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Northern Manitoba manhunt: Mounties put to the test as the world watches

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/7/2019 (345 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There is a world of difference between the northern edge of Manitoba, marked by the remoteness of York Landing, and Moncton, New Brunswick's largest city.

However, there is a direct link between the potential line of fire the RCMP find themselves in as they hunt for Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, in the bush and bogs of northern Manitoba, and the deadly day for the Mounties five years ago, when they found themselves in a cat-and-mouse game with an armed gunman on city streets.

Before Justin Bourque was arrested June 6, 2014, Moncton was in lockdown and three Mounties were shot dead, and two others severely wounded.

In theory, the RCMP are better trained and armed as they enter the second week of the Manitoba manhunt than they were five years ago. But as if the stakes aren't high enough already, this test for the Mounties is playing out with the world watching.

"The RCMP does not want to look bad in terms of not having the proper resources and equipment," said retired constable Rob Creasser. "(RCMP management) has seemed at times unaware of the needs of the people on the front lines."

Pall Bearers carry the coffin at the regimental funeral for RCMP Const. Francis Deschenes in Moncton, N.B. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Deschenes was killed after he stopped to help a motorist change a tire and a cargo van slammed into his cruiser.

ANDREW VAUGHAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Pall Bearers carry the coffin at the regimental funeral for RCMP Const. Francis Deschenes in Moncton, N.B. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Deschenes was killed after he stopped to help a motorist change a tire and a cargo van slammed into his cruiser.

Mounties leave York Landing after search for fugitives turns up nothing: Chief

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Police continue the search in Gillam. (Twitter / RCMP)						</p>
Police continue the search in Gillam. (Twitter / RCMP)

Posted: 29/07/2019 8:23 PM

Nearly 24 hours after being deployed to York Landing, RCMP officers in pursuit of two B.C. homicide suspects are leaving the northern Manitoba community.

According to a Facebook post Monday afternoon by York Factory First Nation Chief Leroy Constant, the RCMP emergency response team was returning to Gillam (90 kilometres to the northeast) and the major crime unit had already left.

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Schmegelsky and McLeod have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Leonard Dyck, 64, a sessional lecturer at the University of British Columbia. They are also suspects in the shooting deaths of young tourist couple Lucas Fowler, 23, and Chynna Deese, 24. All three homicides occurred in northern B.C.

Dyck's body was found July 19; the bodies of Deese and Fowler were found July 15.

The latest twist in the chase that has had made headlines from New York to London to Australia involved a tip that two men matching the suspects' description were spotted in York Landing, a small community 90 kilometres southwest of Gillam. Resources were immediately deployed Sunday afternoon, but Mounties now say they unable to substantiate the sighting.

"Right now, in regards to resources and manpower, we are ensuring that our members get relief. That's why we have so many resources deployed," Manitoba RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Julie Courchaine said at a news conference Monday. "There’s been lots of additional training for members, as well, so that we ensure that our members that are up there are able to do this job and to deal with the challenging terrain."

A spokesman for the Mounties union said it’s watching the manhunt unfold closely — but so far, no issues have been raised by members.

Bryer Schmegelsky, left, and Kam McLeod.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Bryer Schmegelsky, left, and Kam McLeod.

"Our biggest concern is adequate rest, food, meals, allowing people in and out, not forcing overtime," said Brian Sauvé of the National Police Federation. "From what I've heard, the (RCMP) organization is actually doing quite well."

That stance is a hopeful one, said Creasser, a spokesman for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, which has advocated for Mounties for decades.

"I worked for the (RCMP) organization for almost three decades, (and) I don’t have a lot of faith in the senior management and politicians in general to properly equip and train our members," he said -- especially considering several high-profile tragedies that have plagued the Mounties over the last 15 years.

Creasser was one of many to call for an inquiry into the 2005 RCMP killings in Mayerthorpe, Alta., when four officers were shot during a raid on a suspected marijuana grow operation. (The inquiry was held in 2011.)

In May of this year, Canada's auditor general found that five years after the Moncton shooting, the Mounties still weren't sure if all of its officers had access to the rifles and body armour needed to respond to active shooter situations.

Cpl. Julie Courchaine speaks to the media regarding the ongoing search for suspects near York Landing,

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Cpl. Julie Courchaine speaks to the media regarding the ongoing search for suspects near York Landing,

In the report, interim audtior Sylvain Ricard said the RCMP had mismanaged the purchase, distribution and maintenance of semi-automatic rifles among its members.

An independent review into the Moncton shooting led to more than 60 recommendations on how the RCMP can better train and equip its officers. The RCMP was also ordered to pay $550,000 in fines after a Labour Code conviction in which a judge found the force failed its officers during the shooting.

Moncton Deputy Mayor Pierre Boudreau told the Free Press Monday evening that five years after tragedy struck his community, there are still scars that linger.

"It was something that no community wants to go through. It's difficult. It's still a difficult situation even as the years go by. You see these things everytime you open the news now. There was another shooting this afternoon in the U.S. You can't even get away from the horror anymore," Boudreau said.

Boudreau said he imagines the communities of York Landing and Gillam have experienced a similar fear and dread blanketed their communities in recent days as Moncton felt back in 2014.

"For a lot of people it was very nerveracking, there's no question about it. My message would just be to stay strong, yeah, and help the families involved and to make sure that everybody mantains their cool," Boudreau said.

Creasser said even after those events, not enough has changed within the force. He pointed to interim auditor Sylvain Ricard’s May 2019 report, which noted the RCMP has still not made carbine rifles available to all its officers — a key recommendation from the 2014 Moncton report.

"I’m very concerned about the federal government and their apparent lack of initiative or timely response to these kind of reports," he said.

caitlyn.gowriluk@freepress.mb.ca

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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