Quebec orders public inquiry into deaths of missing Carpentier girls killed by father
Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault has asked the coroner’s office to launch a public inquiry into the deaths of two young girls at the hands of their father, after a Radio-Canada investigation revealed the search for the missing girls was mishandled.
The sisters, Norah and Romy Carpentier, aged 11 and 6, went missing with their father on July 8, 2020, after a car crash on Highway 20 in Saint-Apollinaire, Que., a municipality about 45 kilometres southwest of Quebec City.
A coroner’s report released in November 2021 concluded that Martin Carpentier killed his daughters with a blunt object in the woods the day after the crash, before taking his own life.
Earlier this week, the Quebec coroner’s office announced that it would take another look at how provincial police conducted the search for the girls in light of new information it received after March 10, when Radio-Canada’s investigative program Enquête broadcast a report on that search.
The Enquête report revealed that mistakes made early on in the provincial police search for the girls cost precious hours that might have made the difference between life and death.
In a statement Monday, the coroner’s office said Coroner Sophie Régnière, who conducted the initial inquest, would determine whether the report on that inquest needed to be amended in light of information that had not been previously made available to her, or even whether a public inquiry is needed.
Guilbault said she was “troubled” by the Enquête report, and while she has full confidence in the abilities of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), she said the public inquiry she is ordering is necessary to restore the public’s confidence.
“It’s important that people know that if there are disappearances that happen in Quebec, that police forces have the capacity and the competency to handle these situations,” said Guilbault.
She said the need for a public inquiry is not a reflection on the quality of Régnière’s initial report, which she said was a “good, substantial report.” Guilbault said the SQ is also in favour of a public inquiry.
The Enquête investigation also highlighted how, a year before the Carpentier sisters were killed, the SQ had abolished three emergency search units made up of 70 officers who specialized in ground searches, with a plan to redeploy many of those officers as highway patrollers.
Guilbault said this was an “operational decision” made by SQ leadership, not by the government itself.
Earlier this week, the girls’ mother, Amélie Lemieux, called on Guibeault to step in and ensure a full investigation is launched.
Lemieux said Monday she was shocked that new information that the coroner had never seen had just been revealed.
“It reopens a wound that I had managed to stitch up a little bit, and I don’t understand why I’m not being told the truth,” she said.
Guilbault said that she had heard Lemieux’s “heartfelt pleas” and said she “deserves answers to her questions.” The minister said she had not yet spoken with Lemieux personally, but said she was open to meeting her.