Potvin inquest set to begin

The coroner's inquest into the death of RCMP Const. Michael Potvin starts Monday. The 26-year-old policeman drowned in the Stewart River two years ago.

The coroner’s inquest into the death of RCMP Const. Michael Potvin starts Monday.

The 26-year-old policeman drowned in the Stewart River two years ago.

Potvin and another officer, Cpl. Brent Chapman, had taken an aluminum RCMP boat out on the river. The boat started taking on water and capsized. Neither was wearing a life-jacket at the time.

Chapman stayed with the boat and was eventually rescued, but Potvin tried to swim for shore.

He didn’t make it.

His body was found two weeks later, nearly 60 kilometres downstream.

“Michael’s death has been devastating to his family, the people that knew him, the community he served and to the RCMP,” said David Gilbert, director of organizational strategy for the Yukon RCMP. “I think everybody will remember that always.”

Following Potvin’s death the incident was investigated by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the Transportation and Safety Board, Transport Canada and the RCMP marine services.

A number of policy changes were made as a result. Training was expanded, and boats and equipment standardized. The RCMP engaged members the communities to help expand its knowledge of hazards on the land and waterways.

The inquest was put on hold earlier this year after the Attorney General of Canada challenged the coroner’s jurisdiction to hold an inquest.

In August, Judge Karen Ruddy decided that the inquest would go ahead.

Whatever recommendations come out of the inquest are non-binding, but they will be welcomed by the RCMP, said Gilbert.

“This is one of the ways that our accountability to the public is maintained,” he said.