1. November 23–24, 2007
According to Mr. Ryan, there was tension between the parties in the period leading up to and into November 2007. E-mail correspondence between them demonstrates that they were going through a separation, and that Ms. Doucet appeared anxious and angry that Mr. Ryan had a new girlfriend.
According to Mr. Ryan, on Friday, November 23, 2007, he called Ms. Doucet and asked to make arrangements to see his daughter on the weekend. Ms. Doucet refused to allow him to pick up their daughter. According to Mr. Ryan, Ms. Doucet began swearing at him, telling him that he could not see his daughter and that he would have to give her a few weeks to calm down. Ms. Doucet hung up the phone.
Mr. Ryan and his then girlfriend, Ms. Shannon Huntley, were concerned about Ms. Doucet's behaviour. Mr. Ryan stated that he called Ms. Doucet approximately 30 times. She did not answer, and he left two messages on her voicemail. Mr. Ryan stated that he told Ms. Doucet that he would call Social Services or the RCMP because of concerns he had with respect to how she was taking care of their child. Mr. Ryan alleges that Ms. Doucet was not feeding the child properly, would go to bed immediately upon returning home, and was not adequately caring for the child. Ms. Huntley confirmed that she and Mr. Ryan would take food to Ms. Doucet's home.
On the afternoon of November 23, 2007, Ms. Doucet reported to Constable Michel-Poitras that Mr. Ryan was planning on attending the family residence to pick up their daughter and some of his personal belongings. Ms. Doucet reported that Mr. Ryan was upset. Ms. Doucet also conveyed that Mr. Ryan had a history of violence, that she feared for her safety, that Mr. Ryan had access to firearms, that he was in the military and that he was upset about the fact that the parties were undergoing a separation. Constable Michel-Poitras documented the complaint and explained to Ms. Doucet what actions to take if Mr. Ryan attended the home.
Later that evening, the RCMP received a telephone call from a friend of Ms. Doucet alerting them that Mr. Ryan was outside Ms. Doucet's residence. Members attended the scene, and Ms. Doucet informed Constable Racicot that Mr. Ryan had threatened to burn down the house, that he had been calling her repeatedly and that she believed that she had seen his truck driving up and down her street. Ms. Doucet also expressed fear of Mr. Ryan.
Mr. Ryan states that he received a telephone call from Constable Racicot, calling from Ms. Doucet's phone, at approximately 7:30 p.m., inquiring about his whereabouts. Mr. Ryan stated that he was at his home in Kentville. A few minutes later, Mr. Ryan received a second telephone call, this time from the RCMP detachment in New Minas. Corporal Dionne requested that Mr. Ryan open his front door and demonstrate his presence, which Mr. Ryan eventually did. Mr. Ryan was informed that Ms. Doucet was requesting that charges be laid against him.
Constable Racicot explained that on the evening in question, Ms. Doucet appeared preoccupied and nervous. Constable Racicot had listened to the messages left on Ms. Doucet's voicemail by Mr. Ryan, which contained no threats. Mr. Ryan's first message stated that if Ms. Doucet did not want to talk to him, that was "fine" and that he would not call back. Mr. Ryan's second message, which Constable Racicot identified as being "more rude", stated that he was going to keep calling until Ms. Doucet picked up the telephone. Ms. Doucet told Constable Racicot that Mr. Ryan had threatened to burn down the house. Constable Racicot stated that the members escorted Ms. Doucet to a safe place for the evening, and he telephoned Mr. Ryan, who told him that he was at home in Kentville. Constable Racicot also requested assistance from the New Minas Detachment to ensure that Mr. Ryan was indeed at his home. New Minas RCMP members attended the home to confirm that Mr. Ryan was there.
The next day, Constable Racicot obtained a statement from Ms. Doucet. Ms. Doucet informed Constable Racicot that Mr. Ryan was violent. She stated that he had never hit her, but that he was verbally aggressive and manipulative. She stated:
We are getting separated and it was time to discuss um what we were going to financially and these kinds of things and um he... we don't agree, we can't agree on anything um he is very conniving he always gets what he wants and I've always said yes yes yes and I never had a choice. It's either his way or no way. And I said I've had enough and I um, I know what I want and I will stand my ground. And he doesn't agree with that so he said that he would um he would burn the house and he would ruin my reputation in the community. And he would phone the police of me and tell them I was an un-fit [sic] mother.
Prompted further about her exchange with Mr. Ryan, Ms. Doucet stated:
Well we spoke a few times ah, and he said he would ruin me he said he would burn the house down, that he would take everything that I have. [. . .] he will burn the house down and he will burn all three houses if he has to. [. . .] I am not going to pay you anything and you're not getting anything, nothing. And the money that was in the account it's in the vault and you're not getting it and you can't bleed blood from a rock. And you can get all those fancy lawyers that you want, you're not getting anything because they're not going to find it. [. . .] All three houses are in his name.
These were the only threats raised by Ms. Doucet during her statement, although she also spoke of her fears with respect to Mr. Ryan. She stated that he had road rage and tended to break household items when he was angry. Ms. Doucet admitted to not seeing Mr. Ryan's truck driving outside her residence, but presumed that it had been him. Ms. Doucet claimed that Mr. Ryan made her believe that she had mental health issues and stated that she could not get along with anyone.
Mr. Ryan attended the New Minas Detachment the next day, where he was arrested by Corporal Dionne, charged with uttering threats, and released subject to an undertaking not to contact Ms. Doucet or their daughter. A Domestic Violence Risk Assessment was conducted and identified the matter as being "High Risk." Members of the New Minas RCMP accompanied Mr. Ryan to his home and seized his registered firearms.
Ms. Doucet was referred to Victim Services, and a referral was made to Child Welfare Services. The criminal investigation also continued. Constable Racicot contacted the military police, given concerns surrounding Mr. Ryan's behaviour and access to firearms, as Mr. Ryan was a firearms instructor with the Canadian Forces.
When reviewing complaints concerning the perceived inadequacy of criminal investigations, the Commission considers the steps taken during the investigation. RCMP policy states that members "will, subject to available resources, priorities and exercise of appropriate discretion, conduct a Criminal Code investigation." RCMP members must follow all reasonable leads, and avail themselves of additional resources where required.
The proper investigation of any crime requires in part, that a member:
- a) Pursue all leads provided promptly and effectively.
- b) Interview all possible sources and suspects promptly and effectively.
- c) Request all relevant forensic tests/reports to check for physical evidence and consult with other experts with specialized knowledge.
- d) Follow related RCMP policy and reference other related police technical texts as required.
- e) Maintain good case management of the file, ensuring that properly written notes support the actions taken during the investigation as well as support any subsequent prosecution.
The main objective of a criminal investigation is to gather sufficient information to support reasonable grounds to believe that certain persons committed an offence.
The RCMP's national operational policy directs members to investigate and document all complaints of violence in relationships. While the member's discretion still applies, in cases of domestic violence, its ambit is very narrow. Further, domestic violence cases are to be treated as a priority, and RCMP members have a duty to lay or to recommend charges if a Criminal Code offence has been committed The RCMP's policy pertaining to members' dealings with complaints of violence in relationships demonstrates the seriousness of such allegations and emphasizes the need for prevention, enforcement efforts, victims' safety and public safety.
The aforementioned Domestic Violence Risk Assessment considers the presence of and/or accessibility to weapons; the use of threats involving weapons or attempting suicide; a change in the relationship status, including a separation, a threatened separation or legal proceeding involving family-related matters; the abuse of drugs or alcohol; an increase in frequency or severity of violence; violence outside the relationship; the destruction by the alleged perpetrator of cherished personal items; jealousy or the attempt to control a partner's activities; accusations of cheating; statements such as "If I can't have you, no one can"; homicidal or suicidal threats; violence towards children or pets; sexual violence; pregnancy and violence during pregnancy; mental health history; and history of police involvement involving the parties.
In conjunction with the foregoing, a High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework for situations involving domestic violence existed for use by the primary services providers of the Meteghan/Digby District, including the RCMP. This framework was put into place to encourage a collaborative approach between the various stakeholders and includes a commitment by the RCMP to support an initiative to prevent domestic violence created by the Nova Scotia Department of Justice. It includes the following statement:
The RCMP Meteghan/Digby Detachments views its role in Spousal/Intimate Partner Violence calls as critical and require its responding officers to restore peace and to enforce the law. To ensure this role is achieve officers must conduct a full preliminary investigation of the incident before leaving the scene.
[. . .]
A request must be made by the investigating officer to have a records check for previous incidents of domestic violence involving the names, birth dates and addresses of all persons involved. [. . .]
Statements must be taken from all witnesses and complainants(s) regardless of whether charges are laid and processed through the courts. [sic throughout]
[. . .]
Finally a risk assessment form must be completed for all Spousal/Intimate Partner Violence Investigations.
The investigating officer is required to determine when a case meets the requirements for high risk designation. The officer will make this assessment based on completion of a full preliminary investigation and the Risk Assessment Form. Should the investigating officer deem the case high risk for lethality, the officer would then consult with the Unit NCO.
The pertinent passages of the RCMP's directives on domestic violence in effect in 2007 read as follows:
In exercising these strategies [to address family violence], members of the RCMP must be constantly aware of the principles that:
- Everyone has a right to live free of violence.
- Response to family violence is a high priority of the justice system.
- Safety of the victim is the overriding concern in responding to family violence.
- Breaking the cycle of violence requires a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach in which justice agencies play a key role.
[. . .]
As an immediate response and part of a long term solution, the RCMP has adopted the direction of the Department of Justice and Public Prosecution Service's policy of pro-arrest and pro-prosecution as all members of the justice system are tasked to recognize and deal appropriately with cases of family violence. As the police, we must respond immediately to all cases of family violence and move immediately to enforce peace bonds and restraining orders.
[. . .]
The following guidelines apply to family violence matters:
- Immediate referral by dispatch to police in all reported cases of family violence.
- Police response to and full investigation of all family violence cases.
- All members are encouraged to utilize a team approach at the detachment level utilizing the resources within the Force including when appropriate, the child abuse interviews, Ident., victim services volunteers, Section NCO's acting in a coaching and audit role and the Officers Commanding who have the overall responsibility to ensure family violence is being addressed through their managerial review process.
- Comprehensive case management (including evidence-gathering) at the scene to reduce the reliance on the victim testimony.
- Paramount concern for the safety of victims and children (including immediate referral to victim support services, escorted safe passage for retrieval of personal effects, on-going communication with victims regarding the status and whereabouts of the perpetrator.
- Referral of victims to victim's services [. . .]
- Charges to be laid in all cases where evidence supports such action regardless of victim's wishes. In cases where charges are not laid, a police report will be completed stating the reasons why charges were not laid.
- Arrest and removal of the alleged perpetrator from the home where there exists grounds to believe that there will be a continuation or repetition of the offence or if other grounds are present.
[. . .]
The guideline defines violence as "all forms of violence or threats of violence between current or former spouses or partners in a relationship, whether it be a marriage, common-law or dating relationship. It can include physical, emotional and economic threats, including threats to children, friends, pets, property, stalking, harassment and every other form of violence."
Corporal Thibaudeau, who was the supervising member at the time of this particular file, expressed the opinion that the RCMP's Violence in Relationships policy was followed. Corporal Thibaudeau also noted that he had a conversation with Ms. Doucet a few weeks prior to this incident. Corporal Thibaudeau stated that he was told by Ms. Doucet that she was afraid of her husband, but that she had been unable to explain why, other than stating that he was much larger than her and that he was in the army. According to Corporal Thibaudeau, this did not provide him with grounds for arrest. When asked whether he attempted to obtain further information from Ms. Doucet, Corporal Thibaudeau stated:
THIBAUDEAU: [. . .] it's a verbal conversation over the counter because she doesn't want to give, come inside to give one of these. All right. So, no. Has, has he threatened to kill you? No. Has he ever done anything, violence, rape, assault, threats to, to kill, threats to hurt you? No, no, no. I'm just scared of him. All right. And then I explained to her, these are, I says listen, well, for us to do something we need grounds. Grounds are this. And I laid out all the grounds to her that we need according to domestic violence policy, the Criminal Code and RCMP policy for the RCMP to come very active these types of investigations. Ironically, within a week or two, she comes to the office to give a statement to Jonathan Racicot that led to the arrest of Michael Ryan. [sic throughout]
It should be noted that the Commission deemed Corporal Thibaudeau to be credible; his statements were consistent with the content of RCMP files and with those of Constable Racicot and Mr. Ryan. Corporal Thibaudeau's assessment appears reasonable: Ms. Doucet's report a few weeks prior to the November 23, 2007, incident did not provide sufficient grounds to believe that a criminal offence had been committed. Ms. Doucet denied being a victim of domestic violence and she refused the offer of a protection order. Ms. Doucet simply expressed her fear of Mr. Ryan, and despite being encouraged, she could not provide the member with any information that would meet the required threshold of a reasonable belief that a criminal offence had been committed so as to authorize an arrest pursuant to the Criminal Code. Further, there was insufficient information provided to allow an investigation to commence.
Of note, during the public interest investigation interview, Ms. Doucet claimed that she did not phone the police on November 23, 2007, but that her friend called later on that evening. According to Ms. Doucet, she did not talk to the police that evening and it was not until the next day that she was able to speak to an RCMP member:
INVESTIGATOR: You're the one... you're the one who's, you know, saying, "This is my ex-husband, or husband at that time. He's made this threat to me, that he's going to burn down the house," so the police would have asked you questions about this.
NICOLE DOUCET: I don't think they did that evening.
INVESTIGATOR: You don't think they did. Ok.
Ms. Doucet denied that the RCMP acted to protect her the subsequent day as well:
INVESTIGATOR: Ok, and then what happened?
NICOLE DOUCET: Then we went home.
INVESTIGATOR: Do you know... did the RCMP tell you what they were going to do?
NICOLE DOUCET: No.
INVESTIGATOR: They didn't tell you what they were going to do?
NICOLE DOUCET: No.
INVESTIGATOR: Did they make you aware at any point of what they actually did do?
NICOLE DOUCET: They didn't do anything. They just asked me the questions...
INVESTIGATOR: Ok, so after you provided your statement, they asked you questions, you gave them information, did they tell you they were going to arrest Mike Ryan?
NICOLE DOUCET: No.
INVESTIGATOR: They didn't tell you they were going to arrest... You're aware that they did arrest Mike Ryan? Did they not arrest him? You don't know.
NICOLE DOUCET: I don't know.
INVESTIGATOR: Ok, you don't know. You don't know what happened. You don't know what the RCMP did after that.
NICOLE DOUCET: I do... I am aware that they went and took the guns out of the house.
INVESTIGATOR: Ok. That's... ok.
NICOLE DOUCET: That's all I know.
INVESTIGATOR: That's all you know.
NICOLE DOUCET: Yes.
INVESTIGATOR: Ok. Did you pursue this with the RCMP? Did you say, "Hey Jonathan, what are you going to do about this?"
NICOLE DOUCET: At that... you mean, within the next couple of days?
NICOLE DOUCET: No.
As noted, Mr. Ryan was in fact arrested, and Ms. Doucet was referred to Victim Services. RCMP records, statements of members and relevant court documents are consistent in demonstrating that Mr. Ryan was arrested, and that Ms. Doucet was aware of the actions taken by the RCMP. In her interview, Ms. Doucet subsequently agreed that she was referred to Victim Services.
While it is apparent that Ms. Doucet maintains her position that the RCMP failed to protect her, that statement in respect of this particular incident is without basis in fact and negatively impacts Ms. Doucet's credibility and reliability. Despite her assertion, upon responding to the complaint, Constable Racicot spoke to her and to her friends who were at the home with her. He acted immediately and in accordance with RCMP policy in referring Ms. Doucet to Victim Services, and ensuring that she had a safe place to stay, and verifying that Mr. Ryan was not in the immediate area. He documented the incident in his occurrence report in a clear and detailed manner. I am satisfied that Constable Racicot conducted a reasonable investigation, was responsive to the concerns raised by Ms. Doucet, and availed himself of all necessary resources to ensure Ms. Doucet's protection and to conduct a reasonable investigation into her complaint against Mr. Ryan.
One of the complaints brought forward by Ms. Doucet's lawyer was that the police did not sufficiently extend their investigation into Mr. Ryan's actions. In fact, during the Commission's investigation, Ms. Doucet's lawyer stated that the RCMP believed everything Mr. Ryan said, presumably because he was in the army and was afforded much respect for that reason:
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: Ok? That's the one incident, he said, "No, no, I was home." Ok?
INVESTIGATOR: And so they'd just believe him without verifying.
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: They just, they believed him without verifying. They don't carry on in their investigation.
INVESTIGATOR: Do you... sorry, but ok, just because I want to make sure I understand here, so you're saying that when they called, she called because she thought he was driving in front of their house, he said, "No, I'm at home," you're saying the RCMP never actually checked if he was at home.
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: Mm-hmm.
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: Ok? And I'm just saying that I believe sincerely...
INVESTIGATOR: Did you ask this... Sorry, did you ask the RCMP this?
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: They never took the stand. They never gave evidence. And that's the other thing.
INVESTIGATOR: So how do you know that they never checked that he was home?
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: I read the reports.
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: Ok? He says he was home. Ok? And they just accepted that at face value. And that's where I think that there's been a downfall, in that sometimes police, based on my 42 years of experience, takes too much for granted, and they don't complete their investigation. And when it comes to domestic abuse, which we know in this country is on the rise, and is coming more to light, we are finding that women, especially in the position that Nicole found herself, are in a situation where they have no one to turn to.
As noted above, the occurrence report prepared by Constable Racicot clearly stated that he had involved the New Minas Detachment and that at least one member, Corporal Dionne, verified that Mr. Ryan was home by asking him to come out of his house. Mr. Ryan also attested to this in his statement to the Commission.
The charges against Mr. Ryan were ultimately dismissed, as Crown counsel concluded that no reasonable prospect of conviction existed. Ms. Doucet and her lawyer contend that the charges should not have been dropped. While the conduct of Crown counsel is beyond the Commission's jurisdiction, Ms. Doucet and her lawyer appeared to ascribe the Crown's decision in some part to the RCMP's involvement, as follows:
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: Ok. Number one, I think they laid the charges; they should have proceeded to court on the charges.
INVESTIGATOR: What do you mean?
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: There's no reason... The ones on uttering the threats. There was no reason...
INVESTIGATOR: Against Mike Ryan.
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: ...against Mike Ryan, why that should have been dropped, other than Nicole has now been charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
INVESTIGATOR: But that's... the RCMP didn't drop those charges. The crown did.
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: There's consultation there.
INVESTIGATOR: Ok, so you believe that the RCMP influenced the process.
MS. DOUCET'S LAWYER: I'm not saying they did it. I'm sure there was consultation between the crown and the RCMP as there normally is before charges are dropped.
While there appears to be an implication that the RCMP influenced the decision not to proceed on the charges, Constable Racicot stated in the context of the Commission's investigation that this was not the case:
JONATHAN RACICOT: [. . .] Then, it took place May 1. Writer spoke with Crown who informed me that there were no realistic probability of conviction and that this matter would be dismissed. Writer contacted Michael Ryan to inform him of same. Next court date is May 12, 2008 for conclusion.
So, I can conclude that on May 1, 2008, the Crown, Roslyn Mitchi(ph), contacted me and told me that there was no realistic, no realistic probability of conviction.
INVESTIGATOR: So it wasn't you who contacted the Crown to tell them not to proceed with (inaudible).
JONATHAN RACICOT: No, no. No. The way it happened was that the Crown contacted me to tell me that there was no... there's no realistic probability of conviction.
[Parts in roman reflect original English portions of the quotation]
According to Ms. Doucet, the charges were dropped but no one told her why. Corporal Phillips spoke to Crown counsel, who stated that the decision not to proceed with the charges was based on the totality of the evidence: it was deemed not strong enough to afford a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction. Upon reviewing the records of the RCMP's internal investigation, I am satisfied that these demonstrate that the decision to withdraw the charges was not based on anything other than the totality of the evidence before the Crown counsel.
Finding No. 1: The RCMP conducted a reasonable investigation into Ms. Doucet's complaint of November 23, 2007, that Mr. Ryan had threatened her.
Finding No. 2: The actions taken by the RCMP in response to the November 23, 2007, incident were consistent with its policy pertaining to cases involving domestic violence.
Finding No. 3: There is no information suggesting that the RCMP unreasonably influenced Crown counsel in its decision not to prosecute Mr. Ryan.
Finding No. 4: The RCMP reasonably referred Ms. Doucet to Victim Services following the incident of November 23, 2007.
8. January 28, 2008
On January 28, 2008, Ms. Doucet reported to Constable Garault that Mr. Ryan had sent her a text message which read: "Can I talk to [daughter]." The investigation revealed that the parties were to attend family court the following day, to arrange visits between Mr. Ryan and his daughter, whom he had not seen since the incident of November 23, 2007.
Ms. Doucet alleged that this was the second time that Mr. Ryan had contacted her, in breach of his conditions. Ms. Doucet alleged that the first instance occurred on December 17, 2007, on which date Mr. Ryan sent her a text message telling her that if she did not pick up her dog, he was going to kill it.
As previously detailed, the RCMP was aware of the occurrence with the dog, as both Ms. Doucet and Mr. Ryan had contacted the RCMP with respect to the incident.
Constable Garault took a statement from Ms. Doucet. When prompted about her safety, Ms. Doucet said the following:
Q: Do you feel safe here?
Q: Can you tell me why?
A: No, because I know Mike, I know his rages. Suddenly, he becomes crazy and violent, and you never know when or why. It happens in a flash. He is very violent. He has always been violent but no one wants to say or do anything. He's always had anger management problems, but he doesn't care when people say that about him. And he tells me he doesn't have a problem. He's always organized. He plans things and incidents to get other people in trouble.
Q: Have there been any other incidents with Mike that haven't been reported to the police?
A: He's always been violent, that's all I can say.
During the Commission's investigation, Constable Garault was asked about this statement. He stated that he believed that Ms. Doucet was referring to incidents already known to police, as opposed to raising new incidents or concerns. As such, he concluded that there was no new investigation that he could or should undertake. As noted, when prompted, Ms. Doucet failed to provide Constable Garault with further information.
No charges were laid with respect to the text message. After investigation and consultation with Crown counsel, Corporal Thibaudeau decided to warn, rather than charge, Mr. Ryan with respect to the breach of his undertaking.
Police officers are empowered to make decisions to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, such as Criminal Code offences, and this necessarily involves the exercise of discretion. In a complaint such as this one, where the exercise of judgment or discretion is at issue, the question for the Commission is not whether another person would have acted differently. Rather, the issue is whether that judgment or discretion can be said to have been exercised unreasonably or on the basis of any improper consideration.
The Commission often receives complaints from the public alleging that members neglected their duty by not laying charges, when there appeared to be at least some grounds for charges. The police do not proceed with charges in every case, nor should they. Determining what charges to proceed with involves the legitimate use of discretion by the police. However, the use of that discretion is not unfettered. The reasonable exercise of discretion takes into account the total context of the case, demonstrates the use of common sense and is consistent with the values and professional standards of the RCMP.
As mentioned, Corporal Thibaudeau notes that he consulted with Crown counsel, who agreed that the police could exercise discretion in not laying charges in this matter. The breach was relatively minor, there were no threats and the contact was by way of text message. In context, the RCMP had been actively involved in the conflict within the family and was aware of the situation between the parties. Corporal Thibaudeau is adamant that he afforded this case much more attention than most given the level of conflict between the parties and the information the RCMP was receiving about them. I have no reason to disbelieve Corporal Thibaudeau, who provided the Commission with consistently thorough, detailed, and unequivocal information.
As a result of the foregoing, I find the decision not to lay charges to be a reasonable use of police discretion. In addition, Ms. Doucet was unable to provide any information that would permit the RCMP to form grounds to believe that Ms. Doucet was a victim of domestic violence, even when repeatedly pressed for details
Finding No. 12: The RCMP conducted a reasonable investigation into Ms. Doucet's complaint of January 28, 2008.
Finding No. 13: Corporal Thibaudeau reasonably used his discretion in determining that no charges would be laid in respect of the January 28, 2008, incident.
Finding No. 14: During the incident of January 28, 2008, the RCMP received no information that would permit them to form further reasonable grounds to believe that Ms. Doucet was a victim of domestic violence.
While speaking to Constable Garault during the incident of January 28, 2008, Ms. Doucet also requested that she be provided with a "panic button". The information on file indicates that on January 11, 2008, a Victim Services worker had called Constable Racicot to enquire about the possibility of having such a "panic button" provided to Ms. Doucet. Constable Racicot denied the request, given what he perceived as a low level of threat. Constable Racicot stated in his interview that at the time of the incident, he had never heard of such a tool. Constable Racicot indicated that he would have consulted Corporal Thibaudeau about the issue.
According to Constable Garault's occurrence report in this respect: "Cst. GARAULT was going to submit a written request to Victim Services in regards with the ‘panic button' but was told by Cpl. THIBAUDEAU that he was not going to support such request." [sic] This request for a panic button was never granted.
Constable Garault stated that he had never requested a panic button before this incident, nor has he requested one since. Constable Garault stated that he was not aware if such a tool existed.
According to Corporal Thibaudeau, the "panic button" was a relatively new tool being used in instances of domestic violence at the relevant time. Corporal Thibaudeau described the cases in which one would be used as "extreme." At the time, the tool was offered as part of a provincial program. Corporal Thibaudeau likened the "panic button" that existed at the time to a device similar to a wireless telephone which was connected to 9-1-1. Corporal Thibaudeau stated that he did deny the request for a panic button, explaining that this was not a case which, in his judgment, warranted a panic button. Corporal Thibaudeau explained that he had recently been to a meeting in which the devices were explained, and only two to three devices were in use in the province of Nova Scotia, to his knowledge, at the time. Corporal Thibaudeau explained that the devices were provided in cases where, for example, there was a long history of violence resulting in injuries. At that time, the only information provided to the RCMP reflecting any domestic violence within the Ryan family involved the incident of November 23, 2007, in which it was alleged that Mr. Ryan had threatened to burn down the family residence.
As a result of the foregoing, I find that it was reasonable for Corporal Thibaudeau to determine that Ms. Doucet was not eligible for a "panic button" or similar device.
Finding No. 15: Corporal Thibaudeau used his discretion reasonably in denying the January 2008 requests for a panic button for Ms. Doucet.
10. February 8, 2008
At the relevant time, Ms. Doucet was driving a vehicle which was leased in Mr. Ryan's name. It appears from correspondence between the parties that Mr. Ryan wanted to retrieve the vehicle, but that Ms. Doucet had failed to return the vehicle to him.
As a result, on February 8, 2008, Mr. Ryan attended Ms. Doucet's place of employment, a school, to remove the leased vehicle. The principal of the school, aware of the conflict between the parties, alerted the RCMP to the fact that Mr. Ryan was at the school. The vice-principal of the school confirmed that there had been no threats or violence; rather, Ms. Doucet had simply informed school personnel that Mr. Ryan was in the military and had access to firearms.
After seeking further information, Corporal Thibaudeau determined that the matter was civil in nature and referred the parties to their respective lawyers.
According to Ms. Doucet, Sergeant Lacroix refused to take her complaint seriously:
NICOLE DOUCET: Sergeant Lacroix, it was like...
INVESTIGATOR: You spoke to him, to Sergeant Lacroix?
NICOLE DOUCET: Yes, I spoke to him, but all he did...
INVESTIGATOR: When... under what circumstances did you speak to Sergeant Lacroix?
[. . .]
NICOLE DOUCET: Well, Mike had come to the school to get the car because it was a lease. That is, Mike had come to the school and had decided he wanted the car, and then he came to the school, and...The police were phoned, because the school knew that I was afraid, and the police knew that... I don't know what they knew. They knew I was afraid and I wasn't safe. And the police were phoned, and we... I didn't go outside until the end. Mr. Lacroix sat down with Marc, and he said, "If things..." Marc is... was the vice principal, and Lacroix said something... But..."He's a soldier, a soldier, sir." And then Marc said, "Yes, but maybe you should be careful! Maybe that's what you should be looking at!" And then Sergeant Lacroix said "Well, he protected us! He protects us! He's a Canadian soldier!" Marc was just... Marc just sat down in his chair, and it was like there was no way at communicating to him. He was... "Well, he's a soldier." And Mr. Thibodeau, he was exactly the same way. He was like, "Ma'am, watch what you say, Ma'am!" And every time I'd go to talk "Ma'am, watch what you say, he's a soldier!" And so it would... I couldn't talk to... I couldn't talk to them. That's... and Lacroix, I remember talking to him at my parents', at my dad's house, and I'm like, "Please, please, do your job! Please protect [child]! Please! He's a violent man. Please protect [child]. She's a child. She is a child." And it was... [sic throughout]
[Parts in roman reflect original English portions of the quotation.]
I note that during the Commission's interview, Ms. Doucet often stated that she requested protection from the RCMP in respect of Mr. Ryan. When prompted as to what information she was providing to the RCMP, Ms. Doucet said only that she needed help. Ms. Doucet claimed that she repeatedly requested protection but that the members would only ask her what she would like them to do. Ms. Doucet could not provide a clear response to the question.
It is difficult for the Commission to assess the veracity of comments that are made during a private conversation. I note, however, that none of the available information supports a determination that the RCMP afforded special treatment to Mr. Ryan as a result of his standing as a member of the military. In fact, when asked directly about this issue, Constable Racicot appeared surprised at the insinuation and stated that the thought never crossed his mind. I have no reason to disbelieve Constable Racicot's statement, as the member provided the Commission with a thorough, credible and consistent statement. Further, Constable Racicot's contemporaneous reports were written in a clear and detailed manner, ably recording each incident in which he was involved, and enabling the Commission to thoroughly review his conduct.
In this instance, there is no reasonable basis on which to conclude that Ms. Doucet was in danger, and there was no contact between the parties. According to Ms. Doucet, she was nevertheless concerned, because on that day, there was a storm, and according to Ms. Doucet, every time there was a storm, Mr. Ryan went into a rage.
While I acknowledge Ms. Doucet's concerns, I find that the RCMP conducted a reasonable investigation in this instance. There was no criminal matter to be investigated and no information was provided to the RCMP to allow them to form reasonable grounds that Ms. Doucet was a victim of violence at the hands of Mr. Ryan.
Finding No. 17: The RCMP reasonably investigated the complaint of February 8, 2008, and determined it to be a civil matter.
Finding No. 18: During the incident of February 8, 2008, the RCMP received no information that would permit them to form further reasonable grounds to believe that Ms. Doucet was a victim of domestic violence.