RCMP officer removed from Musical Ride over horse abuse allegations
Published Monday, March 6, 2017 10:00PM EST
The riding master of the RCMP's famous Musical Ride has been removed from duty over allegations he abused horses, CTV News has learned.
Sgt. Maj. Marc Godue had been an instructor with the Musical Ride since 1990 and was named riding master in 2014, according to a biography posted on the RCMP's Musical Ride website.
The Musical Ride performs across Canada, showcasing the equestrian skills of Mounties and raising money for charities. The riding master is the face of the show.
Supt. Mike Côté, the officer in charge of the Musical Ride, personally told Godue on Dec. 28, 2016 that he was being temporarily reassigned and told him to leave the premises.
“In my 34 years' experience as a police officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, this is the first time, personally, that I ever had to remove an officer from their duties temporarily based on information I have received that would prompt a review from my part,” he told CTV’s Question Period host Evan Solomon. “So that's how seriously I take it.”
Côté would not give any details about what specifically prompted the investigation into Godue’s alleged conduct because it could jeopardize the outcome.
"That review is still ongoing and it would be inappropriate to elaborate as to the details of that review," Cote said.
However, sources told CTV News that before Godue was made the permanent riding master in 2014, another review of his conduct took place and allegations against him then included:
In 2004, “beating a horse” so badly with a riding crop that it was “bleeding” in the belly area.
“Punching horses” and purposely “running a horse into a wall.”
Sometimes he had a “fit of rage” and would “bully the horses.”
Cote, who took over his position back in October of 2016, stressed the rules about treatment of the horses is ironclad.
"My tolerance would be zero tolerance for abuse of animals,” he said. "Safety and security of our people and our horses is priority number one for the Musical Ride for the RCMP, and I would venture to say, Canadians."
CTV News spoke with more than 10 people with intimate knowledge of the Musical Ride. None of them wanted to be identified or appear on camera for fear of reprisal.
Multiple sources said they were “shocked” Godue was promoted to riding master, but that whistleblowing within the force proved “dangerous” and “futile.”
Paul Kennedy, former chairman of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, said Mounties face enormous pressure inside the force not to speak out.
“There’s an extreme reluctance to play the role of an informer, a fink, or a rat -- and these are the terms that are used for people who step forward,” he said.
This isn't the first time questions have been raised about Godue’s behaviour.
In 2013, Godue was one of 13 people named in an $8 million lawsuit by Staff Sgt. Caroline O'Farrell. O'Farrell alleges she was sexually assaulted and harassed while she worked as a constable with the Musical Ride in the 1980s. Those allegations haven't been tested in court.
With files from CTV’s Question Period host Evan Solomon and Ottawa Bureau field producer Philip Ling