A Greater Sudbury Police officer has been given a partial reprieve on the disciplinary action she received following an altercation at the Espanola Arena when she refused to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
In September 2021, Melisa Rancourt was charged with resisting a peace officer and two counts of entering a premises when entry has been prohibited, contrary to the Trespass to Property Act (TPA).
Rancourt and her wife, Dana, refused to provide proof of vaccination to attend their child’s hockey game at the Espanola Recreation Centre, and witnesses told Sudbury.com Rancourt yelled and screamed, called bystanders “nazis,” and kicked a door while arguing with an OPP officer called by rec centre staff.
Those criminal charges were withdrawn after Rancourt completed the John Howard Society’s Direct Accountability program.
In October 2022, Rancourt faced a disciplinary hearing to determine what punishment she should face under the Police Services Act for her refusal to show proof of vaccination at a children’s hockey game, as well as subsequent social media posts.
Superintendent Peter Lennox, the hearing judge for her disciplinary hearing, determined Rancourt should be demoted from first-class constable to third-class constable for a period of one year, followed by one year in the rank of second-class constable, conditional on satisfactory performance of duty by the officer and the concurrence of her unit commander.
She would also be required to perform 40 hours of volunteer work through the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies. Rancourt worked with the organization during her administrative leave in order to better understand her use of the word “nazi.”
But Rancourt and her lawyer, David Butt, appealed Lennox’s decision. The appeal was heard April 20, and the decision handed down July 10.
Rancourt and Butt argued that the language of the decision, “conditional on satisfactory performance of duty by the officer and the concurrence of her unit commander,” gave too much power to the unit commander.
The panel hearing the appeal agreed, stating: “The penalty of demotion as worded is improper as it gives unfettered discretion to the unit commander.”
There are no other changes to the original decision, writes the panel. “The appeal is otherwise dismissed and the penalty confirmed.”
Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com.