An aerial view of the scene where four RCMP officers were killed by James Roszko is shown in this evidence photo released at the Mayerthorpe inquiry Thursday, January 13, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The RCMP has been forced to reinstate a Mountie who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the deadly 2005 standoff in Mayerthorpe, Alta., his lawyer told The Globe and Mail.
Trevor Josok, who launched a legal challenge after being medically discharged last year, will be allowed to return to a position that accommodates the injuries that he suffered more than a decade ago.
The legal victory comes in the same week the RCMP was slammed by three external reports for failing to effectively deal with issues of workplace harassment and mental-health problems. The federal government has said it could place the national police force under greater civilian management to ensure that it drastically improves and modernizes the way it treats its nearly 20,000 members across Canada.
Mr. Josok’s lawyer, Sebastien Anderson, said the decision by the RCMP to reinstate his client will put an end to a judicial review that was launched in Federal Court last year. However, he said similar cases are still going through the legal process, adding the RCMP has not changed the way it deals with members who suffer from mental-health conditions.
“This is the first one that is resolved,” Mr. Anderson said. “We don’t expect them to change their policy; we will have to continue this fight. In order to get there, there is going to have to be a change in mindset within the RCMP, and I wouldn’t say it is there yet.”
Mr. Josok, who joined the RCMP in 1997, was part of the team of RCMP members who responded to a call at the farm of James Roszko near Mayerthorpe, northwest of Edmonton. The Mounties went to the property late in the day on March 2, 2005, to help bailiffs repossess a truck. Mr. Roszko had fled the scene, but the Mounties found evidence of stolen auto parts and a marijuana grow operation in a Quonset on site.
A constable at the time, Mr. Josok spent the night on the property, guarding the location until his colleagues returned the following morning to conduct a search. Unknown to the Mounties on site, Mr. Roszko had returned overnight, and killed four RCMP members in an ambush on March 3.
Mr. Josok, who felt guilty for being at home and resting while four of his colleagues lost their lives, developed PTSD and went on medical leave in September, 2006. He tried to return to work a year later, but never found a proper fit given his work limitations.
“While he had made every effort to progress and recover, he was continually placed in positions that did not permit him to demonstrate his full potential and instead was tasked with duties that were menial and demeaning,” his application for judicial review said. “Overall, the RCMP’s accommodation process was very disappointing and made him feel completely defeated, demoralized and humiliated.”
Mr. Josok went back on medical leave in 2008. Three years later, the RCMP advised Mr. Josok that it was seeking his medical discharge – a process that led to his formal ouster in 2016.
Mr. Anderson argued in Federal Court that the medical discharge violated Mr. Josok’s Charter rights and constituted discrimination based on a disability. He sought Mr. Josok’s reinstatement with retroactive salary.
“They have agreed to grant the order that we sought,” Mr. Anderson said. “We haven’t decided on a position yet, that is still to be determined. But we’ve got their agreement that they will reinstate him in a position that will accommodate his limitations.”
Mr. Josok is out of the country on holidays and could not be reached for comment.
“He is pleased to have avoided the litigation and to have an opportunity to go back to work,” Mr. Anderson said. “That is the devastating part of these medical discharges, it fundamentally affects [police officers] in terms of who they are, not just what they do. … He is quite pleased to return to his occupation of choice.”
The RCMP has yet to respond to a request for comment.