Judge convicts RCMP, saying officers ‘ill-prepared’
Harsh criticism levelled against police force after attack that left officers outmanned
MONCTON, N.B. — RCMP officers were caught outgunned and “ill-prepared” to confront a gunman who targeted them on a warm summer night in 2014, a judge ruled Friday as he convicted the national police force of failing to provide its members with adequate use-of-force equipment and user training.
Judge Leslie Jackson was harshly critical of how long it took the RCMP to equip its officers with carbine rifles ahead of the Moncton attack, which left three Mounties dead and two others injured.
Justin Bourque had targeted police officers in hopes of sparking an anti-government rebellion.
“It is clear to me that the use-of-force equipment available to those members on June 4, 2014, left them ill-prepared to engage an assailant armed with an automatic rifle,” the judge said in his 64-page decision.
Rank and file members told the Labour Code trial they were outgunned by Bourque, who roamed a Moncton neighbourhood and opened fired on officers as people walked dogs and children played in yards nearby.
Constables Fabrice Gevaudan, Dave Ross and Doug Larche were killed, while constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were injured in the shootings.
The C8 carbine rifle was a central focus of the trial. The high-powered weapons were not available to general duty officers at the time of the Moncton shootings, and numerous witnesses who testified said they could have made a difference.
Carbine rifles were approved for use in 2011, but their rollout was delayed several times. The judge noted that Alphonse MacNeil, a retired assistant RCMP commissioner who conducted a review of the shootings for the force, stated during the trial that at the time of his review, he said the rollout of the carbine program should be expedited.
“I agree with MacNeil’s conclusion. The rollout took too long, even allowing for all the variables and challenges,” said Jackson.
“A real concern for the health and safety of front-line members ... would have seen a rollout of the patrol carbine prioritized and not left to the vagrancies of available funding.”
The judge also accused RCMP leadership — who were unanimous in saying officers were adequately equipped — of sticking to “talking points designed to be the justification for their position” during testimony at the trial.
“Their opinion is based on their observations made from the comfort and security of their offices; however the view of the responding officers who were facing imminent danger that day is different,” he said.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Friday’s decision “carries important implications” and that the Trudeau government would be studying it carefully.
“We need to make sure that the training, the equipment and the support services are there to put those officers in the position of doing the very best job they can to keep the community safe and at the same time, to keep themselves safe,” said Goodale on Friday.
Jackson found the Crown did not prove its case on two other Labour Code violations, and issued a judicial stay on a fourth charge.
The wives of the three fallen officers sat quietly in the packed Moncton courtroom among Mounties in plain clothes and at least one trial witness as the verdicts were read out during the brief hearing.
“I felt all along that if the RCMP members would have had the proper equipment that my husband would not have died and the father of my children would not have died,” Doug Larche’s wife, Nadine, said outside the courthouse, across the road from a life-sized bronze monument of her husband and the two other slain officers.
“My hope really is that the silver lining of all of this is that RCMP members that are serving now and in the future will be better equipped and that they’ll be safer.”
Angela Gevaudan, wife of Fabrice, said she felt “vindicated.” She said the RCMP’s decision to fight the Labour Code charges had hurt the policing community.
“It’s been very disheartening to have these charges challenged in the first place,” she said. “I think it breaks the trust and I think the members are still very hurt and feel unsupported and I think that needs to be addressed.”
RCMP Cpl. Pat Bouchard, left, and Angela Gevaudan, wife of slain RCMP Const. Fabrice Gevaudan in Moncton Friday. The RCMP has been convicted of violating the Labour Code for failing to provide members with use-of-force equipment in connection with the 2014 shooting.
Nadine Larche, left, wife of Const. Doug Larche and Rachael Ross, wife of Const. Dave Ross, talk with reporters.