British Columbia·In Depth

'Redundant': Top Mountie claims he never heard the word that devastated Pierre Lemaitre

A top B.C. Mountie wept Wednesday as he read his final correspondence with Pierre Lemaitre. He also said he'd never heard anyone describe the former RCMP spokesman as redundant.

Former RCMP spokesman's wife claimed he was in tears after overhearing superior confirm worst fears

Cpl. Pierre Lemaitre pictured speaking to reporters in 2006. Lemaitre killed himself in 2013 after struggling with depression and post traumatic stress disorder. (CBC)

One of B.C.'s top Mounties sobbed at a coroner's inquest Wednesday as he read his final correspondence with a subordinate who killed himself after what colleagues have described as institutional betrayal by the RCMP.

Chief Supt. Denis Boucher was in charge of the Lower Mainland's traffic services division when Pierre Lemaitre went on medical leave with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

His voice broke as he read an email he sent Lemaitre days before his death: "I know there can be ups and downs as you work … (through) these things."

Boucher caught his breath and then continued in a voice that dropped to a whisper as he cried: " … could meet for a coffee if you wish … if you need anything."

He then read Lemaitre's final reply, written days before he killed himself on July 29, 2013.

"Thanks for the email," Lemaitre wrote.

"This is very difficult. I see both a psychologist and a psychiatrist to help me with my situation. The psychiatrist just changed my meds, because they're not getting the results they wanted. I am working on it."

Pierre Lemaitre 'redundant'? "No, sir."

Like the testimony of the other RCMP officials who appeared before the coroner's jury this week, Boucher's evidence raised as many questions as it answered.

The jury is on a mission to find out facts about Lemaitre's death. They've been told explicitly not to find fault. 

But at repeated points, witnesses have pointed a finger of blame at the RCMP. 

Robert Dziekanski died in 2007 after being tasered by four RCMP officers at YVR. Pierre Lemaitre wanted to correct RCMP misinformation about Dziekanski's death. (Dziekanski family)

They say a series of tragedies involving the brutal deaths of women who reminded him of his daughters left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. And those mental wounds were aggravated by his transfer from the media office into Boucher's unit.

He was placed there after the force forbade him from correcting misinformation relayed to the public in initial news reports about the tasering death of Robert Dziekanski. Friends have said Lemaitre was a scapegoat.

His wife told the jury he reached a breaking point after overhearing a senior officer describe him as being "redundant."

In her testimony on Monday, she said Lemaitre identified that officer as Boucher.

Inquest counsel John Orr never directly asked Boucher if he made the comment. He asked if Boucher had ever heard Lemaitre referred to as "being redundant."

"No sir," Boucher answered.

"Did you consider him redundant?"

"Absolutely not. Pierre was an integral member of my team."

'Just come home Pierre'

Earlier in the week, Orr asked another former high-ranking member of the force about the use of the word "redundant." 

Bill Dingwall retired as chief superintendent in 2012 and had investigated a 2003 incident in which Lemaitre was transferred to a night shift after reporting a sexual harassment allegation against his immediate supervisor.

Dingwall, who was recently elected mayor of Pitt Meadows, issued an apology to Lemaitre on behalf of the force. He seemed surprised to hear Lemaitre would have still carried anger over that incident years later.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall retired from the RCMP in 2012. He testified about his investigation into an incident that ended with an apology on behalf of the force to Pierre Lemaitre. (Bill Dingwall/Twitter)

He said calling someone "redundant" would be "bullying and harassment".

"That kind of terminology shouldn't have been taking place at all, with any member," Dingwall said. "It's just wrong, so that shouldn't have been used."

But in her testimony, Sheila Lemaitre said her husband insisted it was.

She recalled him calling her in tears. The comment confirmed everything Pierre Lemaitre had come to believe about himself, his career and the force to which he had devoted his life.

"He said Sheila, I don't know what to do," she said. "I said just come home, just come home. He was crying on the phone. And I said, just come home, Pierre."

'I'm getting choked right now'

Much of Wednesday's testimony was about post traumatic stress disorder. 

Psychiatrist ShaoHua Lu spoke as an expert witness about the erosion of faith in humanity in officers confronted with the worst life has to offer. He was asked about the "rage" Lemaitre told his wife he couldn't control.

"Anger and irritability is a big part of PTSD," Lu said.

Psychiatrists say the experiences of RCMP officers who come into regular contact with tragedy can weigh heavily on mental health. (Reuters)

He spoke about clients who feel transformed: "I feel crazy. No one understands me. I can't control this. What the F is wrong with me?"

Like Boucher, Dingwall also teared up briefly as he recalled an incident involving the abduction and homicide of two children.

"I'm getting choked right now. There's no question in my mind that I have PTSD over that," he said.

But Dingwall insisted the RCMP is better at dealing with trauma than even five years ago, when Lemaitre died.

The force's chief psychologist, Roxane Marois, agreed. She testified at length about programs implemented to encourage members to seek help.

Marois said the programs are in great demand. Orr asked how the force measures the success of the strategy.

"Hmmm," Marois replied.

And then she admitted that they haven't implemented any "performance indicators." But they could, perhaps, see if spending on psychological help has risen.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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