‘He never did anything halfway’: Montreal volunteer fighter dies in Ukraine, says mother

Marie-France Sirois hadn’t heard from her son for days, until her best friend in the army called her.

“I knew it was the end,” she said.

His son, Émile-Antoine Roy-Sirois, 31, died on July 18, according to his friend Adriel Martinez, an American volunteer in Ukraine. Roy-Sirois left Montreal in March to support the Ukrainian troops.

Sirois hopes to bring his son’s body back to Montreal, after spending months begging him not to leave.

“He was bright and smart and kind…People loved him at first sight,” she said. “I will miss everything [about him]all my life.”

She says she has been in contact with the Canadian Embassy in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian army is “supposed to take care of everything to bring Émile’s body” home.

Marilyne Guèvremont, spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, says the department is aware of the death of a Canadian in Ukraine, but stopped short of confirming Roy-Sirois’ identity.

“Consular officers are in contact with the family and provide consular assistance,she said in an email to CBC News. “For reasons of confidentiality, no other information can be disclosed.”

Despite the lack of an official statement, Sirois says she has “no doubt he was killed.”

Émile-Antoine Roy-Sirois, right, died on July 18, said Marie-France Sirois. (Submitted by Marie-France Sirois)

“Nothing Halfway”

Sirois says his son, who has worked as a firefighter in Western Canada and in customer service at a delivery company.

A former student of the University of Montreal and HEC Montreal, Roy-Sirois has followed international politics closely, Sirois said.

“He was interested in so many things at the same time,” she said. “He never did anything halfway.”

She said her son told her in March that he wanted to go to Ukraine to protect children and fight “against crazy leaders”.

On March 27, he left for Poland where he stayed for 10 days, helping transport medicine, Sirois said. Shortly after, she said he had joined a “foreign unit”.

“I was totally devastated,” she said.

Three men dressed in military uniform pose for a photo.
Émile-Antoine Roy-Sirois, midfielder, was 31 years old. (Submitted by Marie-France Sirois)

Almost every day they talked, and each time she said she would try to persuade him to come back.

“I didn’t want to lose my son,” Sirois said. “I was really begging him to come back or do something else to help in a different way, but he wouldn’t change his mind.”

On May 20, he celebrated his 31st birthday in the face of shelling in Ukraine’s Donbass region, which has seen heavy fighting, she said.

Sirois said he told her he was scared, but the fear wasn’t enough to keep him away from the fight.

“He was convinced he could do something,” she said. “I think for him there was no other way.”