RCMP on trial for exposing officers to death on the job
Constable Douglas James Larche, 40, Constable Dave Joseph Ross, 32, and Constable Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, were shot and killed on the job in Moncton, N.B., on June 4, 2014
A DEAD WORKER, IS A DEAD WORKER, IS A DEAD WORKER. Mounties are no exception. And so the RCMP high command is on trial for being bad bosses. So bad three officers got killed and two were wounded. So bad the force is facing four counts of labour code violations with possible penalties of millions of dollars.
The federal labour department’s law-enforcement wing has charged the force with four counts of having failed to provide patrol officers with sufficient skills, equip-ment or weaponry to defend against a gunman who shot three Mounties dead in 2014.
Open season on Mounties
On June 4, 2014, 24-year-old Justin Bourque grabbed his semi-automatic rifle and marched through Moncton to hunt down police officers. He killed RCMP constables James Larche, David Ross and Fabrice Gevaudan and wounded two others before being arrested.
Bourque is now serving a life-sentence, with no chance of parole for 75 years.
The three dead constables are memorialized in life-size bronze statues in a small park next to the Petitcodiac River in Moncton.
A bronze monument featuring life-size statues of Constables Doug Larche, Dave Ross and Fabrice Gevaudan, who were gunned down in Moncton, N.B., in 2014 (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
What’s at issue in the trial are operational decisions made by senior RCMP commanders who had the job of rolling out training, weapons and equipment to detachments across Canada.
Almost immediately after the fatal shootings, questions arose around whether the officers were prepared to deal with what awaited them.
The Mounties only had pistols to defend themselves against Bourque, with no one in the local RCMP detachment yet trained to use high-powered carbine weapons.
The officers who responded to the initial calls were also not wearing bulletproof vests.
Employment and Social Development Canada investigated, which happens any time a federal government employee dies on the job.
The investigation concluded in May 2015 with charges against the national police force, which was accused of four health and safety violations under the Canada Labour Code.
No individual RCMP manager or supervisor is named in the charges, which are:
- Failing to provide RCMP members with appropriate use of force equipment and related user training when responding to an active threat or active shooter event.
- Failing to provide RCMP members with appropriate information, instruction and/or training to ensure their health and safety when responding to an active threat or active shooter event in an open environment.
- Failing to provide RCMP supervisory personnel with appropriate information, instruction and/or training to ensure the health and safety of RCMP members when responding to an active threat or active shooter event in an open environment.
- Failing to ensure the health and safety at work of every person employed by it, namely: RCMP members.
Each charge carries a maximum fine of $1 million.
Labour Code charges are more typically laid against federally regulated corporations complicit in accidents – for instance, farming employees crushed by grain shipments or transport workers maimed by malfunctions.
The trial ended in late June 2017. A decision is expected on September 29.