2010 Award Recipients (for actions in 2009)
On November 22, 2010, the Government of Québec paid public tribute to 22 persons in recognition of their acts of good citizenship in 2009. The Tribute to Good Citizenship ceremony was held in the Legislative Council Chamber of the main Parliament Building, presided over by the Minister of Justice, Jean-Marc Fournier, who awarded 8 medals and 14 honourable citations.
The recipients were also given a lapel pin, which is a miniature replica of the medal.The acts of good citizenship highlighted at the 25th Tribute to Good Citizenship ceremony were divided into categories.
Medals for Good Citizenship
The medal for good citizenship, accompanied by a gold lapel pin, may be awarded to a person who has accomplished an act of good citizenship under dangerous circumstances. Made of bronze and engraved with the recipient’s name, the two faces on the medal symbolize both aspects of the theme based on risking one's life to save the life of another.
In the "drowning risks" category, the Government of Québec awarded a medal for good citizenship to:
Guy Belhumeur and Sylvain Comeau, Saint-Donat
On October 5, 2009, Guy Belhumeur and Sylvain Comeau, two Saint-Donat municipal employees, were working close to the marina when they saw a woman at the end of the dock looking out across the lake, her shoes and purse lying abandoned at her feet.
Mr. Comeau went closer to ask if she needed help. “Don’t come any closer!” she said, before jumping into the water and swimming away. Mr. Comeau dialled 911 to alert the emergency services, and then with Mr. Belhumeur began to look for a boat.
The 911 service called Mr. Comeau back, and in the meantime Mr. Belhumeur had cut the chain on a padlock securing a sailboard, carried it to the water and reached the woman about 1,500 feet away. He managed to drag her from the water several times, but each time she fought him off and jumped back in.
Mr. Comeau seized an axe and battered down the door of the marina. He found an inflatable lifeboat, oars and life jackets. At the same time, another municipal worker arrived, and together they rowed towards Mr. Belhumeur.
When they got close to the woman in the water, Sylvain Comeau caught hold of her and dragged her by force into the lifeboat. The woman was exhausted and stayed still for a few minutes, but suddenly leaped back into the water! However, her energy was flagging, and Mr. Comeau was able to seize hold and haul her back on board. This time, she kept hold of her until the emergency services arrived.
The woman had been reported missing the previous day.
N.B.: Sylvain Comeau receives an honourable citation.
Stéphane Hébert and Dany Jobin, Saguenay
On August 23, 2009, Stéphane Hébert and Dany Jobin were fishing for trout in Lac David in Saguenay. They were just about to turn for home when a floatplane approached and the pilot told them that a truck had driven into the lake and that the driver was trapped.
They immediately headed for the scene of the accident. Stéphane Hébert dived into the cold, dark water, where he could see the truck lights and dashboard illuminated. He opened the driver’s door, felt around the cab but could not locate the driver. He swam back up to the surface.
The victim’s wife, on the lakeshore, assured them that there was somebody still in the truck. Stéphane Hébert asked Dany Jobin to hold the driver’s door open to ensure that he could escape from the cab, and then dived again. This time he found the victim, who had sought refuge in the upper corner of the cab where he had found a tiny pocket of air. Only his lips were still above water.
Mr. Hébert pushed the man between the seats towards the door that Mr. Jobin was holding open. Mr. Jobin was able to seize the victim’s arm and, with help from Mr. Hébert, hoist him onto the roof. Next, all three men jumped back into the water where Mr. Jobin and Mr. Hébert pulled the man to shore, roughly 30 feet from where the truck lay submerged.
In the "accidents" category, the Government of Québec awarded a medal for good citizenship to:
Daniel Magny, Sainte-Geneviève-de-Bastican
“Nobody should ever burn to death.” This was the humble statement made to journalists by Daniel Magny the day after a road accident that left one person dead, and another person miraculously alive.
On the evening of July 14, 2009, Daniel Magny was driving on Highway 138 at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade when he saw what he thought to be a bushfire in a field alongside the road. As he drew closer he saw that the fire was in fact coming from a crashed car. Insider the car, on the driver’s side, he could see something moving.
Quickly, he ran to help the victim. The door was wedged shut, but luckily the windows had shattered. Mr. Magny tried to pull the victim out through the window, but she was held back by her seatbelt and the broken steering wheel. She was in pain, and said to her rescuer: “It hurts. Just leave me here.”
The fire was growing in strength, but Mr. Magny was determined not to fail. He released the seatbelt, pulled the steering wheel away and took the woman in his arms to carry her away from the burning wreck. The woman, still conscious, said that she had been carrying a passenger. Unfortunately it was too late to save her from the inferno.
In the "fires" category, the Government of Québec awarded a medal for good citizenship to:
Mélissa Tringali, Montréal
On November 28, 2009, Mélissa Tringali was in her third-floor apartment when she smelled smoke. She traced the smell to its source—in the next-door apartment.
She knocked on all the doors to alert the other occupants, and even had enough presence of mind to tell people that a person with reduced mobility on the second floor would need assistance to get out.
However, there was no sign of movement in the next-door apartment, and Ms. Tringali decided to open the door. The apartment was filled with dense smoke, and flames were licking up the kitchen wall. Her neighbour was lying motionless on the floor. Ms. Tringali crawled towards her and then dragged her back to the smoke-filled corridor.
Ms. Tringali was having difficulty breathing. She returned to her apartment, turned on the shower and doused herself in water for protection from the flames. She went back out into the corridor, blinded by the smoke, and realized that she would not have the strength to take her neighbour with her. She moved her as close as possible to the emergency exit to give her more air, and then began crawling downstairs. Outside, she told the firefighters where her neighbour was, and after locating her they carried her to safety.
Patsy Lemieux, Saint-Malachie
On January 24, 2009, Patsy Lemieux, a resident of Saint-Malachie, was looking after her dogs when she heard calls for help coming from her neighbour’s house: “Fire, call 911!”. Ms. Lemieux grabbed her cordless phone and dialled the emergency number as she crossed to her neighbour’s land.
Five of the house’s six occupants were outside, their faces blackened and their breathing affected by the smoke. Her neighbour was frightened for her grandson, Tristan, who was still inside. He was autistic and had taken refuge upstairs. The neighbour wanted to go in after him, but Ms. Lemieux held her back. Since she was in better shape, she decided to go in herself. However, she was forced back by the dense smoke and intense heat and had to go outside to grab a breath of air.
She did not hesitate to return inside the house. Blinded by smoke, she felt her way to the stairs leading to the second floor. At the top of the stairs she heard the child coughing. Still feeling her way, she touched the victim’s arm, grabbed hold of him and dragged him away. Together, they managed to go back downstairs to the door. The firefighters arrived soon after and took charge of the situation.
In the "other circumstances" category, the Government of Québec awarded a medal for good citizenship to:
Marc Fortier (posthumously), Amos
The victim lived alone with her nine-month-old daughter in Amos. For several weeks she had been receiving death threats from her former partner.
On the evening of May 16, 2009, she was worried, and asked Marc Fortier, a friend, to spend the evening with her. Her ex-spouse knocked at the door but, receiving no response, went away. At 3 o'clock in the morning he returned, armed with a dagger, and broke the door down.
Marc Fortier told the young mother to lock herself in the bedroom with her baby while he discussed the situation calmly with her ex-spouse. She did as he suggested, and the two men were left alone. A struggle occurred and Marc Fortier received stab wounds. He collapsed and lost consciousness.
After seriously wounding Mr. Fortier, his assailant kept his ex-spouse and baby hostage for some hours. When he gave himself up to the authorities, day was breaking.
Mr. Fortier later died of his injuries in hospital.
Dominic Lespérance, Saguenay
A resident of Saguenay had the chivalrous idea of using his body as a shield to save the life of a neighbour.
On November 22, 2009, around 7 a.m., Dominic Lespérance went outside to discover the source of the sound that had woken him. A horrendous sight met his eyes: an armed individual he had seen before was hurling abuse at a neighbour and threatening to stab her.
Mr. Lespérance called the police and then went to attempt to calm the armed man, but in vain. He placed himself physically between the two people and kept them at a distance from each other. He repeatedly told the man to give him his knife.
His perseverance paid off when he managed to knock the knife out of reach and seize the man by the throat, pushing him firmly against his car. The assailant punched him in the leg in an attempt to break his hold, knowing that Mr. Lespérance had a previous wound. However, not only did Mr. Lespérance resist, but he was able to distract the assailant and keep his neighbour safe until the police arrived.
Honourable Citations for Good Citizenship
Honourable citations for good citizenship, accompanied by a silver lapel pin, may be awarded to an individual who has performed an act of courage or dedication under difficult circumstances. The honourable citation is a parchment certificate bearing the recipient’s name.
In the "drowning risks" category, the Government of Québec awarded an honourable citation for good citizenship to:
Martin Benko, Montréal
Sometimes man’s best friend can, without knowing it, help us to be in the right place at the right time …
On October 18, 2009, Martin Benko was walking his dog in Montréal’s Côte-Saint-Luc neighbourhood. A few feet from him, an elderly man lost consciousness at the wheel of his car with his foot still on the gas pedal. He drove through the fence of a private house and ended up in the swimming pool.
The car sank and gasoline started leaking into the cold, murky water. Mr. Benko gave his cellphone to a passer-by and asked him to call 911. Ignoring his own fears and the chill of the water, he jumped into the pool to save the victim from certain death.
He found that it was impossible to open the car doors, and all the windows were closed. He broke a window but the jagged glass risked injuring the victim. With a rock, he hit another window several times until it shattered.
At last, Mr. Benko was able to grab hold of the man, who was quite corpulent and whose clothes were water-soaked, and drag him out of the car. The octogenarian was reanimated in hospital, while Mr. Benko escaped with a few minor cuts.
Jean-Pierre Drouin and Léo Hardy, Saint-Georges
On August 22, 2009, a couple was sunbathing on the banks of the Rivière Chaudière in the Beauce region. The man went for a swim in the river, but was overcome by the force of the current. He called for help, and his girlfriend jumped into the water.
A little further on, Kéven Dumas heard the cries for help. At the same time, he noticed three people close to the dock, Jean-Pierre Drouin, Léo Hardy and Anne Boucher, and told them about the situation. Mr. Drouin and Mr. Hardy grabbed lifebelts and jumped into the water, while Ms. Boucher stayed on the dock to help reanimate the victims if necessary.
Jean-Pierre Drouin offered a lifebelt to the women, who told him that her boyfriend needed it more. He continued swimming until he reached the man who, completely exhausted, quickly grabbed hold. As the minutes passed the woman began to tire, and Léo Hardy held her up by the waist, and then under the arms, as he towed her towards the dock. It took several minutes to pull the victims as far as the dock, swimming against the current.
Ms. Boucher helped hoist the rescuers and victims from the water. They were all exhausted, but safe and sound.
In the "accidents" category, the Government of Québec awarded an honourable citation for good citizenship to:
Stéphane Bourassa, Sainte-Adèle
Stéphane Bourassa is a security guard at the Casino in Mont-Tremblant. On July 11, 2009, he was coming home from work in the early hours of the morning. Suddenly, a vehicle passed him on the shoulder on his right, lost control and rolled over several times before ending up in a ditch about six feet deep.
Screams of pain could be heard coming from the damaged vehicle, which was overturned. Stéphane Bourassa quickly asked another motorist to call for help. As he approached the wrecked car, he saw smoke, and then flames. Quickly, he squeezed through the smashed window on the passenger side and dragged the young driver out by the feet.
He pulled the victim to safety at the side of the road. The driver was dazed and confused, and claimed that there were other people in the car. Stéphane Bourassa went back to check the vehicle in the ditch and called out to try to locate other victims, but could see nobody. The car quickly became a ball of fire, and Stéphane Bourassa had no choice but to retreat.
Stéphane Bourassa had to immobilize the young driver, who was still in an agitated state. He had become a danger to himself, believing, wrongly, that he had been carrying passengers. The emergency services arrived at the scene quickly.
François Vézina, Québec
On August 25, 2009, in Québec City, students were arriving at the Cégep in Limoilou for the day’s classes when a violent collision occurred close to the college entrance. A car driven by a woman was hit by a vehicle coming in the opposite direction, and the impact was so violent that her car ended up on its side.
A witness to the accident, Henley Coulombe, called the emergency services. François Vézina, who had also seen the accident, climbed onto the car to try to open the doors, but in vain. With help from Henley Coulombe, Mr. Garneau-Lapointe and a passing worker, they managed to flip the car onto its wheels. Smoke was emerging from under the hood and a pool of oil and gasoline was forming on the ground. Faced with imminent danger, they had to act quickly.
The doors were still jammed, but François Vézina managed to get his hand through the driver’s side window and released the lock. Next, helped by the passing worker, he carried the victim to safety a few metres away, just as the car burst into flames.
Sophie-Rose Dufresne, another witness to the scene, came to help the victim and provided reassurance until the arrival of the emergency services.
Without the swift and effective intervention of these young people, the victim would have burned to death in her car.
In the "fires" category, the Government of Québec awarded an honourable citation for good citizenship to:
Jordi Gardon and Olivier Mayrand, Québec
The 2009 Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations had just ended on the Plains of Abraham, and Jordi Gardon and Olivier Mayrand were returning quietly home by bus.
The bus stopped suddenly. The driver jumped out and started dialling 911. About thirty young people got off the bus and were astonished to see a four-unit apartment building on fire.
Jordi Gardon ran to bang on the window of the first apartment to warn the people inside. Through the window, he saw a woman in shock, unable to move despite the flames invading her apartment. He forced her door open to rescue her, assisted by his friend Olivier Mayrand. The woman appeared confused, and Jordi led her outside while Olivier rushed to the basement to warn the other inhabitants of the building.
They went to the three remaining apartments, working hard to persuade the residents of the urgency of the situation and the need to follow them outside.
When the fire and ambulance services arrived, Jordi and Olivier still did not realize that they had saved the lives of five people. For their bravery, the will receive an honourable citation from the fire protection service of the City of Québec.
Alexandre Lapointe, Sherbrooke
Not many paper boys expect to be in the newspaper themselves one day! But this is what happened to Alexandre Lapointe, aged 13.
On December 23, 2009, around 5:45 a.m., Alexandre was delivering La Tribune in the Sherbrooke area when he saw a column of smoke rising behind a house. At first he thought it was from a chimney. To deliver the newspaper, Alexandre had to go to the back of the house, and as he got closer, he saw some kindling go up in flames, quickly followed by the wooden steps and deck. There were also some explosives in close proximity. The situation was dangerous, and clearly, the house’s residents were not aware of the fire.
Alexandre ran up the steps and hammered on the door, shouting “Fire, you have to leave the house!”. However, it was so early that the seven residents were still asleep. The smoke was accumulating under the roof and Alexandre began to have trouble breathing. At last, he saw a silhouette inside the house.
A little later, the parents, still in their nightclothes, came out and saw the fire. They told Alexandre to get back.
However, the paper boy did not leave to finish his paper round until he was sure that everyone was safely out of the house.
Alain Roy, Magog
Driving a taxi can be full of surprises, as Alain Roy well knows. He was on duty on the night of December 5 to 6, 2009, when he saw some suspicious smoke rising in the distance. He asked his client if he could change his route to drive closer to the source of the smoke, and discovered a fire that had just broken out in a duplex apartment building.
Mr. Roy immediately called the taxi switchboard to give the location of the fire.
Courageously, he took it upon himself to warn the occupants of the building, who were all asleep and unaware of the problem.
Mr. Roy and his client started knocking on the doors, which were side by side, to wake the sleeping residents. One of the doors opened, and the four occupants came outside.
The other door also opened, but the person refused to come out because someone was sleeping on the second floor. Mr. Roy went into the apartment and up the stairs to the bedroom where the person was sound asleep. Mr. Roy could see the flames rising and, given the urgency of the situation, he seized the young man and dragged him from the bedroom and out of the building.
Everyone was now out of danger, and no-one was hurt. The emergency services arrived and the building’s occupants, in tears, thanked their rescuer.
Bruno St-Jean, Terrebonne
“Help, somebody help me!” This is the call for help that Bruno St-Jean heard in the afternoon of September 8, 2009, at home in Terrebonne. He immediately asked his daughter-in-law to call 911 and then rushed towards the source of the shouts.
He saw his neighbour at the second-floor window of her house, which was rapidly being devoured by flames. Her cries for help grew weaker. She was visibly affected by the thick black smoke streaming from her window. Mr. St-Jean jumped over the fence, seized a ladder, set it up against the wall of the house and climbed to the second floor to save his neighbour.
At 15 feet from the ground, he asked her to rip the insect screen blocking her exit, encouraging and reassuring her while she did this. Mr. St-Jean then asked her to lean forward so that he could pull her out. He failed, however, when her clothes got stuck. The smoke was becoming denser and, left with no other choice, he ripped her clothing and managed to take her in his arms.
The police arrived and were able to complete the rescue. Clearly, the swift response of Mr. St-Jean saved his neighbour’s life.
In the "other circumstances" category, the Government of Québec awarded an honourable citation for good citizenship to:
Yves Choquette, Laval
On the afternoon of Saturday, June 20, 2009, Yves Choquette was coming out of a supermarket in Venise-en-Québec. As he approached a row of parked cars, he noticed one that was backing up towards the street, aiming directly for the gasoline pumps at a service station. There was nobody at the wheel, but a young girl about three years old was between the two front seats, while another child appeared to be asleep in the back. The driver’s seat was empty.
Mr. Choquette ran to the vehicle and managed to get his head and arms inside. He seized the wheel and steered the car around the obstacles. The car crossed the street, narrowly missed the gasoline pumps and came to a halt. Mr. Choquette squeezed his upper body out from the car.
Several witnesses to the scene were looking at Yves Choquette accusingly. Mr. Choquette responded by asking where the children’s father was. He saw a man run up behind the group, clearly embarrassed.
It took only a few seconds for Mr. Choquette to divert the car from its collision course with the gasoline pumps, with consequences that are not hard to imagine.
Daniel Désilets, Saint-Hippolyte
In an asphalt plant in Saint-Jérôme, around 8 a.m. on July 6, 2009, Denis Carrière was just about to climb into a funnel-shaped hopper to clear it of a blockage of crushed stone and sand, when suddenly the pile of sand collapsed onto him. Mr. Carrière was pulled downwards towards the narrow end of the funnel.
Daniel Désilets, who was also in the plant, heard his shouts for help and called the control room, ordering the shutdown of all the machines. Mr. Désilets ran towards the hopper and saw that his fellow worker, almost buried beneath several tons of sand, was having difficulty breathing.
Mr. Désilets climbed down into the hopper and freed his colleague’s head. At the same time, the emergency services were called, while other workers arrived to take part in the rescue. However, any movement risked triggering another collapse of the sand, which would have proved fatal for both men. While they waited for rescue, Mr. Désilets positioned his body to protect Mr. Carrière’s head from falling sand, and spoke words of encouragement.
Two hours later, firefighters finally managed to extricate both men. Mr. Carrière was back on his feet, still with his boots on, and thanked Daniel Désilets for saving his life.
Giuliano Zanchettin, Montréal
On the afternoon of July 14, 2009, a nurse in a seniors’ home was hit by a bullet after a resident in a wheelchair fired a gun at her. Both her neck and collarbone were injured, and she fell to the floor.
Giuliano Zanchettin heard the shot and rushed to the scene. He heard screams and shouts, and saw the nurse lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Her assailant was a few feet away, highly aggressive and proffering insults and threats.
Mr. Zanchettin went towards the armed man and a fight broke out. At one point, the gun was aiming towards him.
The two men continued to struggle until the weapon fell to the floor. Giuliano Zanchettin seized the man’s hands and arms as he sat in his wheelchair and held him there until the emergency services arrived.
Mr. Zanchettin’s coolness, courage and swift response helped prevent an escalation of violence. He ensured the victim’s safety and called the emergency services quickly to the scene, saving the life of another human being.