Amélie Lemieux said she was relieved to have a coroner confirm what she already knew — police didn't do everything they could to find her two daughters before they were killed by their father.
"I said so. What I named, what I knew deep down, someone confirmed it. I'm not crazy, not everything that could have been done was done," she told Radio-Canada.
In a report released Tuesday, coroner Luc Malouin said the 2020 search for Romy and Norah Carpentier was marked by numerous delays by police decision-makers who failed to fully grasp the urgency of the situation.
He said the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) erred in not quickly launching a ground search for the young girls after they and their father, Martin Carpentier, went missing after a car crash on the evening of July 8, 2020.
"I now know everything I wanted to know … The only questions I'll never have an answer to are 'Martin, why did you do it?' and 'my girls, what did you go through?'" said Lemieux.
Lemieux is working with her lawyer to reach a settlement with the SQ. She says she was kept in the dark and had to dig for the truth.
Martin Carpentier, right, killed Norah, 11, centre, and Romy, 6, left, in the woods near St-Apollinaire, Que., southwest of Quebec City before taking his own life. (Amber Alerte Québec)
Though she says no amount of money can bring her daughters back, the police failed her.
"I've been paying my taxes since I was 18 and I've been paying their salary," said Lemieux. "So I expect them to be there when I need them."
"I needed them once in my life and they let me down, so I want a refund."
Malouin said he couldn't understand why a search-and-rescue team wasn't called in right away. He said the Québec Association of Search and Rescue Volunteers (AQBRS) and the Service de police de la ville de Québec (SPVQ) were available.
"Somewhere in the hierarchy there was a lack of planning, that much is clear to me," Malouin told reporters Wednesday.
Volunteers were standing by
The AQBRS has 19 teams of search-and-rescue volunteers covering all of Quebec's territory. Its president, Guy Lapointe, said he was waiting for the call to deploy his team out of Quebec City when he heard of the crash on the news.
To his surprise, the search-and-rescue team was only called the following day.
"We thought we were going to be deployed during the night because when there are children involved I think it's really urgent," he said.
"With all the details we could see in the media, we thought we would be able to help."
Romy Carpentier, 6, left, and Norah Carpentier, 11, right, were killed by their father in July 2020. (Submitted by Amber Alerte Québec)
When the search-and-rescue team was deployed, only four members went on the ground because they must be paired with police officers for safety reasons. Lapointe said there were only four police officers searching where they should have been at least 10, and his team had 19 volunteers ready to go.
"I am sure that if we had been deployed [on that first night], it would have helped," said Lapointe.
He said he was also surprised that police didn't use dogs.
Lapointe, a retired RCMP officer, said he agreed with the coroner's finding that the ground search was "too little, too late." He believes the girls were killed on the second day they were missing and could have been found alive.
"I think they took some bad decisions," said Lapointe.
Police say they have improved protocol
The SQ said the Carpentier story and recommendations from the coroner led to changes within the institution.
It said it enhanced search-and-rescue training offered to officers, put in place a unified command structure for missing people whose lives could be in danger, reviewed its Amber Alert protocol and consolidated its collaboration with other provincial partners like the AQBRS.
"Sûreté du Québec is committed to its mission of protecting life. The event that led to this public inquiry is one of great sadness, and we sincerely sympathize with all those affected by this difficult ordeal," it said in a news release.
Public Security Minister François Bonnardel told reporters on Tuesday that the province would work with police to implement the coroner's recommendations, which include better training.
Malouin said he took Bonnardel's statement at face value and believes the necessary changes were implemented.
"I hope a situation like this will not happen again. Three people died, including two children. I would rather not have to test whether my recommendations are fruitful or not," said Malouin.