Victims of Fire in Old Montreal

By: The Hon. Diane Bellemare

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Hon. Diane Bellemare: On March 16, 2023, in Old Montreal, a terrible fire broke out in the early hours of the morning in a three-storey heritage building on Rue du Port, with 22 people inside.

After becoming trapped in windowless rooms without an emergency exit, some people made calls to 911 and family members. Others managed to flee or had to jump from windows to save their lives. Seven people did not make it out.

Camille Maheux, 76, was a cinematographer and videographer who was known in her circle as a “talented portrait photographer and pioneer of what came to be known as intimate documentaries.” She got her start in the 1970s photographing the feminist movement, the LGBT community and marginalized people.

Nathan Sears, 35, was a recent PhD graduate in political science at the University of Toronto. He was a Cadieux-Léger Fellow at Global Affairs Canada and a fellow at the Trudeau Centre for Peace, Conflict and Justice. Known by his peers and loved ones as a passionate academic with a promising career, he was in Montreal for the International Studies Association conference.

Dania Zafar, 31, was a young graphic designer, a free spirit and ambitious woman. She spoke to her father in Lahore, Pakistan, the day before the fire. She was on a spontaneous trip to Montreal with her friend Saniya Khan, also 31, who came to Montreal to visit a childhood friend. Saniya was completing a master’s degree in public health in Detroit.

An Wu, 31, was a young and promising neuroscientist who had obtained her PhD at 24 and worked as a project scientist at the University of California San Diego. She was visiting Quebec for the academic conference and workshop COSYNE.

Charlie Lacroix, 18, was a young woman who was described as a deeply caring social butterfly who adored art. She called her grandfather during the fire. Her friend Walid Belkahla, 18, was a young man with his whole life ahead of him.

For the families and friends of those who lost their lives, the several-day wait before the bodies were found in the rubble and identified was unbearable.

How could such a fire have happened in our community in this day and age?

The Chief Coroner of Quebec has ordered a public inquiry into the seven deaths.

These deaths should have never happened. Our thoughts are with the victims’ families and loved ones. They have my deepest sympathy.

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