Bringing honour to law enforcement in Quebec
BY FREDERIC SERRE
Bravery and dedication are two key words that police officers rarely like to attribute to themselves. And yet, they are words that truly describe the law enforcement family around the world.
Police officers in the province of Quebec are a devoted segment of the national and international policing community. Devotion and dedication to a job well done are integral concepts in the discharge of policing duties and Quebec is a prime example of that. Day in and day out, the men and women who make up Quebec’s front-line policing family display the finest qualities of law enforcement. They bring honour to the profession.
In early 1999, members of the RCMP Quebec Members’ Association took concrete action to honour RCMP and other police officers in Quebec who have gone beyond the call of duty. As the momentum grew, so too, did the enthusiasm of another important police association – the Quebec Provincial Police Association. Soon, the association representing SQ officers joined forces with the RCMP Members’ Association and plans got under way for the province’s inaugural Quebec Police Awards, a gala saluting RCMP, SQ, and other Quebec police officers who have carried out their duties with dignity and courage.
The ceremony on November 3, 1999 at the Château Champlain Marriott Hotel in Montreal featured politicians from all levels of government, members of the Quebec policing and legal community and guests from other policing agencies in Canada. Also on hand was former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who wished to be there to support his former RCMP body guard, who was being honoured for his work. This would prove to be Mr. Trudeau’s last public appearance before passing away 10 months later. The event also attracted important players from the province’s business sector, including Ford Motors of Canada, the chief sponsor of the inaugural Quebec Police Awards.
SQ and Quebec RCMP association officials met during the year and received nominations from across the province. The 33 winners were selected in early October.
“This inaugural gala celebrates the professionalism and the determination of these fine police officers by honouring them before their peers and members of the political and business community,” said Gaétan Delisle, president of the RCMP Quebec Members’ Association.
“We are honouring a fine group of men and women,” added Michel Meunier, vice-president of the Quebec Provincial Police Association. “Our association is proud to be celebrating their achievements.”
All proceeds from the 1999 Quebec Police Awards were donated to the Foundation For Research Into Children’s Diseases. This was done through the SQ and RCMP associations’ respective charitable organizations – the RCMP Quebec Members’ Association Foundation and the Quebec Provincial Police Association’s Humanitarian Fund.
You are about to read the stories of officers who have gone beyond the call of duty to uphold the law, crack important cases, or simply demonstrated tremendous courage in helping citizens.
These are the stories of the men and women who have shone and captured the hearts of, not only the jury, but also the community that they have sworn to protect.
They are a credit to the badge.
Constable Michel Rhéaume
Constable Michèle Boily
Sûreté du Québec, MRC Maskinongé
Constables save two men during morning fire
At 5 a.m. on September 9, 1999, Constable Michel Rhéaume and auxiliary officer Michèle Boily were patrolling along Louiseville’s St. Laurent Street when they smelled smoke near the Chez Max restaurant. As they approached the two-storey building, they spotted black smoke spilling from the ground floor and called the fire department. The officers noticed that there were apartments on top of the restaurant and had to circle the building to gain entry through a rear door. Once inside, the smoke was so intense that the constables had difficulty breathing as they made their way down the darkened hallway. “There was smoke right to the top of the walls and we could hear the crackling of the flames and the floor was vibrating under our feet,” said Boily, who has since been promoted to the rank of constable.
“We knocked on the doors, while yelling, ‘Police!’” said Rhéaume. “At the first door, the man woke up and we told him to leave because there was a fire. At the second door, the tenant never woke up. He was sleeping deeply so we had to break down the door.”
After making sure that there were no more tenants in the building, the officers then evacuated five tenants from an apartment building located next to the inferno.
“The actions of officers Boily and Rhéaume definitely saved two lives,” said Sgt. Robert Laframboise, the two officers’ supervisor. “These two officers saved the lives of two citizens at the risk of their own security.”
While both constables tried to downplay their heroic deeds, the two men they saved had a different opinion. For Patrick Millette and Sylvain Demontigny, the officers’ actions simply saved their lives – an opinion shared by the residents of the close-knit community.
Constable Stéphan Gauvin
Sûreté du Québec, Quebec City region
Officer’s patience and courage save boy’s life
It had all the makings of a bloodbath, but the courage and calm of 10-year veteran Constable Stéphan Gauvin assured that a hostage-taking ended peacefully in the Quebec City suburb of Val Bélair on July 7, 1999.
That evening, a drugged-out and violent 23-year-old suspect stormed a residence on de Jouvence Street for no apparent reason, and grabbed a 13-year-old boy at knife point, demanding that the Sûreté du Québec send an officer to the scene.
Gauvin, who had been patrolling on his SQ motorcycle in the area, responded to the call, made by Val Bélair Police. For an hour, as police, journalists, citizens and the kidnapped boy’s family watched from behind a police barrier, Gauvin entered the house and negotiated with the suspect, who held a knife to the throat of young Jean-Philippe Audet. After calming him down and quietly talking to the suspect, Gauvin convinced the suspect to step outside and release his victim. He did, and was immediately subdued by police.
“My goal was to keep Jean-Philippe calm, and I spoke to him quietly, saying that everything would be all right,” said Gauvin. “By negotiating with the suspect, I sensed that he was willing to listen to me a little bit, so I was confident that the whole thing would end positively.”
Jean-Philippe’s mother, Christine, has nothing but praise for Gauvin. “You went beyond the call of duty,” she told Gauvin in a letter. “You really sensed that Jean-Philippe was as important to you as he is to us. You acted with your heart and your experience, and for us, that made all the difference.”
Patience and Gauvin’s ability to remain calm in the face of extreme danger played a key role in saving the boy’s life. With a drugged-out criminal on his hands, and a horde of media watching, Gauvin’s actions were nothing short of exemplary.
Constable Gaétan Fortin
Constable Arold Bernatchez
Constable Jean-Guy Thivierge
Constable Christian Lindsay
Sûreté du Québec, Quebec City region
Teamwork turns ‘accident’ into murder conviction
At first glance, it looked like a routine farming accident. On October 21, 1998, Sûreté du Québec investigators were called to a farm in St. Agapit, a tiny village about 50 kilometres west of Quebec City. At the scene, a man reported that his wife had slipped from a platform inside a barn and fallen as he was backing up a tractor. One of the wheels crushed the wife’s head, killing her instantly, the man told police.
Crime-scene technician Gaétan Fortin then went to work. His observations quickly poked holes in the husband’s story, notably: there were no traces of blood underneath the tractor or any of the wheels; the head of the victim did not display evidence of having been run over by a 5,000-kg vehicle; the scene had apparently been thoroughly washed clean with a water hose; and there was blood on the tractor’s ignition key.
An autopsy revealed that the woman’s death had been a result of one of the wheels being driven over her thorax – a conclusion that contradicted the husband’s version of events.
SQ investigators Arold Bernatchez and Jean-Guy Thivierge brought the incriminating evidence against the husband to the trial, while Constable Christian Lindsay, a crime-scene reconstruction expert, proved to the jury that the tractor mishap was definitely not an accident. The trial displayed the officers’ precision and technical expertise, which resulted in a jury’s second-degree murder conviction for the husband.
Despite the absence of a witness, the officers cited in this case succeeded in reconstructing the crime scene, letting their findings speak for the victim. In this case, what could have simply been filed as a routine accident report ended up as a murder conviction.
Corporal Yves Trudel
Corporal Ronald Groulx
Constable Patrick Dubé
Constable Miville Bédard
Constable Sylvain Tremblay
Constable Robert Pigeon
Sûreté du Québec, Montreal region
Sergeant Gilles Michaud
Corporal Normand Denis
Constable Alain Binet
RCMP, Montreal region
Det.-Lt. Yves Riopel
Constable Jean-Pierre Gaudette
Insp. Martial Tremblay
Sgt.-Det. Camille VanHoutte
Quebec City Police Service
Co-operation a blow to biker gangs in Quebec
Operation Carcajou was born in October 1995, following a wave of killings and bombings linked to the drug war between rival biker gangs in the Montreal region. Thanks to the joint and tireless efforts of Carcajou’s players – the Sûreté du Québec, the RCMP, the Montreal Urban Community Police Service and Quebec City Police – arrests and hundreds of search-and-seizures resulted in a dramatic destabilization of gang warfare. Another blow to the Rock Machine and Hells Angels was the creation of the Unité Mixte d’Enquêtes sur le Crime Organisé (Mixed Investigative Unit on Organized Crime), a group linking police expertise on biker gangs with traditional organized crime knowledge.
Dubbed the Repaire and Roma projects, the two separate units saw the involvement of the SQ and RCMP officers, cited for 1999 Quebec Police Awards citations, along with MUCPD and Quebec City Police Service investigators. Their mission: an unrelenting attack on the leadership of the Hells and Rock Machine, by seizing the fortified headquarters of the Rock Machine, and putting a successful grip on the Hells’ activities in the province of Quebec. This was done despite working in two cities with four different policing groups with varying philosophies and limited manpower.
On May 27, 1997 a massive Roma police operation involving 600 officers swooped down on gang locations in the Montreal, Quebec City, Bonaventure and Rouyn regions, resulting in: 60 search warrants, 12 seized buildings, 15 confiscated vehicles, 50 witnesses, 800 pounds of explosives, detonators and remote-control bomb detonators, a PCP lab, 12 arrests and the seizure of more than 50,000 documents. Repaire, meanwhile, netted 110 warrants, five seized buildings, seven arrests, cocaine and more than 60,000 documents. The most important outcome was the seizure of the Rock Machine’s two bunkers and their court-mandated evictions.
While the tenacity of the investigators put a large dent in the war between the biker gangs, it also demonstrated that co-operation among police officers can bring innovation and seemingly impossible results. Thanks to the patience and resourcefulness of these officers, the impossible became possible.
Constable Riette Leblanc
RCMP, Montreal region
Officer’s investigative work sealed fate of UK trial
A jetlagged, but confident and articulate Constable Riette Leblanc sealed the fate of a murder trial in Winchester, England on December 12, 1996 – only a few hours after being called overseas by British authorities. Investigators with the Dorset Police would later praise Leblanc for the manner in which she gave her evidence in court, which resulted in the successful murder conviction of Russel Causley.
The complicated case was one that Leblanc knew thoroughly because of its Canadian connection. Causley, who, as the investigation would reveal, murdered his ex-wife, Veronica Mary Packman. The killer lived in Montreal for several years before moving to England to live with his new girlfriend, with whom he had had an affair while married.
In 1985, Causley’s wife disappeared in England. A year later, Causley returned to Montreal with his new girlfriend to work and live. In 1993, Causley faked his own death in an attempt to cash in on his life insurance. Police nabbed him and charged him with fraud. He was jailed for two years. That’s when he revealed to fellow inmates that he had murdered his ex-wife.
The RCMP investigation into Causley’s claims to inmates resulted in British police re-opening the disappearance of Packman and a visit to Montreal in 1996. Leblanc dug deeply into Causley’s past, unearthing key information on his finances, property ownership and character. She also discovered that Causley’s girlfriend had used Packman’s identity to enter Canada, and even found work using the victim’s name.
On December 11, 1996, Dorset Police contacted Leblanc in Montreal and requested her presence in court. That very evening, she boarded a plane and at 10:30 a.m. the following day, she was delivering her testimony. On December 18, 1996, after a two-week trial, Causley was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. It was only the 18th time since 1945 that a British murder trial had ended in a conviction despite the absence of a body.
“During the course of this whole investigation, Constable Leblanc reflected nothing but credit on both herself and the RCMP,” said Dorset Police Chief J. Homer.
Sergeant Michel Roussy
RCMP, Montreal region
Officer’s quick reaction prevents tragedy at HQ
The lobby of the RCMP’s C Division headquarters on Dorchester Street in Westmount is usually a busy, bustling place, with civilian and police employees entering and leaving the building. But on the afternoon of April 3, 1998, chaos reigned when a machete-wielding man went on a violent spree at the RCMP headquarters building. Thanks to the lightning-fast reaction of Sgt. Michel Roussy, who shot and injured the suspect, no one was killed and the drama ended quickly.
Roussy’s takedown was so well done that a video tape of the incident, obtained from a security camera, is now part of the training program for police cadets at the RCMP training centre in Regina.
The bizarre incident began earlier that day when the suspect showed up at the headquarters, saying he was upset with the Canadian government’s foreign affairs policies and the abuse of human rights abroad. Although the man was upset, security personnel managed to calm him down. He was told to leave the premises.
The man later returned, this time armed with a machete. He began by smashing the windshields of every vehicle in the parking lot, before swinging his weapon in an attempt to kill anyone who happened to be near him. The suspect then entered the lobby of the building and continued his violent rampage. Onlookers ran for cover, barely escaping injury as the suspect became more and more enraged.
Roussy quickly arrived on the scene and attempted to talk to the man. Instead, the suspect lunged at Roussy with the machete, but when the man approached within two feet, the officer fired his weapon, downing the suspect. An ambulance was called and the man was taken to hospital to be treated for his injury.
Roussy is a 27-year RCMP veteran with vast experience in international policing. He worked alongside the Drug Enforcement Agency in Washington and was part of an anti-heroin investigation in Asia.
Roussy displayed tremendous calm and professionalism that afternoon. If not for his vigilance and quick action, the incident would have ended in bloodshed and tragedy.
Staff-Sgt. Charles Castonguay
Sgt. Robert Philion
Constable Sylvain L’Heureux
Constable Robert Morin
Constable Sylvain Raizenne
Constable Patrick Fardeau
Constable William Robbe
RCMP, Customs and Excise Section, Montreal
RCMP officers key in U.S. trade embargo bust
Teamwork, co-operation and expertise shown by this group of RCMP officers have a lot to do with the successful outcome of two separate, massive investigations which have brought a pair of Montreal-area businessmen to trial for trying to export military equipment to countries targeted by United States export embargoes.
Indeed, as lead investigator Daniel Supnick, the U.S. Embassy’s liaison officer for American Customs Service, said: “The sensitivity of these files required a lot of expertise and professionalism. Both files worked out extremely well and both are far stronger because of the co-operation from the (RCMP).”
Both cases are set to go to trial, following the arrests conducted in 1999. At the request of the American Embassy, the RCMP went to work on finding the missing links in the case against Montrealers Colin Shu and Pietro Rigolli. Shu was arrested in Boston by American authorities for allegedly sending sophisticated military equipment through his Canadian-based company to China. He was also charged with weapons exportation, complicity and money laundering.
In a second case, Dollard des Ormeaux businessman Rigolli was arrested in Connecticut and accused of illegally exporting airplane engine parts purchased from Pratt & Whittney in Longueuil to Iran, in violation of a 1992 American embargo on that country.
These seven officers worked extensively on backing up the charges with detailed findings involving the business activities of both suspects. Without this fact-finding work, the American authorities would not have been able to bring these cases to trial. Gordon Giffin, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada described the RCMP officers’ work as “extraordinary.”
Constable Daniel Trudeau
Sûreté du Québec, Montreal region
The triumph of science and police work
Constable Daniel Trudeau’s skills and tenacity are proof that science and police work can be a lethal blow to vicious murderers. Trudeau, a crime-scene technician, is considered one of Canada’s leading experts on an advanced scientific technique that extracts latent, digital prints from the bodies of homicide victims.
On June 21, 1995, Trudeau was called to the scene of a vicious murder. The victim, a woman in her 60s, had been brutally raped before being bludgeoned to death. Was there any hope of extracting fingerprints from the blood-smeared body? Trudeau’s advanced technological breakthrough would quickly bring an answer to the question with the exact identity and arrest of the killer. Using a polilight examination, Trudeau found weak traces of fingerprints on parts of the body. Using an ortho-tolidine solution on the skin, Trudeau saw that it had a reaction with the hemoglobin, leaving a blue coloration. In turn, the blue coloring revealed traces of finger and palm prints. In no time, the killer was under arrest.
Although it sounds like high-tech science, Trudeau says the ortho-tolidine solution is a substance used routinely by people who test chlorine levels in swimming pools. “That’s right,” said Trudeau. “If you look closely at the products you use on your pool, you’ll find that one of them is ortho-tolidine!”
Trudeau’s technique has since gone beyond Canada’s borders. In fact, thanks to a report he prepared for the RCMP Gazette magazine in 1996, other police forces around the world have contacted Trudeau to learn more about his simple, yet effective breakthrough.
“Imagine the instant satisfaction that a crime-scene technician experiences when he tests a new experiment on a body, which links a latent fingerprint to a suspect?” said Trudeau, adding that it has happened several times since the 1995 breakthrough.
Constable Jean-Louis Tremblay
Sûreté du Québec, M.R.C. Maria-Chapdelaine
Constable’s road safety campaign a life saver
Constable Jean-Louis Tremblay, a 25-year veteran of the Sûreté du Québec is credited by many in the transport industry with being a guiding force in the decrease of serious accidents on Quebec’s highways during the past four years.
In 1996, Tremblay played a leading role in a coroner’s inquest, which investigated the dramatic rise of fatal accidents on the province’s highways and isolated roads, primarily used by forestry and mining trucks. It is Tremblay’s efforts that resulted in a decision by the provincial government to impose new Highway Code amendments aimed at reducing the carnage along Quebec’s highways.
In 1997, Tremblay introduced a provincial think-tank featuring representatives from forestry and mining companies, and a public-awareness campaign that saw pamphlets distributed to some 3,000 targeted drivers who regularly use the province’s forestry highways. The campaign saw a 50-per-cent drop in the total number of fatal accidents on the same roads in 1998. The campaign was also such a success that it was implemented throughout the rest of the province, along with posters featuring the “Choc” slogan.
Tremblay’s innovative thinking has certainly saved lives, says Sgt. Lucien Harvey, director of the SQ’s M.R.C. region. “Constable Tremblay is a first-rate member who has been greatly involved in this campaign,” said Harvey. “His dedication deserves to be recognized by our patrolling officers throughout Canada.”
Constable Rhonda Pedersen
RCMP, Montreal region
Wake up call for telemarketing fraud
As an investigator with the fraud and commercial crime unit (Colt unit) of C Division, Constable Rhonda Pedersen began working in 1997 on a series of telemarketing complaints that, at first glance, appeared rather routine. But as Pedersen and her colleagues in this specialized team began to dig deeper, they found that the telemarketing group they were investigating was involved in an international campaign of fraud totalling more than $586,000 U.S., with its principle figure located in Montreal. Pedersen traced the investigation to the U.S. and throughout Canada, establishing important contacts with law enforcement authorities and elderly victims in both countries.
For several months, Pedersen kept daily contact with the victims – up to five a day, reassuring them and providing a listening ear. “Constable Pedersen regularly showed tremendous patience in order to listen to the victims and gather the necessary information to arrest the fraud artists in Montreal,” said Staff-Sgt. Gaétan Delisle.
Pedersen’s laborious research resulted in 29 criminal charges brought against a suspect. It is the first time in the history of telemarketing fraud investigations that an RCMP officer has been successful in obtaining a court-ordered freeze of revenue allegedly obtained from criminal activity – in this case, $100,000 U.S.
On October 28, Pedersen was honoured for her work by RCMP Commissioner Phil Murray during a special ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of women serving in the RCMP.
Sergeant Guy Quintal
RCMP, Montreal region
Retired sergeant leaves his mark on international fight against organized crime
Sergeant Guy Quintal may have recently retired after 27 years of distinguished service to the RCMP, but the impact of his tireless work in the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking is still being felt among the international law enforcement community.
Quintal began his career with the Narcotics Section in Montreal in 1974. He provided VIP security for Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, John Turner and Joe Clark, as well as Royal visits, the 1984 Papal tour and events involving other dignitaries. But his career specialty was the war against the illicit drug trade.
In 1994, Quintal and two colleagues with the Montreal Urban Community Police Service, received the International Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association Award of Honour for their instrumental work in bringing down the notorious Montreal West End Gang. Quintal was part of a joint RCMP-MUCPD task force known as Project CHOC, launched in the early 1980s to combat the gang, known for its bombing and contract killing campaign. The project also involved the Drug Enforcement Agency in Jacksonville and Gainesville, Florida.
The lengthy investigations resulted in the arrests and convictions of West End Gang leaders Allan Ross and William McAllister on major drug and murder charges. Over the years, as their investigation continued, Quintal developed a confidential informant who infiltrated the West End Gang and allowed CHOC to unravel the entire operation, including the seizure of huge amounts of drug money and narcotics. The investigation also resulted in the seizure of assets worth more than $10 million by Canadian and U.S. authorities.
The scope and territory covered by Project CHOC is so massive that the work spanned more than a decade and involved law enforcement authorities on an international scale. As a direct result of the outstanding leadership and investigative expertise of Quintal and his colleagues, Project CHOC has developed into one of the most successful narcotic task forces in North America and remains on the leading edge of international law enforcement.