MONTREAL - The accused Quebec election-night shooter is being sent for a psychiatric evaluation after delivering a lengthy rant in court Friday about how he was sent on a mission by Jesus Christ to rid Quebec of its "separatist problem."
Richard Henry Bain appeared in a Montreal courtroom for what was supposed to have been a routine date-setting.
The appearance wound up being anything but routine.
Bain entered the courtroom wearing a white T-shirt and delivered a greeting, both upon his arrival and before exiting, reminiscent of a priestly message to a congregation: "May God bless you all," he said as he entered and left the room.
He began his monologue by telling the court that he wanted to recognize what he called a holy day of remembrance — the Dec. 7 anniversary of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack.
Bain ignored repeated requests from Quebec court Judge Robert Marchi to stop veering off-topic and just focus on the initial question from his lawyer: Do you understand why you are here?
"I am a Christian soldier and ... we will never surrender to fight the evil separatists," said the 62-year-old suspect, in a deep voice that carried across the courtroom.
"I fight for freedom, democracy, justice and to speak one's mother's tongue."
Bain referred several times to Jesus and described a messianic mission in which Christ had chosen him as his ambassador: "I am here today because my lord and saviour has given me his vision of peace and harmony for all Canadians," he said.
"This national separatist problem, that has been going on for 45 years, will be no more."
He was asked if he would answer additional questions. Bain replied: "Ask any questions you like. This is the court of Jesus Christ."
He was asked whether he understood that he was facing a charge of first-degree murder and Bain replied: "Yes.... (But) Christian soldiers don't murder."
The fishing-lodge owner faces 16 charges, including first-degree murder; three counts of attempted murder; arson; and a number of weapons charges stemming from the Sept. 4 incident where two people were shot and one was killed.
Bain answered, "Yes," twice when asked by his lawyer if he understood that he was being charged with the murder of Denis Blanchette, a 48-year-old stagehand at the PQ's victory rally, who was shot outside Montreal's Metropolis concert hall.
After the monologue, the judge hearing the case agreed that a psychiatric assessment was necessary. Bain will return to court on Dec. 17.
The question of whether the election-night shooting had been motivated by politics or madness — or both — has been a subject of intense speculation in Quebec.
On Friday, Montreal's Le Devoir newspaper carried an opinion piece arguing that English-language media were to blame for inspiring the killer's actions. It went on to suggest that the shooting revealed, "maybe more than we think about the Canadian political reality."
Prominent politicians have been more tight-lipped.
However, Premier Pauline Marois has made news by weighing in on the case. She told a television show that she believes she may have been the target of a political assassination attempt on election night.
Marois said she realized hours after the attack that she was likely the intended target. She added that mental-health issues alone couldn't explain the incident.
"I believe it was an assassination attempt," Marois said during an appearance on Radio-Canada's Tout le monde en parle on Sunday, using the French word, "attentat."
"The person could have had serious psychological problems, for sure. But the fact is that when he acted, he acted against a sovereigntist while expressing his concerns for anglophones...
"I believe there was a political component to that attack."
The premier had previously said little about the Sept. 4 events. During his arrest that night, Bain shouted that, "Anglophones are waking up!"
On Friday, in response to a question from a reporter, Marois repeated her opinion that it was probably an assassination attempt.
But she stressed that she did not blame English-speaking media for the tragedy.
Bain's legal-aid attorney explained Friday why she had requested an evaluation. She said it had been impossible to prepare a defence for him despite trying multiple times to discuss the case with him.
"He's not able to give us any rational information to work on his defence, he's unable to make sensible, wise decisions after being advised by counsel," said Elfriede Duclervil. "Because of that, the judge determined he had reasonable grounds to order an assessment to determine if he's unfit to stand trial."
Duclervil said Bain understands that he's before a judge and that he has a lawyer. She said he even knew Friday that it was the anniversary of the bombings at Pearl Harbor.
"(But) fitness (to stand trial) has to do more with knowing where you are in time and space," Duclervil said.
She said communication with Bain had been "difficult." Considering their discussions in recent days and weeks, Duclervil said, she felt it was time to raise the question of fitness.
The Crown's only request was that the evaluation be conducted by a doctor that hadn't already seen Bain. The assessment will be done by an independent psychiatrist at Montreal's Pinel Institute. By law, the assessment takes five days.
Duclervil also explained that an internal investigation had been conducted into Bain's allegation that he was attacked before a court appearance in October.
Bain arrived on that date with a pair of fresh scrapes atop his bald scalp — one the size of a loonie, the other as big as a nickel. He'd claimed a guard had pushed him.
The lawyer said Friday that there was nothing to prove Bain had been attacked and she said he didn't see his attacker.