Quebec's health minister apologized profusely Wednesday after suggesting earlier in the day that election-night shooter Richard Henry Bain acted partly out of frustration with the political rhetoric in the province.
Gaetan Barrette's comments were quickly seized upon by political opponents who accused him of suggesting Quebec sovereigntists should moderate their tone to discourage violence against them.
Interim Parti Quebecois leader Sylvain Gaudreault said Barrette's comments left him "speechless."
Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette walks to a caucus meeting on April 12, 2016 in Quebec City. (Photo: Jacques Boissinot/CP)
"It is unacceptable that an elected member of the national assembly, and a minister to boot, has made a link between a legitimate and democratic political position and the attack at the Metropolis (nightclub)," Gaudreault said.
PQ leadership candidate Martine Ouellet called on Barrette to resign.
The health minister was asked Wednesday morning about Bain's conviction a day earlier on one charge of second-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.
Bain started shooting outside the venue in 2012 where PQ supporters had gathered to celebrate their election victory.
"It is unacceptable that an elected member of the national assembly, and a minister to boot, has made a link between a legitimate and democratic political position and the attack."
"When you stir things up too much, sometimes things like that can happen," Barrette told reporters in English. "We don't want it to happen again. But it did and we need to prevent that and in many ways we need to make sure the arguments and speeches we give are measured and direct to the point — and even then, anything can happen."
Later in the day, Barrette returned to the microphone during a news conference and said he was sorry.
He said his original comments weren't about any one political party and that he was including himself in his remarks about the need for politicians to be careful about what they say.
'I sincerely apologize'
"If my comments offended anyone I sincerely apologize," Barrette said. "I had no intention — not today or before — to make any link between those events and my comments or any political party whatsoever."
During Bain's trial, jurors heard how the accused had stated he wanted to kill "as many separatists as possible" and also to murder premier-designate Pauline Marois.
Bain, an anglophone Quebecer, had vented to friends and family about how he believed sovereigntists were encroaching on his rights and ruining the province.
Many people wondered why Bain wasn't charged with terrorism or with attempting to murder Marois, who was speaking to supporters as he began shooting.
Bain vented about sovereigntists
Dennis Galiatsatos, the Crown prosecutor at the trial, said Bain's comments about wanting to kill separatists came to light only during the testimony of a defence witness.
He said he was appointed to the case after the charges had been filed.
"Would (the new evidence) have changed the nature of the accusations? Maybe, but I'd rather not speculate," he told reporters Tuesday shortly after the jury rendered its verdict.
"I'm very comfortable with the charges as they were and as I prosecuted them. "I think that's an accurate and fair depiction of the evidence that we had."