Law enforcement completely drops the ball in Boudreau case

News out of the parole hearing for Dwayne Matthew Samson drove home an aspect of this terrible story that makes it all the more disturbing.

On June 12, the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) granted Samson day parole, with leave privileges, at a halfway house for six months with conditions that he have no contact with any member of Phillip Boudreau’s family. Samson told the board he plans to return to work on his fishing boat.

Upon reviewing his case, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) said Samson was motivated to get reintegrated into society and a psychiatric assessment determined Samson’s risk of reoffending was low.

On May 20, 2015, Samson pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter. Samson – who was the captain of the Twin Maggies, along with crew members James Landry and Craig Landry – had to agree to a statement of facts surrounding Boudreau’s death.

Craig Landry was sentenced in 2013 to 28 days in jail, which was covered by the time he already served, and two years probation. On January 29, 2015 James Landry received 14 years of federal prison time for his role in the death of Boudreau.

The statement shows James Landry fired four shots at Boudreau’s boat, after being asked twice by Samson if he was going to shoot, with Boudreau claiming to be hit.

The statement of facts then has the Twin Maggies hauling Boudreau’s boat out to sea, before Boudreau cut the bow line. The Twin Maggies – driven by Samson – then rammed Boudreau’s boat three times, and James Landry gaffed Boudreau before the Twin Maggies began hauling him out to sea. Boudreau freed himself twice before being gaffed a third time and dragged further. At some point, Samson stopped the boat and James Landry released the gaff, with Boudreau rolling over face down in the water. Boudreau’s body was never recovered.

On September 22, 2015 in Port Hawkesbury Supreme Court, Justice Simon MacDonald sentenced Samson to 10 years.

Justice MacDonald said there were several factors involved in the sentence, including multiple attacks on the victim, Samson introducing a gun to the incident, the manner of Boudreau’s death, Samson’s guilty plea, a lack of a prior criminal record, a sense of remorse and responsibility stemming from comments in court and from a forensic psychiatrist’s report, and previous good character.

MacDonald also said he wanted to make it clear he did not consider this as a case involving provocation and rejected it as a mitigating factor in the sentencing. MacDonald later said he was satisfied Samson could have taken himself out of the equation.

The sentencing hearing began on September 21, with Dwayne’s wife Carla Samson offering testimony for the defense. Carla’s father, James Landry, was formerly the captain of the Twin Maggies before selling his license to Carla in 2007.

During her testimony, Carla said there were incidents of cut traps and threats involving Boudreau. The crown objected, stating those were allegations of criminal conduct, with Justice MacDonald agreeing.

Carla later said the crew experienced losses of 20-25 traps a year, with the exception of a span of time during which Boudreau was in prison, which resulted in losses of $5,000 to $6,000 a year.

During cross examination, Carla was asked if she was aware if there were other fishermen who experienced cut traps. She said yes but wasn’t aware who cut the traps of others. When asked how she knew Boudreau cut her traps, she said Boudreau had directly asked her if the crew found the traps he cut.

In summarizing Samson’s case for the recent parole hearing, the CSC confirmed that prior to the incident on June 1, 2013, Samson did have multiple encounters with Boudreau and did turn to the authorities.

“You confirmed to the board that you had several encounters with the victim, as you knew him to be interfering with our fishing operation; you did seek assistance from the proper authorities but to no avail,” the ruling states.

Not only did the Samson family have multiple run-ins with Boudreau, it has now been confirmed they were unsuccessful in getting the authorities to do anything.

Had law enforcement followed-up on complaints about Boudreau and applied the law, it’s conceivable that by the time June 1, 2013 rolled around Boudreau might very well have been in custody, or at the very least, under investigation.

The fact that Boudreau engaged in misconduct does not justify the cruel and malicious manner in which he was killed, nor does it excuse the actions of the Twin Maggies crew. What occurred on that beautifully June day was ugly and wrong.

Tragically, action from the authorities could have saved Philip Boudreau’s life, could have stopped this incident before it escalated, could have prevented three men from serving time, and could have instilled some confidence from the community.

Now, a man is dead, families have been torn apart, tension remains in the fishery, and law enforcement is getting the blame.

With the benefit of three years hindsight, it’s clear now that had the RCMP and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans done their jobs, this might not have ever taken place.