A spokesman for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada says he hopes the RCMP will make major changes after the organization was charged with four counts under the Canada Labour Code over last year's fatal shooting of three officers in Moncton, N.B.
"I'm clearly elated that finally somebody is holding the organization to account for the safety not only of the RCMP members, but also of the public as well," Rob Creasser said Thursday evening.
He said better training and equipment could have lowered the death toll that day.
Any time a federal government employee dies on the job, Employment and Social Development Canada investigates.
"Following the labour program's investigation of this incident, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada recommended that the RCMP be prosecuted for contravention of occupational health and safety provisions of Part II of the Canada Labour Code," spokeswoman Marie-France Faucher said.
"As the case is now before the court, we are not able to comment on it further."
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Thursday's charges relate to equipment, training and supervision. There are four counts under Section 148(1) of the Canada Labour Code. That section of the code states that "every person who contravenes a provision of this part is guilty of an offence and liable" to a maximum $1-million fine and/or a prison sentence of up to two years.
It's not clear if individual RCMP members will face charges.
'Let's not balance budgets on the bodies of possibly members of the public, and certainly members of the RCMP.' — Rob Creasser
"I think it's very unfortunate that it takes Labour Code charges to make not only this government, but the managers at the senior level of the RCMP, aware that they haven't been doing their jobs," Creasser said.
"The RCMP has never been properly funded for equipment and training and we're severely under-resourced in terms of numbers right across the country."
Creasser, a retired officer who served 28 years with the RCMP, said he hopes the charges will lead to action and budgets for "proper training and equipment."
"It really sickens me that it has to get that far," he said. "Let's not balance budgets on the bodies of possibly members of the public and certainly members of the RCMP."
Creasser said there's "pretty good evidence" that if one of the officers had carried a C8 patrol carbine — the high-powered, mid-sized rifles recommended by an inquiry into the 2005 deaths of four RCMP officers near Mayerthorpe, Alta. — he could have shot the gunman from a greater distance, rather than driving up close to him and getting shot.
The Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada represents about 2,000 of the estimated 18,000 Mounties across Canada.
3 Mounties slain, 2 wounded in June 2014
Three RCMP officers died and two others were wounded when a Moncton man went on a shooting spree in June 2014.
"As our honour roll sadly confirms, there has always been — and sadly will continue to be — deadly threats to police officers," said Commissioner Bob Paulson.
"The safety of our employees in doing this dangerous job, protecting the public, is always our priority."
He said the RCMP is reviewing these charges.
Staff Sgt. Abe Townsend, with the RCMP staff relations program, a non-union elected body that represents serving members, called the charges a necessary piece of accountability.
"There's nothing here to feel good about. It's a tragedy that three of our members were murdered. It's not something the membership will take great joy in. It's a piece of accountability that's necessary, just like how accountability is necessary in their day-to-day policing," he said.
A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney expressed support for the RCMP.
"Our government has full confidence in the RCMP to enforce the laws of Canada and keep Canadians safe," said Jeremy Laurin.
"The RCMP commissioned a report into this incident and is acting on those recommendations."
Massive search for gunman
The two-day manhunt for gunman Justin Bourque involved more than 265 RCMP officers from across Canada and about 60 municipal police officers from forces across the country.
They scoured the woods for the heavily armed suspect wearing camouflage as residents of the southeastern New Brunswick city waited under lockdown, gripped by fear. He was arrested just after midnight on June 6.
The RCMP officers killed on June 4 were:
- Const. Douglas James Larche, 40, from Saint John.
- Const. Dave Joseph Ross, 32, from Victoriaville, Que.
- Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, originally from Boulogne-Billancourt, France.
The officers wounded were:
- Const. Éric Stéphane J. Dubois.
- Const. Marie Darlene Goguen.
The Mounties did not have bulletproof vests to protect them against high-powered rifles, as recommended by a federal review nearly eight years ago, the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada said last year.
Ceramic-plated ballistic vests had to be flown into the southeastern New Brunswick city from Ottawa, Rob Creasser told CBC News.