Courts in Canada have consistently protected police officers who kill against prosecution. Usually charges are not laid and in other cases charges are dropped after it is decided there has been too long a delay in bringing the officers to trial. The state determinedly protects the state. In the case of the killing of Michel Vienneau by Bathurst police officers Patrick Bulger and Mathieu Boudreau in 2015 a judicial review is now being sought after a provincial judge Anne Dugas-Horsman decided earlier in 2017 not to bring the officers to trial. They had faced charges of manslaughter. The judge’s decision was roundly criticized and shocked family and friends who then initiated a petition calling for a review.
On January 12, 2015, 51-year-old Michel Vienneau of Tracadie, New Brunswick, was shot and killed by Bathurst Police Force Constable Patrick Bulger (38) and Constable Mathieu Boudreau (26) under highly dubious circumstances. Vienneau was shot as he left the Bathurst VIA Rail train station following return from a trip to Montreal with his partner Annick Basque. The officers were supposedly responding to accusations against the couple through an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip. A subsequent investigation by RCMP found that neither Vienneau nor Basque were involved in any criminal activity and neither were carrying drugs as the tip claimed.
On Tuesday, April 11, 2017 it was announced that New Brunswick’s public prosecution services is seeking a judicial review of Provincial Court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman’s decision not to proceed to trial in the case. Judge Dugas-Horsman ruled in February 2017 that there was not enough evidence to take the officers to trial.
According to spokesperson Sheila Lagacé in a prepared statement: “Public prosecutions services is of the opinion that the judge at the preliminary hearing failed to consider all of the relevant evidence and thereby committed a jurisdictional error” (quoted in Yard and MacKinnon 2017).
Judge Dugas-Horsman had ruled that the prosecution failed to meet the threshold that both accused officers engaged in an illegal act when they killed Vienneau. The public prosecutions services wants a Court of Queen’s Bench justice to review that decision.
The Court of Queen’s Bench could uphold the decision of the provincial court or officers Bulger and Boudreau could be committed to stand trial following the review (Yard and MacKinnon 2017). The review will be based on information already on record.
According to defense lawyer Lutz this is “a highly unusual manner of proceeding” (quoted in Yard and MacKinnon 2017). He suggests that it is, in fact, the “first time he has heard of a judicial review in this type of situation in years” (Yard and MacKinnon 2017). It is, however, the only way to appeal a preliminary inquiry decision which can not be appealed in regular procedures because it is “an interim of a court process” (quoted in Yard and MacKinnon 2017.
Of note, public prosecution services is somewhat independent and does not act on direction from the provincial government in carrying out its responsibilities (Yard and MacKinnon 2017).
Yard, Bridget and Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon. 2017. “Judicial Review Sought of Decision Not To Try Police in Bathurst Shooting Death.” CBC News. April 11. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/bulger-boudreau-vienneau-bathurst-judicial-review-1.4065361