Four RCMP officers who allege they suffered serious psychological trauma as a result the force’s failure to properly equip them prior to the Moncton shootings are suing the federal government for damages.
It’s been two years since a Moncton judge found the RCMP failed to provide adequate equipment and training to front-line members who had to deal with the increasing reality of an active shooter situation.
Justin Bourque went on a shooting rampage on June 4, 2014, taking to the streets of Moncton with a military-style rifle, killing three Mounties and injuring two others.
The officers only had duty pistols to defend themselves.
The plaintiffs, Constables Robert Nickerson, Shelly Mitchell, Martine Benoit and Mathieu Daigle, were among the first on the scene in the city’s north end, when calls about a man walking down the street with a rifle came in.
No longer trust RCMP
Daigle’s statement of claim states the officer felt like he could have neutralized the shooter if he had been better equipped, something he testified about at the Canada Labour Code trial.
Bourque was in his direct line of sight at one point but too far away to reach with a pistol, which is a short-range weapon.
Daigle says he can no longer trust the RCMP, which he holds responsible for the deaths of his colleagues. He has survivor’s guilt, nightmares related to the shooting and vivid images of Bourque firing shots at him and Const. Fabrice Gevaudan, who was killed the night of the shooting.
“The negligence of the RCMP resulted in a situation where he was unequipped to engage the armed assailant, putting his life and his colleagues at extreme risk,” read his statement of claim.
All the plaintiffs say they have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the events of June 4, 2014.
One has been off work since February, while another was declared permanently unfit and was medically released from the force last year, after 15 years of service.
‘Waiting there to be shot’
Benoit, who had also testified about the night’s events during the labour code trial, describes feeling unsafe when she was deployed by herself at a street corner that night.
“She felt she was just waiting there to be shot without having any meaningful way to defend herself,” the claim read.
Her statement of claim also describes herself and another officer arguing over who would get the last body armour, each offering it to the other, and Benoit not having access to a map in her vehicle, leaving her completely unaware of her surroundings.
The lawsuits, filed against Canada’s attorney general, hold the RCMP directly responsible for the harm done to the officers.
“The Crown’s liability arises from the conduct, negligence, malfeasance and vicarious liability of the RCMP and individuals who were at all material times Crown employees, agents and servants,” read the statements of claim, filed Sept. 12 in Moncton’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
Hoping for accountability
Brian Murphy, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said neither he nor the four Mounties would be commenting for now.
Louis-Philippe Theriault, president of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, worked with the four officers. He said he is not surprised by the lawsuits and he hopes that if the matters go to trial, more information is brought to light.
“Somehow, somewhere, someone made a decision not to issue carbines to members, made a decision not to issue active shooter training to members,” said Theriault.
“Individuals felt — and for cause — that they’ve been wronged by the RCMP,” he said.
In September 2017, Justice Leslie Jackson found the RCMP violated a Canada Labour Code provision in failing to properly equip and train members, by “limping along” on the issue of carbines for years.
The civil lawsuits mention the decision as a basis for going after the federal government for money.
“The RCMP did not act with due diligence in rolling out the carbines, despite knowing of the potential grievous bodily harm or death that front-line officers faced,” read the claims.
The Office of the Attorney General declined comment, saying it was an RCMP matter.
The RCMP has yet to respond to CBC News.
The night of the shooting, there were no carbines at the Moncton department. New Brunswick had just received 22 of them, but they were at Base Gagetown for a training exercise, as the force was in the middle of rolling them out.