New Brunswick

Michel Vienneau's family hopes inquest into 2015 shooting death will provide answers

Members of Michel Vienneau's family hope a coroner's inquest ordered Friday into his 2015 shooting death by Bathurst police will provide the answers and closure they have been seeking.

It's been '3 years of hell' for family of Tracadie businessman killed by Bathurst police acting on false tip

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

Members of Michel Vienneau's family hope a coroner's inquest ordered Friday into his 2015 shooting death by Bathurst police will provide the answers and closure they have been seeking.

"We have been living three years of hell," said his brother Nicolas Vienneau, who requested the inquest.

His mother and father, aged 85 and 88, are "terrorized," he said. "It's terrible to live like this."

"If we can find some justice, it will not [help my little brother], but maybe it will give us a little bit of peace."

The Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice and Public Safety announced the inquest on Friday, just days after public prosecutors announced they will not be pursuing further criminal proceedings against the two officers involved.

"This inquest will provide a forum for a full review of the circumstances and will allow a jury to consider preventative measures," the government said in a statement.​

The presiding coroner, schedule and location have not yet been determined, it said.

Bathurst Police Force constables Patrick Bulger, left, and Mathieu Boudreau have been back at work since February, when the charges against them were dropped. (Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC)
Michel Vienneau, a 51-year-old Tracadie businessman, was shot and killed in a Via Rail parking lot on Jan. 12, 2015, when police, acting on an anonymous tip he was carrying "a load of drugs" back with him from Montreal, attempted to arrest him.

The tip proved to be false.

Constables Patrick Bulger, 38, and Mathieu Boudreau, 28, were charged with manslaughter by means of an unlawful act, assault with a weapon, and unlawfully pointing a firearm.

But provincial court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman ruled there wasn't enough evidence to proceed to trial.

The Crown sought a judicial review of that decision, hoping to have it overruled, but Court of Queen's Bench Justice Tracey DeWare dismissed the application in October.

On Monday, public prosecution services announced it would not seek an appeal of that decision, bringing an end to the criminal proceedings against Bulger and Boudreau.

Push to name tipster

Nicolas Vienneau says there are still many unanswered questions about his brother's death. (François Vigneault/Radio-Canada)

Nicolas Vienneau wrote to Justice Minister Denis Landry the same day, requesting a coroner's inquiry.

On Friday, Vienneau said he is grateful the minister acted on his request but said the family is "still in shock" by the decision not to appeal.

"How can justice allow a person to be shot dead … sitting in his car in motion, by two policemen in civilian clothes … with [an] unmarked car?" he asked.

Vienneau contends the preliminary inquiry was insufficient, citing as an example that civilian witnesses weren't questioned.

He also plans to bring a petition to the House of Commons to have the identity of the Crime Stoppers tipster revealed.

"My family still believes that the tipster of this false information … is the key to the puzzle."

Probe into police conduct resumes

An inquest is a formal court proceeding that allows for public presentation of all evidence relating to a death to help clarify the facts and circumstances.

The coroner does not assign responsibility or blame, but there may be recommendations on how to prevent similar future deaths.

Bulger and Boudreau are back at work but still face a professional conduct investigation by the New Brunswick Police Commission.

Bathurst Police Force Chief  Ernie Boudreau had filed a conduct complaint against the two officers, following the fatal shooting. But that investigation was suspended, pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.

Now that the criminal proceedings have concluded, the chief has requested the process resume, confirmed city spokesperson Luc Foulem.

The investigator has not yet been named.

"The Bathurst Police Force and the municipal government of the City of Bathurst maintains its commitment to have an upstanding, fair and equitable investigative process regarding the conduct of the two members of its police force," said Foulem.

Vienneau's common-law partner, Annick Basque, is also suing Bulger and Boudreau as well as the City of Bathurst.