The widow of the late Mountie who became the face of the Robert Dziekanski case has launched a lawsuit against the RCMP, saying the force made him a scapegoat for the fatal confrontation between the Polish immigrant and police at the Vancouver airport in 2007.
- Read the full statement of claim
- Lemaitre mourned at memorial service
- RCMP apologize for inaccurate statements on Dziekanski
Pierre Lemaitre took his own life in 2013 while on leave from the force. The 28-year RCMP veteran was 55 years old and had two grown daughters.
Sheila Lemaitre filed the statement of claim against the Attorney General of Canada and B.C.'s justice ministry, which are the employers representing the RCMP.
In the claim, Lemaitre said her husband's suicide was the result of the RCMP's negligent conduct and its "intentional infliction of mental suffering." The allegations haven't been proved in court. The lawsuit was filed July 28.
The suit, which was filed in B.C. Supreme Court, says Lemaitre's career came off the rails in the aftermath of Dziekanski's death.
The lawsuit calls for general damages, damages compensable under the Family Compensation Act, interest and costs.
Dziekanski Tasered at airport
Dziekanski, who did not speak English, had come to Canada to live with his mother but got disoriented and wandered the airport for 10 hours. He eventually grew agitated and began to throw furniture in the arrival area. At one point, he brandished a stapler. Four officers arrived and used a stun gun to subdue Dziekanski. He died at the airport.
Lemaitre was the officer in charge of RCMP media relations at the time. In his initial account to reporters, he described Dziekanski as combative and threatening. He said Mounties only Tasered Dziekanski twice. Later, a video surfaced, showing police using a Taser five times on Dziekanski.
The statement of claim says Lemaitre asked his superiors to correct the wrong information but was turned down. One superior allegedly warned Lemaitre, saying, "You say anything and it's your job."
He was taken off the Dziekanski file and transferred to suburban Langley, B.C..
According to the statement of claim, "the job function in this posting was essentially a demotion and was considered by many within the RCMP as being a "dumping ground.'"
The suit says Lemaitre was devastated by the way the Mounties dealt with him. By refusing to let him correct police misinformation, he "was brought into public contempt," and accused in public of being an "RCMP liar" and "RCMP spin doctor."
At work, the suit says he once overheard an officer say of him, "That's Pierre Lemaitre, he is redundant."
The suit says he became depressed and furious. He told his wife that he had "a rage in his brain that he could not stop and he could not control and didn't know why."
From 2012 to 2013, Lemaitre was on a combination of anti-depressants, and sought help for stress-related weight gain.
Career was destroyed, says suit
The RCMP's decision to remove him as a spokesman on the Dziekanski case and strip him of his media duties was an "intentional infliction of mental suffering," the statement of claim says.
On the day Lemaitre died, RCMP officers brought an RCMP chaplain to his home. The chaplain took control of funeral arrangements and told his widow that he needed to see copies of all eulogies from Lemaitre's friends in order to vet them.
Three days later, a senior B.C. RCMP officer contacted Lemaitre about funeral arrangements. That officer told her that "what was done to Pierre was done for the good of the force."
The transfer to Langley was not the first time the RCMP moved Lemaitre against his will. In 2003, he was transferred to Chilliwack, B.C., after he filed a complaint against his superior of sexual harassment on behalf of a female reporter.
Lemaitre eventually worked his way back up the media relations ladder and, by 2007, was based at the former Heather Street headquarters in Vancouver, as E Division's chief media contact.