MONCTON, N.B. – The RCMP has been ordered to pay $550,000 for failing to properly arm and train its members in a shooting rampage four years ago that left three New Brunswick Mounties dead and two injured. Judge Leslie Jackson handed down the sentence to a packed courtroom in Moncton on Friday that included Acting RCMP Commissioner Daniel Dubeau.
The judge issued a clear rebuke to the force’s leadership for not acting sooner in making sure frontline members were equipped with high-powered rifles that could have made a difference in the lethal incident in 2014.
“While the failure of most of the senior RCMP management team to acknowledge that there was any delay in the patrol carbine rollout is troublesome in regard to their apparent lack of insight into the importance of workplace safety, the response post-incident has been robust,” Jackson said. “It is clear to me, and accepted by both parties, that the provision of carbines to responding members on June 4, 2014, could have reduced the number of deaths and/or injuries.”
Jackson fined the national force $100,000, along with $450,000 in charitable donations for scholarships at the Universite de Moncton, an education fund for the children of the fallen officers and two agencies that assist families of people injured in workplace accidents.
But, he said no sentence would deal with the families’ grief.
Constables Doug Larche, Fabrice Gevaudan and Dave Ross were killed, and constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were injured, when gunman Justin Bourque went hunting police officers in a Moncton neighbourhood.
Nadine Larche said no sentence would bring back her husband Doug and the father of their three daughters, who are reminded daily of their loss as they travel through the neighbourhood where their father was gunned down or pass by a monument erected in the officers’ honour.
“Lives were forever changed because of people’s decisions,” she said outside the courthouse. “My family’s life has forever been changed. My three children are growing up without a daddy. No judgment will bring these men back. No judgment will ever make amends. No judgment will ever make reparations. No judgment will serve justice to what happened.”
The force was convicted of failing to provide its members with adequate use-of-force equipment and user training.
Carbine rifles were not available to general duty officers at the time of the Moncton shootings, and during the Labour Code trial, numerous witnesses said they could have made a difference.
Jackson agreed, adding that the force has acted on 56 of 64 recommendations contained in a report on the incident.
The high-powered carbines were approved in 2011, but their rollout was delayed on several occasions.
Then-commissioner Bob Paulson testified during the RCMP’s trial that management had concerns over the possible militarization of the force. He told the court he worried the carbines could “distance the public from the police.” His testimony was met with anger and frustration from some members of the force.
Larche said proper training and equipment would have resulted in a different outcome for her husband and his colleagues. “I feel very strongly that my husband would have been alive had the RCMP done their due diligence,” she said. “My only hope with this whole trial and judgment is that the decision makers will do more in the future. My hope is that they will put officer safety first when making decisions, so that those RCMP members that protect us are better protected themselves.”
Dubeau said outside the courthouse that work remains to be done in improving the RCMP’s workplace safety.
“We really have to continue working together on their behalf and all our injured employees’ behalf to make it a safe and healthier workplace,” he said.
He said his thoughts were with the fallen officers and “the immense loss to their families and that’s something we can never replace.
“We also have to remember all the harm and the damage that was done to other people that attended that day and the community at large,” he said.
At a sentencing hearing in November, Crown prosecutor Paul Adams asked that a $1-million penalty include a $100,000 fine to the court, $500,000 to the Universite de Moncton for memorial scholarships, $150,000 to educational trust funds for the children of the deceased officers, as well as other donations.
Bourque pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years.