Ten years after the Moncton shootings, the RCMP is still struggling to train its superiors


HALIFAX — Nearly 10 years after a disturbed man with a rifle killed three Mounties in Moncton, N.B., the RCMP has still not fully implemented a key recommendation from a 2014 investigation to prevent such deadly encounters.

HALIFAX — Nearly 10 years after a disturbed man with a rifle killed three Mounties in Moncton, N.B., the RCMP has still not fully implemented a key recommendation from a 2014 investigation to prevent such deadly encounters.

On the evening of June 4, 2014, Justin Bourque left his mobile home armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun to kill police officers. Driven by paranoia and hatred of the government, the 24-year-old worker shot and killed police officers Fabrice Gevaudan (45), David Ross (32) and Douglas Larche (40).

Two other police officers, Darlene Goguen and Eric Dubois, were injured during Bourque's 20-minute rampage before he was able to escape into a wooded area on the edge of a residential area.

For more than 29 hours, the city of 69,000 inhabitants was practically under siege until the crew of a surveillance plane discovered the shooter's glowing heat signature with the help of an infrared camera on the night of June 5, 2014.

Bourque was sentenced to an unprecedented 75 years in prison, but the New Brunswick Court of Appeal reduced his parole to 25 years after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law that had allowed such long sentences.

Six months after the murders, retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) deputy chief of police Alphonse MacNeil released a report with 64 recommendations, including a call for the police to “review how they train their superiors to exercise command and control during critical incidents.”

In his report, MacNeil found that on the night of June 4, 2014, RCMP supervisors “faced a situation that in many ways went beyond what supervisors are trained to handle.” He added that the moment shots were fired, “chaos erupted.”

“No one established a command presence during this time. Members acted on their own, without a unified tactical plan… No one at the command level had an overall view of where resources were positioned, and it remained that way for the next hour or more.”

In response to the recommendation, the RCMP developed two crisis management courses: a 90-minute online introductory course and a 16-hour advanced course. And the courses were made mandatory for all front-line supervisors in 2018.

But in the years that followed, few Mounties signed up for the courses. This problem was exposed by the public inquiry into the 2020 mass murder in Nova Scotia, in which another lone gunman killed 22 people – including an RCMP officer – during a 13-hour rampage on April 18 and 19, 2020.

The Mass Casualty Commission's final report, released just over a year ago, confirmed that none of the RCMP commanders who were first deployed to the Nova Scotia massacre had completed the advanced training course and only one had completed the introductory course.

“We found that many of the supervisors involved in the initial response to the critical incident in Portapique, NS, had not received the training that … MacNeil recommended,” the investigation report states. The supervisors who coordinated the RCMP response that night “were in no better position than their counterparts in Moncton in June 2014.”

The commission of inquiry also disputed the Mounties' claim to investigators in 2022 that they had already implemented MacNeil's recommendation.

“A recommendation cannot be described as 'implemented' if the training has not been completed by all or a large proportion of those addressed,” the Commission's final report states.

The Commission then recommended that the RCMP conduct an external review of its critical incident response training for field supervisors, specifically mentioning the two courses in question.

Two months ago, RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme provided an update on the RCMP's progress in implementing the public inquiry's recommendations and released the required external review. It said the advanced training course needed to be improved, but also acknowledged that compliance rates for the training remained low.

As of March 31, 2023, only 14 percent of police officers had completed the advanced training course. The RCMP's target for that day was 55 percent.

At the higher ranks, 44 percent of corporals had completed the course by the same date. The police were aiming for 70 percent by March 2024, but more recent statistics were not available.

Among sergeants, 43 percent had completed the course by March 31, 2023, well below the 85 percent required by March 2025.

The RCMP acknowledged a request for comment from The Canadian Press but did not respond.

Christian Leuprecht, a professor of political science at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, said the RCMP is a slow-moving organization that has long lacked resources.

“There are never enough financial and human resources because the demands always exceed the resources,” says Leuprecht, who also teaches in the political science department at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston.

Leuprecht said the RCMP's lack of resources is exacerbated by the federal Liberal government's apparent disinterest in police reform. “If it's taken 10 years, you can conclude that at the political level, nobody really cares,” he said.

Meanwhile, in its final report, the Mass Casualty Commission sharply criticized the RCMP's response to the MacNeil report, particularly with regard to critical incident management.

“Although some good work was done in the immediate aftermath of the Moncton shootings, … this work was not sustained institutionally and did not result in lasting improvements in the preparation and training of supervisors,” the final report states.

As the anniversary of the Moncton shooting approaches, RCMP said the city will mark the date with a private gathering of the families of the three police officers killed. The ceremony will take place Tuesday in the Honour Garden in Riverfront Park, where a memorial features life-size statues of Gévaudan, Ross and Larche.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2024.

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press