MONCTON, N.B. — Three years after a gunman's rampage left three Mounties dead, the RCMP itself faces trial Monday.
The Labour Code trial stems from the force's handling of the 2014 massacre in Moncton, N.B., and the wife of one victim says it will be extremely difficult for everyone involved — but necessary.
"Change in this organization is needed before tragic history repeats itself," Nadine Larche said.
"Had they had proper equipment, proper training and information, I believe that the outcome of that day would have been very different."
Her husband, Constable Doug Larche, and constables Fabrice Gevaudan and Dave Ross were killed, while constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were wounded when gunman Justin Bourque used a semi-automatic rifle to target police officers in Moncton's northwest end.
The rampage set off a 30-hour manhunt that drew in officers from around the region. People in the area were told not to leave their homes until the gunman was caught. Bourque later said he had hoped to start a rebellion against the government.
The RCMP's lengthy trial is scheduled to begin Monday before a provincial court judge, and is expected to last until the end of June.
Employment and Social Development Canada alleges the force failed to:
— Provide its members with appropriate use-of-force equipment and user training when responding to an active threat or active shooter event;
— Provide its members with necessary information, instruction and/or training when responding to an active threat or active shooter event;
— Provide its supervisory personnel with appropriate information, instruction and/or training when responding to an active threat or active shooter event; and
— Ensure, in general, the health and safety of its members.
Larche said she hopes the trial will lead to changes to ensure officer safety and better working conditions.
"I am encouraged by the fact that charges were laid and that the Crown is holding the RCMP responsible for mistakes that were made that cost three RCMP members' lives," she said in an email to The Canadian Press.
A review said officers responding to the shootings faced a litany of problems, including getting access to accurate information, high-powered weaponry and protective equipment.
The RCMP entered not-guilty pleas in May 2016.
Rob Creasser of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada said he was "surprised and horrified at the same time" when the force entered not guilty pleas.
He calls the trial a tremendous waste of taxpayers' money that will unnecessarily dredge up a lot of emotions.
Still, Creasser said he hopes it leads to accountability by the force.
"It's important that communities, especially those that have the RCMP looking after them, that those police agencies have the tools, equipment and training they need to be effective in their work and keep those communities safe. I don't think this was the case in Moncton," he said.
Creasser acknowledges that the RCMP have made improvements since the Moncton incident.
"I think they're trying to play catch-up, but they had a 10-year lead time. We go back to what happened in Mayerthorpe, Alberta in 2005 and the recommendations that came out of that — another tragedy where four members lost their lives."
(Four RCMP officers were shot dead in 2005 by gunman James Roszko, who then killed himself, on a farm in northwest Alberta near Mayerthorpe, during a raid to investigate stolen property and a small marijuana grow operation.)
Creasser said the force has not rolled out new C8 carbine rifles quickly enough.
Bourque was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 75 years after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
A bronze monument featuring life-size statues of constables Larche, Gevaudan and Ross was unveiled on Moncton's riverfront last June, on the second anniversary of the shootings.
In recent weeks, many members of the RCMP across the country have removed the yellow stripes from their pants to protest pay, staffing levels and working conditions.
"RCMP members and their loved ones are all frustrated and tired of the ill equipped and poor working conditions RCMP officers are placed in daily," Larche said.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press