By Greg Marquis
Recently, history was made in a court room in Moncton, New Brunswick. Provincial court Judge Leslie Jackson convicted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on one count under the Canada Labour Code: “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.” The RCMP as an employer was acquitted of three other charges and both the defence and prosecution will return in January to learn the sentence, which will be a fine of up to $ 1 million. Most of the fine, whatever the amount decided, will be given to programs that help victims of crime.
The trial was unique in that RCMP defence witnesses, including outgoing Commissioner Bob Paulson, testified for the defence which argued that the force had exercised due diligence in training, equipping and supervising its officers in order to keep them safe on the job. While being a police officer in Canada is not as dangerous as driving a taxi cab or working on a fishing boat in terms of the chance of dying on the job, it can be risky and the RCMP rank and file seems convinced that it has become more dangerous even as overall crime rates fall. The incident that prompted the investigation of Employment and Social Development Canada was a rampage in the summer of 2014 by Justin Bourque, who roamed a residential neighbourhood of western Moncton, dressed in combat clothing and carrying a semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun. Within minutes he had fatally shot three members of the Codiac Regional RCMP: Dave Ross, Fabrice Gevaudan and Doug Larche. The men left behind widows and, in two cases, children. Constables Éric Stéphane J. Dubois and Darlene Goguen were wounded by Bourque, who eluded the police for thirty hours. By the time he surrendered to Emergency Response Team (ERT) members, Bourque had paralyzed much of the city and prompted one of the biggest deployments of RCMP and municipal police units in Atlantic Canadian history.
In the end Bourque pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two of attempted murder. After apologizing to the families of the victims, he was sentenced to three consecutive sentences of twenty-five years, meaning that the twenty-four year old had no hope of parole for at least seventy-five years. Despite his anti-police and anti-government views, and his explained motive of wanting to target police in order to set off a rebellion against the state, Bourque was not deemed a terrorist. Also, despite initially appearing to paralyze the second largest police service in the province, and forcing much of Moncton’s west end to be ‘locked down,’ the active shooter incident generated little debate on gun control. This was despite the comments of defence lawyer David Lutz, who partly blamed the tragedy on “right-wing, gun nut culture” and Canada’s weakened gun control laws.  Continue reading