It was a heart-rending end to the inquest into the 2010 drowning death of RCMP officer Const. Michael Potvin.
The final piece of evidence presented to the jury was a letter from the deceased Mountie’s widow, Allison.
The letter, read by Michael Potvin’s father Mark, who struggled to maintain composure, expressed hope that something positive could be taken from the tragedy of Potvin’s death.
“My wish is that instead of pointing fingers we find forgiveness,” she wrote. “I hope we learn from our errors and that those who are able to make changes for the better do so.”
At the time of the accident, Allison was pregnant with their first child.
“I want my son to know that we did everything in our power to find his daddy, to know the circumstances of his passing and that we have done everything possible to make sure that this never happens to anyone again.”
She also expressed her gratitude to members of the RCMP and the village of Mayo for their support.
“I ask that we come together as a community to honour Michael’s life,” she wrote. “If you take anything away from the inquest, I ask that above all else you remember him for who he was as a person, what he stood for in his work, and not simply for the way in which he died.”
Many in the courtroom were visibly moved by the letter, including Judge Karen Ruddy who called a brief recess so everyone could collect themselves.
She then gave instructions to the jury who retired to deliberate.
When they returned five hours later, they had come up with 10 recommendations:
The RCMP should create a self-audit program to be completed yearly and reviewed by the M Division’s water transport co-ordinator.
Random spot checks would be done in each detachment to monitor this self-inspection program.
Steps would be taken to ensure that supervisors are aware of their roles and responsibilities in reporting hazardous occurrence investigations.
Boat repairs and maintenance should be performed by qualified journeymen or equivalent technicians.
All specialized safety gear and required documentation should remain with ATVs, snowmobiles and boats, and those documents should be reviewed if the vehicles are transferred.
The RCMP should conduct and document weekly safety meetings.
The force should create a change-of-command checklist for incoming non-commissioned officers. Outgoing officers should complete an exit report.
The accident report, written by marine architect Alex Brydon, should be distributed in its entirety to Transport Canada and all relevant organizations.
And finally, three citizens of Mayo – Jeremy Germaine, Jimmy Simon and Benny Moses – should be publicly recognized for their valiant efforts in the rescue.
On leaving the courtroom, Potvin’s father Mark said he had a “partial sense of closure.”
“It is all part of the healing process.”
He was happy with all of the jury’s recommendations, especially the last one calling for recognition of the rescuers.
“I thought it was very worthwhile, and should have been taken before this,” he said.
The RCMP also welcomed the results of the inquest.
The jury’s recommendations confirm many of the actions the RCMP has already taken in the wake of Potvin’s tragic death, said Chief Superintendent Peter Clark at a press conference this morning.
The force has replaced vessels and equipment. Modifications or repairs to boats must be approved first and performed by qualified technicians. Front-line officers serving in the Yukon have been issued their own personal flotation devices. And the RCMP has created a quality control system and supervisory checks to ensure officers are complying with policies.
“The RCMP owes it to Mike to make as much good as we can from this tragedy,” said Clark. “Making the RCMP become a better organization and helping everyone become safer on the water will honour everything that Mike and his loved ones have already sacrificed.”
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