Blue Line

Inquest into slain Quebec officer looks at lack of oversight for mental-health cases

February 14, 2024  By Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

Feb. 14, 2024, Montreal, Que. – The last psychiatrist to speak to a mentally ill Quebec man before he fatally stabbed a provincial police sergeant last March had a particularly difficult phone call with him days before the killing, a coroner’s inquest heard Wednesday.

Dr. Hélène Poirier was assigned to Isaac Brouillard Lessard’s case in February 2022. Testifying on the third day of the inquiry, Poirier said that during a phone call on March 22, 2023, Brouillard Lessard became angry and insulting, yelling at her to the point where she hung up.

“I was more upset than worried, because it was the same message that I hard heard before … for me, it was the Isaac I knew,” she told the inquiry.

The call was just five days before provincial police Sgt. Maureen Breau was killed while she and her colleagues attempted to arrest Brouillard Lessard, in Louiseville, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal.


The 35-year-old Brouillard Lessard stabbed Breau with a kitchen knife and seriously injured her colleague before he was shot dead by police.

Poirier was one of several psychiatrists to testify this week about the treatment Brouillard Lessard received stretching back a decade. She noted that the day after the conversation, a calmer Brouillard Lessard called back and they were able to schedule a meeting for April.

On Monday, a member of Quebec’s independent police watchdog testified that police had visited Brouillard Lessard three days before he killed Breau, after his parents expressed concern about his deteriorating mental state. They did not arrest him.

Poirier described Brouillard Lessard as being stable without exhibiting any signs of psychosis during the year he was her patient. Despite being difficult to deal with, she noted Brouillard Lessard also agreed to several increases in the dosage of his anti-psychotic medications and cycled through several jobs.

She said she had difficulty reaching Brouillard Lessard between April and October 2022 because he was working. Coroner Géhane Kamel raised questions about the months-long gap, given that Brouillard Lessard had been under the supervision of the province’s mental-health board — commission d’examen des troubles mentaux — since 2014 after being found not criminally responsible for five offences.

“It would have been preferable that there had been meetings,” Poirier acknowledged.

Brouillard Lessard’s erratic behaviour led a team of case workers who had been following him for a year to close his file in December 2022. The team decided to put an end to it because Brouillard Lessard wasn’t collaborating, was difficult to deal with and often refused the services offered to him.

Marie-Maude Beaulieu, a case worker on that team, said that although he refused the case workers’ services, Brouillard Lessard was stable with no documented psychotic relapses or criminal incidents during 2022. “When we closed the file, we didn’t have any worries for Isaac,” Beaulieu said.

Kamel raised concerns that there was no safety net for Brouillard Lessard — other than his parents, who kept tabs on his mental health from afar and called authorities with their concerns.

“We can’t follow everyone that has a criminal past,” Beaulieu said, adding: “It’s utopian to think case workers can always make a difference. It’s a big burden on the backs of those workers.”

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