MONTREAL – Sebastien Normandin has a PhD in history from McGill University and for three years was a visiting instructor at Michigan State University. A 2013 textbook he co-edited, “Vitalism and the Scientific Image in Post-Enlightenment Life Science, 1800-2010” has been downloaded more than 11,000 times.
But recently Normandin’s public writing has been confined to Twitter and Facebook, and he’s not keeping any campus office hours. The former academic was last spotted en route to France, authorities say, fleeing charges that he attempted to murder his ex-girlfriend and her new partner in Victoria.
The 47-year-old Quebec native’s name and photo were recently added to Interpol’s list of international fugitives, joining a rogue’s gallery of 50 suspects wanted by Canada for murder, terrorism and other serious crimes. The Interpol “red notice” is a request to police worldwide to locate and arrest Normandin.
Normandin was initially arrested following a serious car crash in Victoria on Dec. 27, 2016. In a news release announcing Normandin’s arrest, Victoria Police said there was “a long history of domestic violence between two of the people involved. Investigators believe that one of the vehicles was driven by a man who intentionally drove at other people in an attempt to harm them.” One of the victims – their identities are protected by a court order — suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.
Normandin faces two charges of attempted murder, as well as charges of assault causing bodily harm, criminal harassment and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
Last May he was freed on $5,000 bail on condition that he leave Victoria immediately for Montreal, report daily to Montreal police and consult a psychologist regularly. He was not ordered to surrender his passport.
In mid-October, he missed an appointment with his psychologist. Crown counsel Jess Patterson told court in November that security footage from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport shows him boarding a flight to England in late October. He then travelled to France, Patterson said.
The Crown had his $5,000 bail deposit forfeited, and he now faces an additional charge of failure to comply with bail conditions.
But while his whereabouts are unclear, Normandin has not exactly gone to ground. He remains active on Twitter, where he calls himself a “historian of the #weird.” He mixes philosophical quotations with insights into his current condition.
“Seeking out a #publisher for my #book – ‘The Prison Diary: Toxic Masculinity and Its Discontents,’ ” he wrote on Jan. 11. Four days later he tweeted that living with depression is “not really living. It wound me up in jail, a fugitive and barely alive.”
In December he observed, “Sometimes when digging a hole you might be piling up dirt to get a better view.” On Oct. 14, just before authorities lost track of him, he tweeted, “Being on bail is just like regular life. Except without the ‘regular’. Or the ‘life’.”
In November he advertised himself on Twitter as “#Writer for hire! Ph.D. in humanities. Excellent research, writing and editing skills. Clean, crisp, concise copy!”
The Victoria Times Colonist reported last November that the woman Normandin allegedly targeted has been “living in fear” since he disappeared.
Available evidence suggests he is far away from Canada, but there are also signs that he is in no hurry to return and face justice. On Facebook, he ended 2017 with a post listing 25 things he had learned from being in jail, being out on bail and writing a 100,000-word memoir of the experience.
The first entry on the list was, “Other than incurable diseases and war, jail is as bad as it gets. Avoid at all costs.” The last: “We’re all doing time.”