Wife of officer sues RCMP over his suicide

Robert Dziekanski holds a small table at the Vancouver Airport before he was tasered by police in this image from video.
Robert Dziekanski holds a small table at the Vancouver Airport before he was tasered by police in this image from video. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Pritchard

VANCOUVER – The wife of an RCMP officer who killed himself two years ago claims that her husband was used by the Mounties a scapegoat in the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver’s airport in October 2007.

In a statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Sheila Lemaitre said her husband, Pierre, was told he would lose his job if he tried to correct misinformation given to the media about the night Dziekanski died.

The sergeant was the media relations officer who released information about the incident where the Polish immigrant was jolted with a police Taser and died on the floor of the arrivals area.

The lawsuit claimed Lemaitre wanted to correct the information, but was ordered not to say anything.

“As a result of this incorrect information, his immediate removal as RCMP spokesman, the subsequent public release of the private video … he was brought into public contempt where he was accused in the public of being the ‘RCMP liar’ and/or the RCMP spin doctor,” the statement said.

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The bystander video released after the Dziekanski confrontation with police was much different that the original version of events given to media by RCMP.

In fact, the four officers involved were later charged with perjury for testimony they gave at the public inquiry looking into the death.

The officers were all tried separately and two were convicted, while two were acquitted.

Corp. Kwesi Millington was given 30 months in prison by a judge in June. Benjamin “Monty” Robinson was sentenced last week to two years in jail for lying to the inquiry.

The judge in Robinson’s case said the former officer’s actions damaged the reputation of the RCMP and undermined confidence in the once-trusted institution.

The statement of claim said the RCMP knew Lemaitre was under extreme psychological distress caused by the negligence of the force and that it could result in his becoming suicidal.

“Conduct of the RCMP and/or members of the RCMP with respect to the events following the (airport) incident was either intended to or allowed Sgt. Lemaitre to become the ‘scapegoat’ for the public criticism of the RCMP with respect to the incident on Oct. 14, 2007,” the lawsuit stated.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and an RCMP spokesman said it wouldn’t be appropriate to make any official comment on a matter that is subject to a civil proceeding.

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The court document outlined that Lemaitre was transferred to a job described as an RCMP “dumping ground,” that he was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, and became depressed, angry, full of rage.

He went on sick-leave in February 2013 and “committed suicide” on July 13, 2013, the document stated.

The statement of claim alleged an RCMP chaplain took control of the funeral arrangements, determining which songs could be played, and said that it was an “absolute requirement” that he “vet” all of the eulogies.

Lamaitre’s wife was told on the day before the funeral that she could not give a eulogy herself, and when she asked who was giving that order, the chaplain said “You know who signs my cheques,” said the statement.

Sheila Lemaitre and their two daughters are suing for loss of love, guidance and companionship of their husband and father.

No specific dollar figure is mentioned in the lawsuit, but the statement says the family is seeking damages from both the Federal Attorney General and the B.C. Ministry of Justice that are liable for the RCMP actions.

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