FREDERICTON – A New Brunswick Mountie who has run afoul of a policy that says RCMP officers can’t smoke medicinal marijuana while in uniform has returned his red serge and accused the government and the force of not doing enough to support RCMP members with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cpl. Ron Francis wept as he arrived Friday at the RCMP headquarters in Fredericton after he said he was ordered to return the dress uniform.
“Members of the RCMP are not sacrificial to the government or to the organization,” Francis said.
“They are people and they deserve the right to be protected while they go to work and be taken care of by the Canadian public that they defend.”
But he did not return a 20-year exemplary service medal, removing it before handing over the iconic Mountie uniform, hat and boots.
“They can have their uniforms, but this is my medal. I earned this with my blood, my sweat, my tears,” he said.
“I have not one flaw on my service record. My only flaw is I stuck up for the Canadian people.”
The RCMP says its officers who are prescribed medicinal marijuana should not be in red serge or regular uniform while taking their medication as it would not portray the right message to the public.
The force has declined interview requests but said in an email Thursday that it continuously looks at strengthening supports for officers with operational stress injuries and is looking at its policies to define how it manages members who have been prescribed medicinal marijuana.
But Imelda Perley, a Maliseet elder who accompanied Francis on Friday, said the RCMP did not do enough to help Francis deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I think they have a responsibility to all their RCMP officers, whether they are aboriginal or non-aboriginal, to give alternative ways of looking at who they are and not what they are supposed to do,” Perley said.
Conservative MP Erin O’Toole, a former captain with the Royal Canadian Air Force, said he believes the RCMP were justified in ordering Francis to return his uniform.
“I think reasonable accommodation should be given, and I think the Mounties were providing that to him,” O’Toole said in Ottawa.
“Having worn a uniform myself, I think they made the right decision. And I think he should accept that as well because if you’re part of an institution like that, whether it’s the Canadian Forces or the RCMP, you have to understand the importance of the values and respect that the uniforms — in particular the red serge, one of Canada’s probably most respected world images — you have to preserve that.”