Skip to content

Finances played role in carbine rollout: witness at RCMP labour code trial

Finances played role in carbine rollout: witness

Senior Mounties should not have included the "influence of finances" when deciding which RCMP divisions would first get semi-automatic carbine rifles, an RCMP tactical expert testified Wednesday at the national police force's trial on charges of violating the Canada Labour Code.

The allegations against the RCMP stem from its response to Justin Bourque's 2014 shooting rampage in Moncton, N.B., which claimed the lives of three officers and left two others wounded. Bourque shot each of the officers with a semi-automatic assault rifle, prompting some critics to complain police armed with pistols and shotguns were outgunned.

As a result, police use of the C8 carbine — also a high-powered assault rifle — became a central focus after the Moncton shootings. The Mounties in that city did not have access to carbines at the time.

RCMP Supt. Bruce Stuart, an expert in use of force, told Moncton provincial court that he contributed to a threat risk assessment that would help determine how many carbines were needed and which divisions needed them most. The carbines were approved in September 2011, but the rollout took time.

Stuart told Judge Leslie Jackson that senior management wanted to add financial components to the risk assessment.

He said he attempted to stress that the assessment should not include "the influence of finances," but he said the top brass did not see it that way.

"I understand finance plays a piece of it, but to me, don't meld it together," Stuart, a carbine instructor, said during his second full day of testimony. 

He said some detachments could afford to purchase the carbines immediately, but others would need more time.

On Tuesday, Stuart told the judge-alone trial that he wanted the new firearms to be distributed to every detachment in a national rollout.

The RCMP purchased 375 carbines in its first order for $2 million because that amount did not require a request to the federal Treasury Board, he said.

Later Wednesday, defence attorney Ian Carter asked about RCMP's process in adopting carbines for front-line officers.

Under cross-examination, Stuart said the carbine purchasing, training and rollout was a highly complicated process with many people involved, and one that was not to be rushed.

He conceded that funding was an important component of that process, but he said the financial terms should have been dealt with separately from the risk assessment.

Stuart, who first wrote a briefing note in 2006 recommending the force look at carbines, agreed when asked if he had attempted to ensure carbines were adopted in timely way, while also making sure the process was done appropriately.

Crown prosecutor Paul Adams has said the majority of the officers in Moncton who responded to the active-shooter call on June 4, 2014 lacked full training.

In his opening comments earlier this week, he said some of the fatalities could have been avoided had the force complied with labour laws.

Alphonse MacNeil, a retired assistant commissioner with the RCMP, issued a 2015 report on the Moncton shootings that concluded carbines could have made a difference in that incident and they should be rolled out faster.

Follow (at)AlyThomson on Twitter.

Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press