Widow can move Mountie's grave despite parents' opposition: court

An appeal court has ruled the widow of a slain Mountie can have her husband's remains moved from northern Alberta to the national RCMP cemetery.

An appeal court has ruled the widow of a slain Mountie can have her husband's remains moved from a northern Alberta cemetery to the national RCMP cemetery in Regina, despite his parents' opposition.

Const. Leo Johnston was one of four RCMP officers gunned down by James Roszko during a stakeout on Roszko's property near Mayerthorpe, Alta., in March 2005.

Johnston's widow, Kelly Johnston, has long wanted to move her husband's remains from Lac La Biche, where he was born, to the national RCMP cemetery.

Grace Johnston, mother of slain Mountie Leo Johnston, has lost her bid to prevent her son's grave from being moved from Lac La Biche, Alta., where he was born. ((CBC))

However, the slain Mountie's parents, Ron and Grace Johnston, opposed the move and went to court to try to block it.

In October 2007, the Court of Queen's Bench ruled in favour of the widow.

The Alberta Court of Appeal backed that ruling in a decision released Friday. The decision says Johnston's widow has "first priority under common law ... with respect to control of the deceased's body. No other person enjoyed an equivalent rank to her."

"We're absolutely devastated," Grace Johnston told CBC News Friday.

"All we had hoped for was that our son ... would be left to stay where it was he said he wanted to be and that was at home."

Her lawyer was still reviewing the decision, she said, and called the last year a difficult one for the family and the community.

"Parts of us died on March 3, 2005 [when Johnston was shot and killed]. And we've been dying a little bit every day since the sixth of July 2007, when she contacted us and said she intended to disinter him."

Chelsey Bailey, the lawyer for Kelly Johnston, said her client welcomed the decision.

"Kelly is relieved the Court of Appeal has settled this dispute once and for all."

No plans have yet been made to move the Mountie's remains to Regina, she said.