Despite our reputation as a peaceful 'please and thank you' people, Canada, like any quiet meadow, has its share of spoiled apples. Perhaps statistics show we aren't as angry as those enjoying their freedom to the south of us, but Canada can be as dark as any cobwebbed corner.
During the production of The Night Time Podcast, I've realized many of our stories don't travel across international borders. Perhaps our reputation would be a little different if the world knew the many terrible things that have happened here.
5. The Vernon, BC Wedding Day Massacre
(Apr 6, 1996 Vernon, BC) - 9 dead
25 year old Rajwar Gakhal's arranged marriage had only lasted 6 months before she separated from her husband Marc Chahal, claiming he had been violent and abusive. On April 6, 1996 when she was at her family home preparing for her younger sister's marriage that would occur later that day, she would learn how violent he could be.
Without warning, Rajwar's estranged husband Marc Chahal pulled his vehicle up to the curb, and with a gun in each hand began firing while walking toward the Gakhal home. The first to face his wrath was Rajwar's father, who was shot and killed in his driveway. As he collapsed between two parked vehicles, Chahal walked toward the home, first shooting into the windows then entering the home and attacking the family one room at a time. In the end, there would be 9 dead; including Rajwar, her parents, and her bride to be sister... murdered on her wedding day.
As the authorities were attempting to contact the groom, who was on his way to the wedding, Chahal checked into a motel and ended his own life with a gunshot. Chahal's body was found with a suicide note apologizing to his family for the massacre.
4. The Gargantua Nightclub Assassinations
(Jan 21, 1975 Montreal, Quebec) - 13 dead
Richard Blass was a notorious Canadian gangster known for both his brutality and his ability to evade death (earning him the moniker ' The Cat'). During the 1960s, Blass would become heavily involved in the Montreal mafia; working as a hit man for the West End Gang and then branching off and forming his own criminal gang. Using intimidation and increasingly violent means, Blass would wage war on the many established Italian groups active in Montreal.
Blass' ascension through the ranks of the criminal underworld would be halted during a failed 1969 bank robbery. While fleeing the bank, Blass shot a policeman before being arrested. A crime which would earn him a forty year prison sentence.
During the 5th year of his sentence, he successfully carried out a plan to have a female visitor smuggle firearms into the facility. Using the weapons, Blass and a group of conspiring prisoners would make their escape. Shortly after earning another chance at freedom, Blass set out on a mission to get revenge on his two accomplices of the failed 1969 bank robbery that went on to testify against him. When he did find them, it would be at the Gargantua Night Club in Downtown Montreal. In a hail of gunfire, Blass would execute both men.
In the months after this execution, Blass became increasingly concerned that witnesses to the execution in the Gargantua would eventually speak to the police, leading to a more aggressive search for the escaped prisoner (and another lengthy prison sentence). His method of dealing with this problem would result in one of the deadliest mass murders Canada has experienced.
On January 21, 1975, Blass and a fellow gang member would return to the Gargantua Night Club and kill the manager with a gunshot to the head. The pair then used a jukebox to barricade the remaining staff and patrons into a small room in the bar. Next, they would set fire to the building killing thirteen.
Three days later, a tip would lead police to a small chalet Blass had been renting. The responding officers would end Blass' life of crime with 27 bullets.
Medical examiners would find him laying shirtless, his chest littered with bullet wounds, holding a gun void of fingerprints in his right hand… despite being left handed.
3. The École Polytechnique Massacre (The Montreal Massacre)
(Dec 6, 1989 Montreal, Quebec) - 15 dead, 14 injured
On a cold December in 1989, classes were beginning to wrap up for the day at Montreal's Engineering school École Polytechnique. It was just after 4pm that 25 year old Marc Lépine entered the building holding a plastic bag.
After walking the halls for nearly an hour, Lépine, armed now with a semi-automatic rifle, entered a second floor classroom containing 59 students. Upon entering, he ordered the men and women to separate to opposite sides of the class. When the crowd failed to obey his demands, he fired a warning shot into the ceiling. As the classes members separated, now understanding the seriousness of the situation, Lépine ordered the 50 men leave the room, leaving him alone with 9 women.
Lépine addressed the women "Do you know why you are here?", a student replied "No", he snapped back "I am fighting feminism". A student responded "We are just women studying engineering, not necessarily feminists ready to march the streets to shout we are against men" Lépine shouted back "You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists" He then opened fire killing six and wounding three. As he exited the classroom, he picked a pencil off a desk and wrote 'shit' on a student's project.
Lépine would spend the next 18 minutes roaming the hallways shooting at students, specifically targeting women. The end would come in a third floor classroom. As Lépine entered he first shot and wounded a female student at the front of the class, then shot and killed two women trying to make their escape from the room. Next, he singled out a group of women hiding under a desk killing one and wounding two other. At this point, one of the wounded female students begged him for help, which he responded to by unsheathing a hunting knife and fatally stabbing her. Lépine then removed his hat and jacket, said 'Ah shit' and ended his own life with a gunshot to the head.
In total there would be 14 female students killed, one male fatality (Lépine), and fourteen injured.
Leaving little doubt of his motive, Lépine's jacket pocket included a suicide note in which he claimed political motives, specifically his belief that feminists ruined his life. The note also contained a list of nineteen women whom Lépine wanted to target. In a puzzling twist, he also had in his possession a letter addressed to a friend wherein he explained clues were left in his apartment which would lead to an explanation to the massacre… after following the clues, all that was found was a box of computer components and games.
2. Albert Guay's assasination of his wife via airplane bombing
(Sept 9, 1949 Montreal, Quebec) - 23 dead
Quebec, 1949… Albert Guay (a 32 year old watchmaker/jeweler) is living a life that is far from the one he had envisioned. His business was failing and, ever since the birth of his first child, his marriage has been in shambles.
In an attempt to find satisfaction in his otherwise sorry existence, Guay began an extra-marital affair with a 19 year old waitress while using a fake name. For a time, Guay was able to juggle his two lives (going as far as arranging an apartment for his young lover and giving her an engagement ring) but things would turn from bad to worse when his wife discovered the affair, and his mistress refused to continue a relationship with a married man.
With divorce being a complicated proposition in then strictly catholic Quebec, Quay turned to a much more sinister way of gaining his marital freedom.
Guay requested an employee of his build a bomb using dynamite, batteries, and an alarm clock. Days later, He requested the employee's sister (who had also assisted in arranging meetings between Guay and his mistress) deliver a package to a plane for air delivery… not coincidentally, the package was send on the same aircraft he had arranged for his wife to travel to near-by Quebec City on. 41 minutes into the flight, the plane exploded killing all 23 on board, including his wife.
His plot would come to light a week after the bombing when one of his conspirators would attempt suicide and subsequently confess to their part in the crime.
Guay and his two conspirators were tried and convicted in the murders, and all three sentenced to death. While approaching the hangman's noose, in response to media attention the case had received, Guay uttered his final words… "at least I'll die famous".
In the years since this event, doubt has been cast on his "conspirators" knowledge of Guay's intent. The bomb maker claimed he was told it was to destroy a treestump, and his sister who delivered the package claimed she was told it was a priceless statue. Guay is thought to have possibly implicated them as a way to delay his own execution (as he expected to be called to testify at their trials).
1. The Bombing of Air India Flight 182
(June 23, 1985 Vancouver, Bc - Toronto, On - Montreal, Qc) - 329 dead
The Bombing of Flight 182 travelling from Montreal, Quebec to New Delhi, India was suspected to have been carried out by Sikh separatist group Babbar Khalsa. Investigators believe the attack was in retaliation to an Indian Army Operation to remove Sikh militants from the Golden Temple (Sikhism's holiest place of worship) and the surrounding area.
On June 22, 1985, a man using the name Manjit Singh checked his bag onto his flight travelling from Vancouver to Toronto. Mr Singh made the request that his bag be transferred to a connecting flight 181/182 (which would travel from Toronto to New Dehli with stops in Montreal and London). The airline agent initially refused to transfer the baggage as Singh's seat was not yet confirmed for the connecting flights. After some insistence, the baggage was checked. Mr. Singh however did not board the plane.
At the time of the attack, (In response to threats from Sikh Activists) Air India requested additional security measures be placed on flights travelling to India and all baggage was ordered to be checked by X-ray or by hand. In a tragic twist of fate, The X-ray Machine Mr. Singh's baggage should have passed through at the Toronto Airport suffered mechanical failure earlier that day and as an alternative staff used less sensitive handheld explosive detectors as a substitute.
During the London to New Delhi leg of the flight, at 31,000 feet, a bomb built out of a Sanyo stereo exploded from within a suitcase killing all 329 on board.
In a thought to be related incident, a similar bomb exploded an hour prior while being loaded onto a flight from Japan to India. It is believed those responsible planned for both bombs to explode in the air at the same time; however the conspirators failed to account for Japan not observing Daylight Savings Time. This second failed bombing resulted in the death of two baggage handlers, but spared the life of the 177 passengers.
The bombing of Flight 182 is at present the world's deadliest aircraft bombing and the resulting investigation and trial is the most expensive trail in Canadian history (130 million CAD).