New Brunswick

Bathurst won't seek judicial review of arbitration decision

The City of Bathurst won't seek a judicial review of an arbitrator's decision last month that found no wrongdoing by two officers involved in the 2015 shooting death of Michel Vienneau. 

Arbitrator found no wrongdoing in death of Michel Vienneau

Bathurst Police Force Constables Mathieu Boudreau, left, and Patrick Bulger, centre, will resume their duties with the force later this month. (Shane Magee/CBC )

The City of Bathurst won't seek a judicial review of an arbitrator's decision last month that found no wrongdoing by two officers involved in the 2015 shooting death of Michel Vienneau. 

The city announced the decision in a news release Tuesday afternoon, just days after the five-year anniversary of Vienneau's death. 

Constables Mathieu Boudreau and Patrick Bulger each faced five counts of code of conduct violations under the Police Act. 

Arbitrator Joël Michaud's decision issued Dec. 24 found no violation by the officers. The city had previously not commented on the decision beyond saying it was closely examining the ruling. It had 90 days to decide whether to seek a judicial review. 

"I'm not surprised," Brian Munro, a lawyer who represented Bulger, said in an interview. "I expected, if reasonable heads prevailed and objective minds reviewed the situation, I would have thought no, they're not going to seek judicial review."

Brian Munro and T.J. Burke, lawyers representing Bulger and Boudreau, speak with Basile Chiasson, the lawyer for the Bathurst police chief. (Shane Magee/CBC)

He said his view was that Vienneau's death was a tragedy involving misunderstandings and misperceptions. 

Vienneau, a 51-year-old Tracadie businessman, was killed Jan. 12, 2015 outside the Bathurst train station. He was coming home from watching a hockey game in Montreal with his fiancée, Annick Basque. 

Nicolas Vienneau, Michel Vienneau's brother, said in a recent emailed statement to CBC News that the events of the last five years have "just destroyed us all." He said the family no longer has any trust in the New Brunswick justice system. 

"We will never go back in the Bathurst area because of the police," Nicolas Vienneau said. 

Michel Vienneau, 51, of Tracadie, had come off a Via Rail train from Montreal and was in his car when he was shot and killed by police. (Submitted by Nicolas Vienneau)

Bathurst Mayor Paolo Fongemie said the city went through the arbitration hearing hoping it would help restore trust in the police force. 

"It's going to be a long process," Fongemie said in an interview.

"There's a lot of people suffering through this tragic event. The family is suffering, the two officers are suffering,  the police department and chief. Everybody has wounds that are open and it will take a lot of courage from everybody involved to be able to turn that page."

Bathurst Mayor Paolo Fongemie says it will take time for the community to heal. (Radio-Canada)

Undercover police officers, including Boudreau and Bulger, were waiting for him at the station based on anonymous Crime Stoppers tips he was trafficking drugs by train. The tips turned out to be false.

It's not clear who filed the tips. Documents obtained by CBC revealed Nova Scotia RCMP considered a public mischief investigation of the tips, but police have not said whether such an investigation was carried out. The tips themselves are sealed by a court order. 

Basque testified at the hearing that she didn't know the two men were police officers when they attempted to stop Vienneau from driving away from the station.

Vienneau continued to drive, hitting the unmarked police car before Bulger said he was hit by Vienneau's car. Boudreau said he lost sight of Bulger and shot Vienneau to stop him.

Criminal charges against the two officers were dropped after a judge found there wasn't sufficient evidence. A Court of Queen's Bench judge upheld that ruling. 

T.J. Burke, a lawyer for Boudreau, said there are now three rulings that have found no wrongdoing by the officers related to the shooting. 

"Nobody takes any real pleasure with the fact that Michel Vienneau was shot and killed," Burke said. "However, we've always taken the position the shooting was justified."

He said that was supported by the Nova Scotia RCMP investigation of the officers' actions, which included a use-of-force review that called the shooting justified. 

Officers to return to duties

Both officers had been suspended with pay from the police force pending the outcome of the arbitration hearing. 

The statement says both officers will begin their reintegration process on Jan. 20, 2020, which will include internal administrative and operational elements, as well as recertification.

Burke previously said he expects they would need to undergo recertification in things such as first aid and use of firearms. 

Munro said Bulger "loves policing" but said he wasn't certain of his plans regarding where he'd want to work.

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.