Codiac Regional RCMP have issued a public apology after they misidentified the body of a man found in a public washroom outside Moncton city hall last week and told the wrong family their loved one was dead — but the mother of the man contends the apology is not enough.
“I want to express our profound regret and sincere apologies for the incorrect next of kin notification that was conducted following a recent sudden death in our community,” Supt. Benoit Jolette said in the statement Friday.
“I know this will have deep and lasting impacts on both families involved, as well as on the wider community.”
Donna Price, of Dieppe, told CBC last week her family went 13 hours believing her 29-year-old son was dead after being notified by police early on Nov. 22.
It was only when she sent someone to her son’s home later that day to collect paperwork for funeral preparations that they discovered “to their shock” her son was alive and well.
Police had not asked anyone from the family to identify the body, or taken any fingerprints or DNA, according to Price. Instead, they had simply taken a photo of the victim, which was circulated among members and one or more identified the man as Price’s son, who has been homeless in the past and was known to police, she said.
RCMP are still reviewing the incident, as well as the application of policies and procedures, “to find out exactly what happened,” according to the statement.
‘Considering their options’
Price declined to comment Friday on the apology.
But lawyer Brian Murphy said his clients are “considering their options,” after previously announcing they intend to “pursue legal remedies such as a lawsuit and the complaints commission process.” He plans to meet with them on Monday to discuss the matter, he said.
Mary MacDonald, whose youngest son Luke Landry, 35, ended up being identified as the victim, wasn’t impressed by the RCMP apology.
“To know that they almost cremated him without even knowing who he was properly — like, that deserves more than an apology, I think. Don’t you?” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Prince George, B.C., her voice still raw with grief.
RCMP have declined to comment on any details about the case, saying it may become part of a judicial or internal process.
MacDonald, a mother of three, wants answers. She wants to know “how this could have happened.”
Landry was released from provincial jail on the morning of Nov. 21, with no money, no winter clothes and nowhere to go.
He survived an overdose later that day at Ensemble Greater Moncton, which offers a safe space and support to people who use drugs, but front-line workers were unable to find a shelter bed for him. His body was discovered in the public washroom the next morning.
MacDonald said she learned of Luke’s death from one of his friends. She waited five hours to hear from RCMP, but ended up calling them to find out, she said.
“Somebody saying they’re sorry doesn’t say what really happened. I would like to see a report come out saying what actually took place.”
‘Doesn’t ring true’
She also questioned the timing of the apology.
“What did it take so long … to realize that you made a mistake and own up to it? Like, it’s a week later. More than a week later.
“It doesn’t ring true to me that it’s really sincere,” she said, suggesting it was only issued because of the media attention the case has received.
Public apologies ‘relatively unusual’
Michael Boudreau, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at St. Thomas University, said such public apologies from police are “relatively unusual.”
When they are issued, it’s often because police “don’t have a choice,” he said. “It’s been discovered that they’ve made a grave mistake or they have bungled an investigation that’s led to serious consequences. So then their hand is forced.”
Although Boudreau said he hopes RCMP are sincere, he suspects that’s why an apology was issued in this case, which he describes as “completely unacceptable,” and a “serious embarrassment.”
“To not issue a public apology would make the force look even worse. So this is also about the RCMP trying to repair its tattered image,” he said.
Boudreau contends the apology should have been issued much sooner — within days of the error, because “the longer it goes the more egregious it makes it look.”
Why RCMP waited as long as they did is “a bit of a mystery,” he said, but possible pending legal action may have been a factor.
Was ‘a human being’
MacDonald argued the apology wouldn’t have been necessary if police had followed procedures. “I don’t know what their procedures are,” she noted, “but I’m sure what they did was not proper procedure.”
She feels police did not treat her son as “a human being.” He was more than just a homeless person and an addict, she said, he was a father of two, brother, uncle, cousin, and rapper of Christian music.
“My hope from all of this is that things can change, because I believe they have to change. I believe that the government on every level has to look and say, ‘We can do better for these people than that.'”
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