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

Just Posted

North Island emergency and safety organizations get government funding

Seven not-for-profit emergency and safety organizations in the North Island received $219,500… Continue reading

Campbell River Killer Whales divide and conquer meets on opposite sides of the country

Eight athletes competed in Montreal, while 15 made a splash in Victoria over the weekend

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

Campbell River Amnesty International chapter to host Write for Rights events

Opportunity to take action on human rights cases focussing on youth Dec. 10 at the library

VIDEO: Led by ‘Marriage Story,’ Netflix dominates Golden Globe noms

Netflix flexed its muscles across all categories, just as it is girding for battle with a host of new streaming services

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

74% of 911 calls are from cellphones, so know your location: E-Comm

Cell tower triangulation generally only narrows location down to the block someone is calling from

No negligence in RCMP actions in B.C. teen’s overdose death: IIO

Police acted properly when they responded to the first reports of the boy being in distress

320 years since the ‘Big One’ doesn’t mean it’s overdue: B.C. professor

‘It could happen today, tomorrow or 100 years from now’

Would you leave your baby alone to go to the gym? This Canadian dad did

The man identifies just as a divorced dad with a nine-month-old baby

B.C. coroner asking for help identifying man found dead in Peace region

Mounties have deemed the man’s death not suspicious and believe he died earlier this year

Lawyer competence includes knowledge of Indigenous-Crown history: B.C. law society

All practising lawyers in B.C. will be required to take a six-hour online course covering these areas

Wealth of Canadians divided along racial lines, says report on income inequality

One interesting finding was that racialized men have a higher employment rate than non-racialized men

Most Read