Reward offered for information on false tip that led to Michel Vienneau's 2015 death

The family of Michel Vienneau is offering a $10,000 reward to people who have information regarding what led to his death almost five years ago. 

This includes information on the "bogus Crime Stoppers tip" that came in before Vienneau was fatally shot by Bathurst police at the Via Rail station on Jan. 12, 2015.

Two tips alleged the 51-year-old Tracadie man was trafficking drugs on the train back from Montreal, where he had gone to watch a hockey game with his fiancée Annick Basque. A subsequent RCMP investigation found no evidence he was involved in criminal activity. 

Nicolas Vienneau, Michel Vienneau's brother, wrote a public post about the reward on Facebook on Thursday. The post said Vienneau's family is suffering and attempting to cope with their grief over his death. The family did not respond to interview requests. 

The post seeks information that leads to the "arrest and prosecution" of anyone involved in Vienneau's death, such as the names of people who led to the police operation.

Submitted by Nicolas Vienneau

It says information provided to the family through an email in the post would be passed along to police for investigation. 

Little is known about the source of the tips as Crime Stoppers promises to keep tipsters anonymous.

Yvon Comeau, elected president of Crime Stoppers New Brunswick's board of directors this year, said the program will continue to keep tipsters anonymous.

"If the public want to make and put an ad in the newspaper to find out who the tipster may be, that's their own prerogative," Comeau said.

Alain Tremblay, a retired RCMP officer, told Radio-Canada the family has been through a tragedy. 

Bridget Yard/CBC

"I think it's the first time I'm aware that somebody is willing to give an award to identify a possible tipster," Tremblay said.

The Crime Stoppers program receives calls, texts and online submissions of tips that it then sends along to the relevant police force.

Any identifying information about the tipster is removed before the tip is provided to police. The program, which is run through a charity, doesn't record phone numbers, IP addresses or other data that could lead back to the tipster, according to its website.

"The tipster remains, in terms of identity, only a number and the tip remains anonymous," its website states.

A Supreme Court of Canada ruling from 2017 says that people who call Crime Stoppers in good faith to provide information to law enforcement have their identities protected by the privilege the law gives to informers. However, that protection has limits.

"And in the context of an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers, the privilege will not avail in circumstances in which a caller provides a tip with the intention of misleading the police — thus effectively obstructing justice — nor where a person engages in criminal activity solely in his or her personal interest," the decision states.

Crime Stopper's national website includes a section about the case that says that when a question is raised about whether the informer privilege has been applied properly, a private hearing must be held before a judge makes a ruling.

Comeau said he was not aware of the Supreme Court case and couldn't comment on its implications.

Radio-Canada

The two tips about Michel Vienneau were sent to the Northeast Integrated Intelligence Unit on the morning of Jan. 12, 2015. The now shuttered unit carried out intelligence and surveillance on organized crime and drug trafficking in northeastern New Brunswick. The tips specifically named Vienneau and included information about the make and model of his car at the Bathurst train station. 

Plainclothes officers in unmarked cars were waiting for Vienneau when he stepped off the train. When he started to drive away, police tried to stop him. Annick Basque said she didn't know constables Patrick Bulger and Mathieu Boudreau were police when they appeared in front of Vienneau's car with guns drawn.

When he began to drive, officers believed he was attempting to flee. One officer testified at a police discipline hearing that he was hit by Vienneau's car, prompting the officer's partner to then shoot Vienneau. 

Criminal charges against the officers involved in the shooting were dropped after a preliminary inquiry after a judge found there wasn't enough evidence of a crime. Boudreau and Bulger are facing an ongoing police discipline hearing related to their conduct the day of the shooting.