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As Quebec Elects New Premier, Gunman Opens Fire On Her Victory Celebration

Pauline Marois and her husband in Quebec City, after casting their votes in Tuesday's provincial election.
Jacques Boissinot
Pauline Marois and her husband in Quebec City, after casting their votes in Tuesday's provincial election.

It's a big political victory: Pauline Marois, the head of the separatist Parti Quebecois, was elected Tuesday as Quebec's first female premier. But her celebratory speech early today was marred when a masked gunman burst into the Montreal hall and started shooting.

The attack left one dead and one injured, according to AP; the gunman was apprehended. Officers also had to put out a fire they suspect the alleged gunman set in the hall. Marois was rushed out of the hall unharmed; she later returned to the podium to ask supporters to follow police instructions to disperse.

Several reports indicate the suspected gunman shouted "the English are waking up!" A Montreal police commander says officials are investigating whether the gunman intended to hurt Marois; they say he had more than one gun, according to CNN.

There's tension between the French speaking Quebecers and English speaking Anglophones over the province's political future and its cultural identity. Marois' party wants Quebec to break away from Canada and create a new country, highlighting the French language and Francophone identity. But as AP reports, in votes taken in 1980 and 1995 Quebecers rejected independence.

Supporters at last night's rally reportedly shouted, 'We want our country', according to the Globe and Mail. But Marois tried to reassure others by speaking in English; while she would push for Quebec's independence, she would also protect the rights of Anglophone Quebecers.

The Parti Quebecois strongly supports Bill 101, the province's law that reaffirms the main language is French. Marois wants to widen its reach; for example, she wants to require all businesses with 11 employees or more to conduct all communication in French, notes the CBC.

Marois has also promised to reverse university tuition hikes. These sparked months of student demonstrations and may have contributed to the Parti Quebecois' defeat of the governing Liberals, according to the Globe and Mail.

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Korva Coleman is a newscaster for NPR.

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