An RCMP conduct board has ordered the immediate firing of a B.C. Mountie who took sexual advantage of a suicidal woman who’d just been released from hospital after being held under the Mental Health Act.
Const. Connor McDonald, who was posted to an unidentified B.C. community, showed up at the woman’s house and had sex with her early on the morning of Aug. 15, 2021, not long after he’d spent hours beside her hospital bed, according to a conduct board decision.
The woman’s identity is protected by a publication ban, and she is referred to by the initials NS in the decision. It describes her as a chronic alcoholic who’d recently lost custody of her children because of her condition.
In an Oct. 16 decision, the board rejected submissions from McDonald’s representative suggesting discipline measures including a transfer, a year of close supervision, a written apology letter and 40 days’ forfeited pay.
“Public confidence in the force would be undermined by Const. McDonald’s continued employment,” board member Christine Sakiris wrote as she ordered his dismissal.
“Const. McDonald’s misconduct is egregious and had a profoundly negative impact on NS and her family. It is wholly incompatible with the execution of a member’s duties and the position of trust that members hold.”
According to the decision, McDonald holds two years of active service with the RCMP. His lawyer, Brad Kielmann, declined to comment, but the decision says McDonald is appealing.
‘A clear power imbalance’
The conduct board’s decision lays out in detail what Sakaris describes as McDonald’s “egregious and reprehensible behaviour.”
It says he came into contact with NS on the afternoon of Aug 14, 2021 after she was discovered unconscious and suffering from what looked like a drug overdose, but may have been extreme alcohol intoxication.
She was taken to a local hospital to be held under the Mental Health Act, and McDonald stayed with her for several hours while she recovered, the decision says.
The two flirted while NS waited to be released from hospital, and McDonald later gave her a ride to a mall near her home, where she bought a six-pack of beer. He then gave her his personal phone number and added her on Facebook, the decision says.
Once McDonald’s shift was finished, he appeared in civilian clothes at NS’s home, where he told her something along the lines of “I could get in a lot of trouble for this,” before having sex with her, according to the conduct board.
“I have found that NS was a vulnerable person whom Const. McDonald came to know in the course of his duties. As a member of the RCMP, Const. McDonald held a position of trust and authority,” Sakaris wrote.
“In this context, there was a clear power imbalance.”
NS was found dead in her apartment a little more than a year after the encounter, but she made two statements to investigators about McDonald’s actions before she passed away, according to the decision.
She told investigators that she’d been hospitalized a few times before the incident after passing out or threatening to kill herself, and was “not in a good space” when she met McDonald. She also said she did not want to see him fired as a result of what he’d done, the decision says.
“She demonstrated empathy for Const. McDonald and she did not try to cast him in a negative light,” Sakaris wrote.
Her sister and two friends also gave statements confirming that NS had told them about what happened.
McDonald did not give a statement to investigators, but his lawyer argued NS’s evidence was unreliable, in part because of her alcoholism. However, the board disagreed, saying she was candid about her memory lapses and finding that her statements matched up with the objective evidence and statements from other witnesses.