WATCH: Thursday marks one year since a gunman killed three RCMP officers in Moncton. Global News has reported extensively on calls by some members for more weapons and training. Now, we’re hearing about a lack of adequate emotional and mental support within the force. Ross Lord reports.
For Moncton, a year isn’t nearly enough time to recover.
The anniversary of the murder spree that killed three Mounties, injured two others and forced thousands into a 30-hour lockdown, is triggering relapses among those most traumatized by the June 4, 2014 rampage.
Some of the Mounties who were working in Moncton throughout the ordeal are even considering leaving town, to get away from the memory of their colleagues — Constables Doug Larche, Dave Ross and Fabrice Gevaudan — being gunned down in the line of duty.
The governing body for Codiac RCMP, the detachment three officers were members off, confirms at least 20 members have requested transfers to other locations. That amounts to 15 per cent of the detachment.
Terry McKee, who retired from the Codiac detachment two years ago, said the numbers could be even higher.
“I have very good information that it’s actually more than 20 members that are looking to get out,” said McKee, blaming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Mounties’ fears they still don’t have enough weaponry and training.
For some, support from within is questionable, according to peer-support counsellor Vince Savoia.
Savoia met with roughly 60 people at an information meeting in Moncton on Monday.
Many of the attendees were first responders, including RCMP officers.
He told Global News some Mounties are being ridiculed for coming forward with what they are going through.
“I heard one statement, that someone had emailed somebody who had asked for help, that that individual was an embarrassment to the uniform, that there is no way a police officer should ever ask for help,” Savoia recounted.
Savoia, a former paramedic afflicted with PTSD, founded the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, to help others.
He said the perception the RCMP still isn’t providing officers with enough protection makes the anxiety worse — even after accepting recommendations from an external review that concluded Constables Ross, Larche and Gevaudan were outgunned by Justin Bourque’s superior firepower.
“Until these officers are equipped and those recommendations are fulfilled, I think you’re gonna see a lot of people struggling with that issue within the area,” Savoia said.
The RCMP did not provide a comment to Global News.
Community members are also struggling to get over the horror that unfolded in Moncton last year.
“People are having flashbacks and going through some re-traumatization,” Martin Kreplin, the pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, told Global News.
Kreplin and his wife have been valuable resources for the community: both are trained in critical incident stress management.
Some residents had direct exposure to events no-one should ever have to see.
Vanessa Bernatchez, who recorded a now-infamous video of one of the officers being killed, posted the clip online to warn others.
But, it instantly provoked a backlash, and accusations she was being disrespectful.
Ever since, her life has been wracked with sleepless nights and anxiety.
“It’s something that replays in my head all the time, even like certain sounds will trigger it for me,” said Bernatchez.
But for others, there has been some relief.
Marjorie Hicks and 39 others were locked inside a church sanctuary — her fears were compounded because her son, Allan, was among the RCMP officers who responded.
“This message that came in, it could have been Allan. It could have been a lot of his friends that we know, too,” Hick said.
Community-bonding activities, like street barbecues and planting trees along the path of Bourque’s rampage, are helping heal Moncton’s scarred psyche.
“It’s a way to get closure on the event” said Matt McNeil, a Moncton resident and witness to Justin Bourque’s rampage.
The few events planned for Thursday’s commemoration are low-key — gestures aimed at celebrating the fallen officers, without making the pain worse.
They include an announcement of a winning artist for a permanent memorial along Moncton’s Petitcodiac River and a free performance of the RCMP’s Musical Ride.