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'Feels a little more daunting': Montreal teacher who survived stabbing by student questions whether teaching days are over


Nearly a year after Montreal high school teacher Maxime Canuel was stabbed by a student, he says he may not return to the classroom.

"To turn my back on someone now is a lot harder," said Canuel who, at the time of the attack, was teaching art at John F. Kennedy High School on Saint Michel Boulevard.

On Dec. 9, 2021, at 10:10 a.m., police arrested a 16-year-old boy who had fled school grounds after attacking Canuel, stabbing him in the shoulder and chest.

Eleven months later, the teen pleaded guilty to attempted murder, Quebec's director of criminal proceedings confirmed Tuesday. He was sentenced Monday to two years in jail and one year under supervision. The teen had also been charged with aggravated assault, possession of a dangerous weapon and possession of a concealed weapon, but those charges were stayed. 

The prosecution and defence made a joint submission on sentencing, the Crown said. The identity of the teen is protected by a publication ban because he is a minor.

In an interview Tuesday, Canuel told CTV News he was in a state of shock following the attack, and initially thought the student had only punched him before he realized the extent of his injuries.

"It was kind of like this weird moment where I could almost see the words, or hear the words, 'if you panic, you die,'" he said.

"I took safety lessons when I was a kid until I was 12 or 13, and all the safety techniques, like how to resuscitate people," he said, recounting the seconds after he was stabbed.

"I hadn’t thought about that in years, but at that moment, everything I knew about that came into play. I knew I had to compress my shoulder, and I knew I had to slow my breathing and slow my heart rate."

Canuel was stabbed in front of a group of students. He was rushed to hospital for surgery to mend the damage. He said the wound was deep and dangerously close to his heart, and that doctors took enough blood to fill a water bottle.

"I had to learn to breathe again," he said, describing the initial stages of his recovery.

"Every time I would take a breath it felt like someone was giving me a good punch in the ribs."

While the bulk of his physical recovery was finished in a matter of months, he said it will likely take much longer to heal from the attack’s psychological symptoms.

Today, he’s questioning whether he will be able to return to work.

"We have a uniform at JFK," he said. "For me to return to see a bunch of teenagers dressed as the person who stabbed me and tried to kill me, it’s a bit jarring. It’s a little surreal."

"To turn my back on 30 kids while I’m doing something on the board feels a little more daunting than I want to tackle right now."


Despite the trauma of his near-death experience, Canuel said he’s generally upbeat nearly a year later, and that his time in recovery has allowed him to focus on his art.

"I am an artist on my own, an illustrator and cartoonist. Before any of this had happened, I had gotten back into self-publishing comic books," he said. "Thankfully, I had something constructive and productive to work on during that time, to fill that hole."

"The best thing to come out of this, other than being alive, is time to focus on that," he said, laughing.

He released a first issue of his "Bigg Baby" comic book in the summer of 2021. Issue nine should be out before Christmas.

"Throughout all of this, the number one thing is that I survived it," he said. "I have to say I’m happy about that." Top Stories

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