Former RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre. (Black Press Media files)

BC RCMP spokesman’s boss denies calling him redundant, coroner’s inquest hears

Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre’s death was linked to Robert Dziekanski’s death at YVR in 2007

The man accused by RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre’s widow of calling her husband “redundant” denied doing so, in testimony at a coroner’s inquest Wednesday.

Lemaitre committed suicide on July 29, 2013, after the fallout from the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in 2007 set the already-depressed officer on a downward spiral.

On the first day of the inquest, Lemaitre’s widow, Sheila, spoke of Lemaitre overhearing a boss calling him “redundant” on his last day of work in Langley’s traffic detachment, where he had been transferred.

The alleged statement, which occurred in 2012, sent Lemaitre on stress leave from which he would never return.

On Wednesday, that boss, Chief Supt. Denis Boucher, denied the accusation and called Lemaitre a “very dedicated, well respected employee.”

Inquest counsel John Orr questioned Boucher closely. “Did you hear him being referred to as being redundant?”

“No, sir,” Boucher said.

“Did you consider him redundant?” Orr asked.

“No. Pierre was an integral part of my team,” Boucher said.

RELATED: RCMP spokesman spiralled downward after Dziekanski case, inquest hears

Lemaitre had been the first RCMP spokesperson to speak to the media about Dziekanski’s Taser-linked death and how four RCMP officers had responded.

His statement was later thrown into doubt when a citizen-recorded video surfaced that showed the Mounties firing their Tasers five times, not twice, and Dziekanski to be much less aggressive than described by the RCMP.

Lemaitre had tried correct the misinformation, but his bosses refused.

Former colleagues told the inquest about a climate of bullying at the RCMP, particularly towards Lemaitre who felt he had become a scapegoat for the force’s failures in the Dziekanski incident.

Dr. Shaohua Lu, a psychiatrist at the B.C. Occupational Stress Injury Clinic, testified that repeated workplace harassment could lead to post traumatic stress disorder-like symptoms.

Lemaitre had been diagnosed with PTSD, and was working with health professionals to ease “a rage in his head” he could not control.

Lemaitre’s inability to be out in public during his last years was a classic sign of PTSD-sparked avoidance, Lu said, and that the escalating abuse towards his disabled wife could mean the symptoms were increasing.

Marriages and families are the first to break down as patients struggle with PTSD, Lu said, while work is often last, so it may have been hard for the RCMP to truly see Lemaitre get worse.

Boucher said the RCMP had programs in place to deal with harassment.

“If anybody were to be harassed, they would make a complaint and that would be taken on as an investigation… to see if it met the standards for harassment,” Boucher said.

Asked if Mounties took advantage of the programs, or if there was a culture of not acknowledging any weakness and simply struggling alone with it, Boucher said the police force no longer shrugs off mental health issues.

“I take [harassment] seriously, it’s not something I pass off,” he said. “I’ve ordered investigations. I’ve suspended people.”

Lemaitre’s last months

Lemaitre left his position at the RCMP in 2012 to go on stress leave.

Boucher said members have unlimited sick leave and that Lemaitre did not reveal much to him about his mental issues.

“All he was required to tell me is that he was off,” Boucher said.

Anyone off for more than one week had to provide a doctor’s note, he said. Lemaitre’s note did not have a diagnosis or treatment plan. His psychiatrist’s reports were sent to the RCMP’s health services detachment, not to his supervisors.

READ MORE: Dziekanski’s death set off health change for RCMP spokesman, inquest hears

Boucher stayed in touch with Lemaitre via email to provide support and keep him engaged.

“Pierre certainly told me he suffered from PTSD and that he had suffered from depression, but there was no further discussion,” Boucher said. “He never delved into causal factors.”

Nor, Boucher said, did Lemaitre ever tell him about any negative interactions at work.

Lemaitre’s emails told Boucher of a change in medication in late June.

“I’m sorry this is taking longer than expected,” he wrote.

Boucher paused, his voice cracking as he read from emails exchanged his colleague’s final days.

“I hear there can be ups and downs… We can meet for a coffee if you want,” Boucher wrote on July 22.

Boucher’s voice was barely audible as he read Lemaitre’s last email, dated July 23: “Thanks for being there… this is very difficult. The psychiatrist just changed my meds because they’re not giving the results they want.”

Lemaitre was found dead in his Abbotsford home on July 29, six days later.

The coroner’s inquest was scheduled to end Wednesday and is not meant to find legal fault, but to prevent similar deaths.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

District looking for public input on cycling plan

Survey is open to the public until May 25

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Flooding highly unlikely this year throughout Skeena watershed

Region’s snowpack among lowest in the province

Cameras and convoys: Graduation in the age of COVID-19

Schools in Terrace and Kitimat are thinking outside the box to give students a graduation ceremony

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Most Read