On Friday, November 24, 2017, the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice and Public Safety in New Brunswick announced a coroner’s inquest into the 2015 shooting of Michel Vienneau by Bathurst Police Force constables Patrick Bulger (38) and Mathieu Boudreau (28).
Michel Vienneau, a 51-year-old Tracadie resident, was shot and killed in a Bathurst Via Rail parking lot on January 12, 2015 after the two officers, who may not have been clearly identified, attempted to detain him. The police were acting on an anonymous tip that Vienneau was carrying “a load of drugs” with him as he returned from Montreal with his partner Annick Basque. The tip proved to be completely false and Vienneau had no criminal record. Constables Patrick Bulger and Mathieu Boudreau were charged with manslaughter by means of an unlawful act, assault with a weapon, and unlawfully pointing a firearm but were let off by provincial court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman.
Upon hearing of the inquest announcement that he had requested, Nicolas Vienneau, the victim’s brother stated: “We have been living three years of hell” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017). Reflecting on the pain his mother (85) and father (88) have been through, he suggested that they are still “terrorized”: “It’s terrible to live like this” (quoted in 2017). In his view: “If we can find some justice, it will not [help my little brother], but maybe it will give us a little bit of peace” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017).
Only days before the inquest was announced, Crown prosecutors gave notice that they would not be appealing the court decision of February 24 , 2017, in which provincial court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman decided to drop charges against the two killer cops. The announcement by prosecutors resulted in a lifting of the publication ban on the trial and raised serious questions about the court’s actions, as we reported at the time. The Crown had sought a judicial review of Judge Dugas-Horsman’s decision, seeking to have it overruled, but Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Tracey DeWare dismissed that application in October.
Nicolas Vienneau reports that the family is “still in shock” over the decision not to appeal (quoted in MacKinnon 2017). He is left to ask: “How can justice allow a person to be shot dead…sitting in his car in motion, by two policemen in civilian clothes…with [an] unmarked car?” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017). The short answer is that the killers were cops and in the Canadian context they are allowed to kill with impunity. But more detailed answers are needed. The family remains perplexed that civilian witnesses were not questioned during preliminary inquiry, which they view as inadequate.
Nicolas Vienneau plans to bring a petition to the House of Commons to have the identity of the Crime Stoppers tipster revealed. In his words: “My family still believes that the tipster of this false information…is the key to the puzzle” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017)
Bulger and Boudreau are still working as officers but face a professional conduct investigation by the New Brunswick Police Commission. That investigation had been suspended while criminal charges were still in effect. With the conclusion of criminal proceedings that investigation will resume.
Annick Basque is suing killer cops Bulger and Boudreau as well as the City of Bathurst.
MacKinnon, Bobbi-Jean. 2017. “Michel Vienneau’s Family Hopes Inquest into 2015 Shooting Death Will Provide Answers.” CBC News. November 24. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/michel-vienneau-coroner-inquest-bathurst-police-shooting-1.4417683