A Quebec coroner is investigating after a 93-year-old woman froze to death early Sunday morning outside a seniors' home in Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

The woman, Helene Rowley Hotte, is the mother of former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe.

It happened sometime between 4 and 5 a.m. at the Residence Lux Gouverneur on Sherbrooke St. East.

According to police, a fire alarm sounded and was followed by a notification specifying which pavilions needed to evacuate.

The building where the woman lived, however, was not one of them, so she did not have to leave the building.

However, police say the woman - who is hearing impaired – likely did not hear the announcement clearly, and made her way through a door into the back yard.

Once outside, she was unable to get back into the building through a locked door. It was snowy and the temperature felt like -30C with the wind chill.

A review of the security footage from the night of the incident showed the woman attempting to re-enter the building for close to an hour.

Her body was discovered after 11 a.m. Sunday, lying in the snow.

Const. Caroline Chevrefils said police received a call shortly before noon Sunday about a woman found dead in the snow, likely from hypothermia. They transferred the investigation to the coroner's office after determining there was no criminal element to the death.

According to a report in The Canadian Press, a longtime friend of Duceppe, who asked not to be identified, said Rowley Hotte was in excellent physical and mental health and had dined with family members the previous evening. Family checked in with her every morning, and they became worried when there was no answer to their calls Sunday. They arrived to find her unit empty, the friend said.

Rowley Hotte, a mother of seven, was married to well-known Quebec actor Jean Duceppe, who died in 1990. Her father -- John James Rowley -- was British by birth, leading Duceppe to frequently quip that he was a "bloke who turned Bloc."

No headcount required

The Residence Lux Gouverneur issued a statement late Monday afternoon, offering their condolences to Duceppe’s family.

They also said Rowley Hotte wore winter clothing when she was outside the residence.

“Our security cameras show that she fainted sometime after she went outside. We obviously are co-operating with the investigators and prefer not to comment further on this unfortunate event before knowing the conclusions,” the statement read.

The residence said it will not conduct interviews during the investigation.

According to the province's registry of seniors' homes, the Lux, located near the Olympic Stadium, has 440 units and opened in 2009. Of the 660 residents, some 493 are 75 and older. Six employees, including two nurses, would have been working on a weekend evening, according to the registry.

CTV was told the door of the Residence Lux Gouverneur unlocks automatically when an alarm sounds so people are able to leave the building -- but once an alarm stops, the doors lock again.

The Lux Gouverneur is a private residence, and according to a government registry, there are supposed to be four people working overnight and someone watching the door 24/7.

In seniors’ homes for people who are not autonomous, there is a requirement to do headcounts – but Lux Gouverneurs is for autonomous seniors.

“When it's an autonomous home where everybody comes and goes freely, well then they don't have requirements systematically to count for people,” explained Chantal Bibeau of the Association of Quebec Fire Chiefs.

121 accidental deaths from exposure to cold

According to statistics compiled by the Quebec coroner's office, there were 121 accidental deaths in Quebec from exposure to excessive cold between 2000 and 2016 -- 31 of which involved victims aged 75 or older.

Politicians offer condolences

Premier Francois Legault tweeted his condolences to the family just after noon on Monday, saying he was "devastated" by the news.

"Isabelle and I are shattered by the death of Mrs. Rowley, Gilles Duceppe's mother," Legault wrote on Twitter from France, where he is on an official visit. "I offer all my sympathy to Gilles, his brothers and sisters, and to the whole family in this moment of great sadness."

Marguerite Blais, the minister responsible for seniors and informal caregivers, promised an inquiry to "shed light on the tragic story." 

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said, upon hearing the news, that she was at a total loss for words. 

- With files from The Canadian Press