injusticebusters logo

Arthur Dagenais

Can he get a fair trial?

Crown opposes release of Dagenais Sr.
Father of accused murderer faces obstruction charge

NORTH BATTLEFORD -- Arthur Dagenais, the father of accused murderer Curtis Dagenais, will remain in custody until Aug. 14, when a Battlefords judge will decide whether the elder Dagenais will be released on electronic monitoring to await his trial for obstruction of justice.

Arthur Levi Dagenais, 69, has been in jail since July 8, when he was arrested after allegedly ignoring a police order to stay out of a restricted RCMP search area, which included his farm, Queen's Bench Justice Donald Krueger heard Thursday. The Crown earlier stayed a charge of possession of an unregistered .22-calibre rifle.

Arthur Dagenais was originally denied release July 14 in provincial court, after Judge Violet Meekma found he posed a risk to the safety of the public and police officers.

His son, Curtis Dagenais, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the July 7 shooting of RCMP constables Robin Cameron and Marc Bourdages, who died from head wounds about one week after the shooting near Mildred, 12 kilometres east of Spiritwood. Curtis Dagenais is also charged with attempted murder of another constable who was at the scene of the shooting.

The incident began when the two officers attended an assault call in Spiritwood on July 7. When they tried to speak with the suspect, he fled in his pickup truck, leading the officers on a pursuit for about 15 km. A second RCMP vehicle joined the chase, which eventually ended in gunfire south of Mildred. Both Bourdages and Cameron were struck, but a third officer, who was shot at and returned fire, was not injured. The suspect then fled into the bush on foot.

Prosecutor Dennis Cann reiterated the Crown's position that Arthur Dagenais poses a risk to the public if released. He said witnesses have sworn statements saying Dagenais was abusive to his wife and children, hated police and influenced his son to feel the same way.

One witness said Arthur Dagenais said he couldn't reach Curtis by phone because Curtis, who was then a fugitive, wouldn't answer the phone if he didn't know who was calling.

Cann argued Arthur Dagenais disobeyed the police order to stay away from his farm because he wanted to get home to phone so Curtis would see his father's number and answer the call.

The RCMP now intend to conduct a "shoulder-to-shoulder search" for the murder weapon on Curtis Dagenais' property, which is about six kilometres from Arthur Dagenais' property, Cann said. He suggested Arthur Dagenais may know where the rifle is and speculated as to whether he is the type of person who would tell police where to find it.

The prosecutor argued that the administration of justice would fall into disrepute if Arthur Dagenais was allowed to return to his home near Spiritwood.

Some residents of Spiritwood have signed a petition demanding that Arthur Dagenais not be allowed to return to the community, Cann said, adding the RCMP "have been inundated" with calls of concern that he will return.

Arthur Dagenais' wife, Elsie, and his daughter, Grace, have said they will go into hiding if he is released, Cann said.

Lori Gollan, Arthur Dagenais' lawyer, argued Thursday her client has already been in jail long enough to have served any sentence he might receive if he were to be convicted on the minor charge of obstruction of justice.

She said Arthur Dagenais should not be denied his freedom based on second- and third-hand rumour and speculation. Nor should he remain incarcerated for expressing negative opinions that have not generated criminal charges.

"Art may be an angry man. . . . In Canada we don't incarcerate people for being angry," Gollan said.

Arthur Dagenais admits he received a phone call from his son as Curtis tried to elude police prior to the shooting, and that he was on his way to meet him when the shooting happened.

There was confusion about the meeting place and Arthur Dagenais took the wrong road, Gollan said.

There was nothing about Arthur Dagenais' desire to help his son at the time to justify his continued incarceration, Gollan argued.

She asked that her client be released without conditions, but said he agrees to abide by electronic monitoring, if a bail supervision report makes such a recommendation.

"He needs and wants to be released," Gollan said outside court. "I have no doubt in my mind that Mr. Dagenais will be released on Aug. 14," she said.

Dagenais Sr. seeks $1M in suit against RCMP

More than a year before his son, Curtis Dagenais, was implicated in the fatal shooting of two Spiritwood RCMP officers, Arthur Dagenais launched a malicious prosecution lawsuit against three other Spiritwood officers, the Saskatchewan justice minister and Dagenais' ex-wife, seeking $1 million in punitive damages.

The lawsuit, filed in March 2005, alleged Sgt. Brad Mueller and constables J.G.R. Giroux and Ed Gallant knew Arthur Dagenais was not guilty in October 2003, when they laid a sexual assault charge against him based on a complaint by his then-wife, Elsie Dagenais. The charge was later stayed.

The lawsuit sheds further light on the animosity the Dagenais father and son felt toward the RCMP stationed in the small community, about 150 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

"I guess it says that there's at least this degree of history of some discontent or unhappiness," said Donald McKillop, a provincial government lawyer representing the minister of justice, who, as the RCMP employer, was also named in the suit.

On July 7, constables Robin Cameron and Marc Bourdages were shot following a police pursuit that began when the officers responded to an assault call near the village of Mildred, 12 kilometres east of Spiritwood.

A chase ensued and ended with gunfire. Curtis Dagenais, 41, fled into the bush on foot. Both officers died in hospital from severe head injuries about a week later.

A large-scale search failed to locate Curtis Dagenais, who turned himself in 11 days later. He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder of Michelle Knopp, a third, unharmed officer who was at the scene of the shooting.

Arthur Dagenais, 69, was arrested the day after the shooting and was charged with obstruction of justice, after allegedly defying police instruction to stay away from the restricted area near his home, where they were searching for his son.

Court heard, at Arthur Dagenais' bail hearing, that police allegedly found two firearms and $27,000 in cash hidden in a combine on his farm, and that he has a history of hatred against police. He was also charged with possession of an unregistered .22-calibre rifle.

At the hearing, his lawyer, Lori Gollan, described the rocky relationship father and son had with police.

Arthur Dagenais remains in custody but has applied for a bail review, which will be heard Thursday in Battleford.

Little progress was made on the lawsuit in the months leading up to the shooting, but just days after, on July 11, Arthur Dagenais' lawyer took the legal step of "noting the defendants for default," said Harvey Walker, who represents Elsie Dagenais in the lawsuit.

That step prevents the defendants from taking any steps in relation to the lawsuit, including filing a statement of defence, without first obtaining permission from a judge, Walker said.

The point may be moot because Dagenais missed a legal deadline for serving the statement of claim on the defendants, Walker said.

A plaintiff has six months after filing a statement of claim with the court to serve notice on the defendants, but Dagenais filed his claim in March 2005 and served notice to defendants in January 2006, Walker said.

Gollan, did not immediately return calls Monday.

McKillop said he has not yet had any response to his January 2006 demand for particulars from Dagenais.

"I think it's all very much in limbo," McKillop said.

"I've got nothing approaching assurance it's over. Maybe it is. Maybe he's not ever going to pursue it. I've got no assurance that that's the case. If they are going to pursue it, then maybe somebody's going to have to press them to get it to go forward, take some initiative from the defendant's end," McKillop said.

Arthur Dagenais' suit claims the charge against him was laid by one or all of the officers without proper or any investigation.

Dagenais declared he was innocent and co-operated with police by obtaining his medical records to prove his innocence, according to the statement of claim. He had to take time away from the farm to appear several times in North Battleford court and had to pay a lawyer to represent him, the claim states.

The charge was stayed Jan. 28, 2004.

Dagenais alleged RCMP officers prosecuted him for a purpose other than assisting the courts of justice and to coerce him into accepting responsibility for acts regardless of his guilt or innocence.

He also alleged the officers didn't honestly believe he was guilty, provided inadequate disclosure and conspired to maliciously prosecute him.

He also alleges his charter rights to life, liberty and security of the person were breached.

Dagenais alleges he suffered emotional stress, anxiety, depression, mental anguish, humiliation, public scorn, loss of reputation, loss of self-esteem, psychiatric illness and loss of income.

He alleges premeditated and malicious prosecution, abuse of power and "a high handed and callous disregard, denial and diminution" of his rights.

Elsie Dagenais filed a statement of defence in which she denied the allegations, saying her complaint was true and that Dagenais is "the author of his own misfortune."