No life jackets, a one-of-a-kind boat and too much water contributed to the death of RCMP Const. Michael Potvin are some of the details contained in arguments filed by Canada's Attorney General with the Yukon coroner's office.
The documents were filed to prevent the coroner’s office from holding an inquest into the July 2010 drowning.
The documents say Potvin and RCMP Cpl. Brent Chapman were testing a flat-bottom boat on the Stewart River. Modifications meant it was heavier than most and had a high-walled transom, or back end, making it the only one of its kind in Canada. RCMP have since gotten rid of the boat.
The two men were having problems with the engine when a wave of water came into the boat and led to it capsizing.
Neither officer had a life vest on. Potvin tried to swim to shore and didn't make it. Chapman held onto the boat until he was rescued.
The attorney general said multiple investigations have been carried out by the RCMP, transportation officials, independent prosecutors and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
Documents argue the coroner's role is to determine the cause of death, which they say has been identified as drowning. In a statement on its website, the RCMP argues against a coroner’s inquest. The attorney general said an inquest would only look at matters beyond the coroner’s jurisdiction.
Territorial court judge Karen Ruddy has been named as the coroner who will hear the case this month.
The inquest has been postponed until the question of jurisdiction is determined.
Yukon RCMP has made changes since Potvin’s death
Yukon chief superintendent Peter Clark said they're following recommendations from the other investigations.
Those include more maintenance and inspections, working with local people to learn about water hazards, more training on vessels and equipment as well as making sure officers use equipment supplied to them, such as life vests.
"They involve not only training and equipment upgrades, but constantly refreshing the members as they move from one community to the other, and new members come and go from the territory too. So this really is a way of doing business which we're working to entrench into our practices and standards," said Clark.
Clark added that while the changes are specific to the RCMP, he said he thinks all Yukoners can learn from them.