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Widow Blames Mounties for Husband’s Death

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - Harassment from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police drove a prominent member of the force to suicide, and the Mounties wouldn't let his widow give a eulogy at his funeral, she claims in court.

Sheila Lemaitre, a former Mountie who met her husband Pierre Lemaitre on the job, says her husband was a dedicated, passionate officer who was praised by higher-ups.

Pierre Lemaitre joined the RCMP in 1985 and was posted to a media relations position in 2003. In July that year, a reporter told Lemaitre that his direct supervisor had sexually harassed her "on a number of occasions."

"Although struggling with the impact of reporting this complaint would have on the small media unit, Pierre Lemaitre knew from policy and training that he was required to report the matter to the Sergeant's superior officer," the widow says in her July 20 claim in British Columbia Supreme Court.

A day after her husband reported the complaint, he was "berated" by his supervisor, transferred to another unit, and eventually placed on sick leave for stress and anxiety. A senior officer apologized later and offered him a transfer to wherever he wanted, Sheila Lemaitre says.

In 2007, Pierre was promoted to sergeant and became the media relations officer for the RCMP's E Division. In October that year, he was tasked with handing the intense media scrutiny of the death of Robert Dziekanski , a Polish immigrant who died after being Tasered repeatedly at Vancouver International Airport.

That posting was short-lived: Pierre was replaced after he complained that he had been given misinformation, a report that made it to the media without his being a chance to correct it, Sheila says. She says her husband was "brought into public contempt" and called an "RCMP liar" and "RCMP spin doctor" when the Mounties failed to correct the misinformation it had released.

He was transferred to a small suburban unit in Langley and made a program director for traffic.

"In this transfer, there was no media function. While remaining a sergeant, it was essentially a demotion to a job many in the RCMP considered "a 'dumping ground,'" the complaint states. "He was aware that his career ambitions were shattered."

Sheila Lemaitre says her husband was "shunned and isolated" by fellow officers after the transfer, causing him to develop depression, anger management issues and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He went off-duty on sick leave in February 2013 and committed suicide on July 29 that year.

In the days after his death, his widow says, an RCMP chaplain took over the funeral arrangements and refused to let her deliver a eulogy or play songs she selected for the funeral.

Twisting the knife, she says, a senior officer who contacted her after her husband died told her, "What was done to Pierre was done for the good of the Force."

The RCMP has been dogged with lawsuits in recent years, including at least one class action, accusing the force of tolerating a culture of harassment and bullying.

Sheila Lemaitre seeks damages under the Family Compensation Act, for harassment, loss of consortium, lost income, pain and suffering and vicarious liability.

She is represented by J. Barry Carter with Mair Jensen Blair, in Kamloops.

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