrived at our doorstep.

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“I think that was the day we all lost our innocence,” he says. “We lost our innocence as a country. We realized that this could happen, too. “

Di Monte, who recently retired as Ottawa’s general manager for Emergency and Protective Services, was a senior officer in Montreal’s paramedic service that day and attended the call early in the evening for the University of Montreal’s École Polytechnique, in which Marc Lépine killed 14 women and wounded 14 others. people, including 10 women, before taking his own life.

“It was the first time we had something like this,” Di Monte recalls.

Di Monte clearly remembers details from the day one involves Montreal’s then director of police communications, Pierre Leclair. The couple only knew each other professionally; in those days, the police handled all media communication, and therefore the two occasionally met for briefing sessions before Leclair spoke to reporters.

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“And in this profession, you need some professional distance,” Di Monte adds. “As healthcare providers, you see some terrible things, but you do not see patients – and I hate to say this – as individuals. You see them as patients: ‘What are my priorities? Okay, they do not breathe. I have to intubate them.’ That kind of thing. You have that professional distance. “

At an early scrum that day, Leclair told media he would get more information and return. Di Monte, meanwhile, was waiting for the command post at Leclair, which never arrived.

“He never came back because when he went into school, I was informed that his daughter, Maryse, was one of the victims,” ​​Di Monte said.

It was later revealed that Maryse Leclair, who had been shot, shouted for help, whereupon Lépine returned and stabbed her to death before turning his gun on himself.

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“(Leclair) found his daughter with this guy next to him. And it took the professional distance for me for the first time.”

Earlier in the incident, Di Monte was rattled by another revelation.

Things were different back then, when paramedics typically only entered a scene after police tactical units had been through, and not with them.

But as Di Monte walked through the building to treat victims – before reaching the classroom where Lépine had separated the male and female students and killed six of the women and injured three others – one of his paramedic colleagues looked up at him and remarked: God, this guy is killing the women.

“And we were all taken by surprise, because it had not clicked until then that the first five or six patients we had treated were all women. That was when we realized this guy had gone in there to kill women. This was something on a different level than what we had seen before. It sent a shock wave through all of us.

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“What makes a man do that,” he wonders. “To this day, I still do not understand it.”

The event helped Di Monte, especially as he taught paramedic students in Montreal, advising them to look for signs and ask both themselves and patients more questions when watching incidents at home.

“I think my suspicion index rose more, and I probably became a better doctor as a result because I was more alert.”

The Montreal massacre also led to changes in emergency tactics and preparation, changes Di Monte believes prevented what could have been a far worse outcome during a 1992 shooting at Montreal’s Concordia University in which four people were killed and one injured.

“It changed the way the police intervene, and on the medical side, and certainly with paramedic services, we completely changed our treatment models.”

bdeachman@postmedia.com

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