'It is unbearable': Canadian victims of Burkina Faso attack mourned
Published Sunday, January 17, 2016 10:10AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, January 17, 2016 5:52PM EST
Friends and colleagues of the six Quebecers who were killed in the deadly terror attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, while on a humanitarian mission, are expressing their shock and grief over the deaths.
Yves Carrier, a retired teacher, his wife Gladys Chamberland, and their adult children Charlelie and Maude, from Lac-Beauport, Que., have been identified as four of the victims of the massacre.
A school in the Quebec City area, Jean de Brebeuf, identified one of its former teachers, Louis Chabot, as the fifth victim.
Sister Yolande Blier, a representative of the Quebec-City religious community that helped organize the trip Africa, identified the sixth victim as Suzanne Bernier.
Rose-Anne Rousseau, who also helped co-ordinate the mission, said the group spent much of their time helping to paint and repair a school.
The six Canadians were among the estimated 28 people who died when terrorists stormed the Splendid Hotel at about 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Rousseau said that three of the Canadian victims had been planning on flying out of the country on the evening of attacks.
"They had come back to pack their bags, and were having one last dinner before going to the airport," she said.
Blier, who worked in Burkina Faso for more than a decade, said that Yves Carrier and Chamberland were committed humanitarians who had made several trips to the region.
"I think they fell in love with Burkina Faso," she said. "They loved the values of the Burkinabe, they loved the welcome there," she said.
Karine Paquet, who has been friends with Maude Carrier since high school, said that she didn't know anyone "who didn't love Maude."
"She had a beautiful soul, a marvellous generosity, she knew how to welcome people, she was respectful and loving... the most beautiful person I ever met," Paquet told The Canadian Press.
Paquet said that her friend was emotional when she spoke to her over the phone before she left for Africa.
"It was painful for her to leave her two little daughters to go there, but at the same time she knew she would live an extraordinary experience," she said.
A Quebec City school board said four of the victims, including Carrier, were current or retired teachers in the area.
The board expressed its grief over their deaths on its Facebook page.
"The commission scholaire de la Capitale learned with dismay of the death of two members of our teaching staff, as well as two retired principals in the attacks Friday in Burkina Faso," said the post.
The Musique Brebeuf program, which is part of the board, said that three of the victims worked at the school. Yves Carrier was the school's former assistant principal, Maude taught French to young children, and Chabot was a math teacher.
"Colleagues and friends, we have all been blessed to know them. They will always be some of the kindest, most authentic and generous people we have known," The Musique Brebeuf program wrote on its Facebook page.
"Today, mourning and grief overwhelm us," it added. "But our thoughts are with Yves Richard, spouse of Maude, and their two daughters who live these difficult times. We send them our deepest sympathies."
Nicolas Begin, a spokesman for Quebec's Natural Resources Department, confirmed that Chamberland was a communications specialist who had worked at the ministry since 2008.
Begin said that Chamberland was always pleasant, and was passionate about her humanitarian trips.
"It was something that animated her, that she held close to her heart and believed in," Begin said.
The mayor of Lac-Beauport, Louise Brunet, told CTV Montreal that the town, 25 kilometres north of Quebec City, was shocked to hear about the deaths.
"I cannot believe it. It is unbearable when people, so kind, so generous, and something like that happens," said Brunet.
Brunet said she didn't know the Carrier family personally, but she used to teach music, and one of the children had taken some lessons.
"Many of my students were friends of Charlelie, and they are really in shock," she said.
Brunet said that the town's flags are flying at half-mast in their honour.
In a speech earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a moment of silence in solidarity with the victims' families, who, he said, "are suffering an unspeakable and tragic loss."
"Yesterday we got some terrible news from Africa," Trudeau said while speaking at an Ontario mosque. "Six of our fellow citizens were murdered in a brutal act of violent terrorism in Burkina Faso."
‘A quiet country’
Patrick Gagnon, a Canadian who has lived in the West African country for four years, said he was shocked by the violent attack.
"I mean it happened in (Mali) … but we never expected that to happen in Burkina Faso," Gagnon told CTV News Channel on Sunday.
"It is kind of a quiet country."
Gagnon originally went to the country as part of a humanitarian mission, but now works in the mining business.
He said that his office in Ouagadougoo is 100 metres from the Splendid Hotel, where he often brings his clients from abroad.
"This hotel has lots of Canadian people or European people that I bring to sleep there," he said. "So, I know this place by heart."
With files from CTV Montreal and The Canadian Press