A judge ruled Friday that the RCMP was guilty of failing to provide adequate use-of-force equipment and related user training to the Moncton Mounties who were killed or wounded while trying to stop gunman Justin Bourque in June 2014.
However, Judge Leslie Jackson found the RCMP not guilty of charges related to providing adequate training and supervision when responding to an active threat or active shooter event.
He also stayed a fourth charge against the RCMP related to ensuring the health and safety of its members, because he said the first charge already encompassed that issue.
The trial, which began in April and ended in July, examined whether RCMP officers were sufficiently armed when Justin Bourque went on a shooting rampage in Moncton.
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In a statement released shortly after the verdict, the RCMP said it will review the decision and consider next steps.
"Today's verdict will not change the tragic reality that on June 4, 2014, we lost three friends and colleagues — and nearly lost more — to the actions of one man," the statement read.
The statement says the RCMP will not be commenting further at this time.
Failed to establish due diligence
The court heard from 30 witnesses, many in tears, in what experts have called a precedent-setting case.
The focus of the trial was whether some of the deaths could have been prevented if the officers had been better armed, specifically with carbines.
Carbines are high-powered, short-barrelled rifles that have longer and more accurate range than pistols or shotguns.
While most Mounties are now equipped and trained to use the rifles, the Moncton officers did not have access to carbines on the night of the shootings.
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In his 64-page decision, Jackson said he believed the RCMP failed to establish due diligence by not prioritizing the rollout of the carbines.
"Front-line officers were left exposed to potential grievous bodily harm and/or death while responding to active shooter events for years, while the carbine rollout limped along, apparently on the assumption that, as the likelihood of such an event was relatively rare, a timely implementation was not required," he wrote.
'While they paid lip service to that ideal their actions, or in this case inactions, belie that concern.' - Judge Leslie Jackson on RCMP management
"Almost all members of RCMP management who testified at trial said that safety of their members was a priority of theirs," the judge continued.
"While they paid lip service to that ideal, their actions, or in this case inactions, belie that concern."
Sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 23 at 9:30 a.m. Crown prosecutor Paul Adams said he would like the opportunity for victim impact statements to be submitted for the hearing.
Family satisfied with verdict
Const. Douglas James Larche, Const. Dave Ross and Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan lost their lives in the shootings.
Outside the courthouse, widows of the slain officers said they were satisfied with the verdict.
Nadine Larche said she's felt all along that if RCMP members had been properly equipped that day, "my husband would not have died."
"The father of my children would not have died."
"I'm happy my husband didn't die in vain," said Rachael Ross, the widow of Dave Ross.
Louis-Philippe Thériault, an officer in Moncton who worked the night of the shooting, and the national secretary of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, said he was satisfied that there will be some accountability for what took place.
The trial's Crown prosecutor also said he hopes the verdict will have some tangible benefit to officers, but wouldn't discuss what fines he will be seeking.
The RCMP was charged with violating four provisions of the Canada Labour Code, each carrying a maximum fine of $1 million.
The four charges were:
- Failing to provide RCMP members with appropriate use of force equipment and related user training when responding to an active threat or active shooter event.
- Failing to provide RCMP members with appropriate information, instruction and/or training to ensure their health and safety when responding to an active threat or active shooter event in an open environment.
- Failing to provide RCMP supervisory personnel with appropriate information, instruction and/or training to ensure the health and safety of RCMP members when responding to an active threat or active shooter event in an open environment.
- Failing to ensure the health and safety at work of every person employed by the organization, namely RCMP members, was protected.
No individual RCMP manager or supervisor was named in the charges.
In a statement, Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale said Friday's verdict carries important implications.
"The government will study it with great care as we strive to make every federal working environment as safe and healthy as humanly possible," he said.