TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. — A Quebec provincial police officer who was killed while on duty was remembered Thursday as a mother, a daughter, a friend and as a policewoman who dedicated her career to keeping others safe.
Thousands of officers and first responders from across North America gathered in Trois-Rivières, Que., for the funeral of Sgt. Maureen Breau. The 20-year-veteran of the force was fatally stabbed while serving an arrest warrant on March 27 in Louiseville, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
As her casket draped in the Quebec flag was carried into the church by eight officers, others could be seen watching with tears streaming down their faces. Along with her husband, Daniel Sanscartier, and two children, Khéraly and Emrick, three officers who were present the night she died accompanied the casket.
During the funeral, speakers paid tribute to Breau's long career but also to her devotion to her family. They noted that the 42-year-old was not just an officer but also a mother, whose husband is also a provincial police officer.
Sgt. Véronique Nadeau, Breau's former partner and friend, said the seven years they spent working together were the best of her career.
"My beautiful friend, my best friend. I never thought I would have to pay you a posthumous tribute when we were supposed to celebrate your 43rd birthday on April 2," she said, describing Breau as the sister she never had.
As she spoke about the laughter and conversations she would miss, Nadeau paused to wipe her eyes. She said she still listens to the last voice mail Breau left her.
She asked her friend to watch over her fellow officers, "who will have to, despite everything, find the courage to continue in this profession and to believe in the justice system we represent," she said. She ended her speech in the way she said the two friends always ended their phone conversations: "I love you, my friend."
Earlier in the ceremony, Jacques Painchaud, the president of the union representing provincial police officers, described Breau as spontaneous, authentic and full of energy.
With tears in his eyes, Painchaud said Breau was a devoted colleague who worked for the safety of the public. "Your loss is a tragedy without name," he said.
In a procession before the service, uniformed provincial police officers marched alongside a black hearse carrying Breau through the streets of Trois-Rivières, about 35 kilometres east of Louiseville. An officer walking behind the hearse carried a police hat on a cushion as the procession made its way toward the Sanctuaire Notre-Dame-du-Cap church.
After the casket was brought into the church, her hat and a police service medal were placed on it. At the end of the service, the flag that was draped over her coffin was presented to Breau's husband, and her hat was presented to her children.
Groups of residents lined the three-kilometre procession route to watch the estimated 4,000 police officers, members of other law enforcement agencies, corrections officers, firefighters and paramedics from across Canada and the eastern United States who took part on foot, in cars and on motorcycles.
Many of those who marched to the church watched the service from a large tent outside, with all the more than 1,000 seats inside the church full.
Quebec provincial police Sgt. Marc Tessier said it was important for police officers to come together to support one another. "Every time something happens to a police officer, we're reminded that we do a job that has risk, and it could happen to any one of us," he said in an interview outside the church.
He said police appreciated the outpouring of support from the public, who left cards and flowers at the station where Breau worked and posted online messages of compassion. Tessier said Breau's death was hard on her colleagues, who he said received psychological aid and other support from the provincial police service.
The man accused in her killing was shot dead by provincial police. Isaac Brouillard Lessard, 35, had been found not criminally responsible by the courts at least five times for past offences.
Breau is the first Quebec provincial police officer to die on duty since 2016.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2023.
— With files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press