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Deadly shooting at acceptance speech
00:46 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

NEW: Pauline Marois says she doesn't think the shooting and campaign were linked

Police say Marois, the new premier, may have been the target of the shooting

Marois' party supports Quebec separating from Canada

Report: The suspect shouts, "The English are waking up!" as he is taken away

CNN  — 

Police in Montreal were working Wednesday to uncover the motive behind a gunman’s midnight attack that left one person dead and another wounded at the victory rally by Quebec’s newly elected premier.

Pauline Marois was speaking to excited supporters near midnight Tuesday when the man, dressed in what appeared to be a bathrobe and face mask and armed with two guns, slipped into the Montreal concert hall and opened fire. He then set a small fire at the venue’s back door, police said.

Amid the chaos, Marois’ security team hustled her off stage. She was not injured, but one person died and another was wounded, according to police.

Minutes later, the 63-year-old returned to thank her supporters and asked the crowd to calmly leave the room.

Police said Wednesday they were trying to determine whether Marois was the intended target of the gunman, who was arrested moments after the attack.

Authorities took the 62-year-old suspect to the hospital after his arrest for what police described as an ailment that did not appear to be serious.

Police would not release the suspect’s name until he appears in court, they said, which is not likely before Thursday afternoon.

Authorities also have not yet released the identity of the dead shooting victim, saying family members may not yet have been notified. The second shooting victim suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to Montreal police Commander Ian Lafreniere.

While it’s not clear what the motive for the attack may have been, the man shouted “The English are waking up!” in French as he was being taken to a police cruiser.

Marois’ party, Parti Quebecois, wants the French-speaking province to secede from Canada and become its own country.

Marois and her party defeated the incumbent Liberal party in the elections, unseating longtime premier Jean Charest and making her the province’s first female leader.

“As a result of this tragedy, it is all the Quebecois who are grieving today in the face of such a senseless act of violence,” Marois said in a statement released by the party.

She said elections, not violence, should guide Quebec’s future.

Marois said she saw little of the incident that prompted her security detail to whisk her off the stage and was not aware one shooting victim had died until later.

She downplayed suggestions that the campaign had anything to do with the incident.

“I don’t think there is a relation between the events of yesterday and the style of our campaign,” she said.

Quebec voters first elected a separatist government in 1976, and since that time the province has quarreled with the English-speaking majority in the rest of Canada over its position in the country.

Quebec voters have twice rejected referendums supporting sovereignty for the province, the last time in a closely contested 1995 vote, said Antonia Maioni, a political science professor at McGill University in Montreal.

The issue seemed to fade following that loss and the 2003 election of Charest as premier, and was not the central issue in the election that vaulted Marois to power, Maioni said.

“Sovereignty played (a role), but I wouldn’t say it was the ballot box issue in this election,” Maioni said.

While Marois talked up the issue with the party faithful, she pitched to the broader electorate with a message of change and a platform calling for expanded economic programs and government financial reforms, Maioni said.

During her victory speech, Marois called for unity and told English-speaking Quebec residents that their rights would be respected, CBC reported.

“We share the same history, and I want us to shape together our future,” she said in English.

CNN’s Paula Newton contributed to this report.