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Disciplinary ruling pending for Sudbury officer

Melisa Rancourt admitted to yelling ‘nazis’ and resisting arrest for refusing to show proof of vaccination during an incident at a children's hockey game at the Espanola Rec Centre on Sept. 26, 2021
Greater Sudbury Police Const. Melisa Rancourt is charged with two counts discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act for resisting arrest in September 2021 after refusing to show proof of vaccination at a children's hockey game.

After more than a year in delays, the disciplinary hearing for Greater Sudbury Police Const. Melisa Rancourt began Oct. 27. Rancourt was arrested for resisting a peace officer and trespassing after refusing to show proof of vaccination at the Espanola Rec. Centre on Sept. 26 of 2021.

This hearing was to determine what punishment she should face under the Police Services Act, with charges of discreditable conduct facing the longtime officer.

Represented by David Butts, Rancourt was found guilty on both counts of misconduct.

At the time of her arrest, Witness told Rancourt yelled and screamed, called bystanders “nazis” and kicked a door while arguing with an OPP officer called by rec centre staff after the GSPS officer refused to show proof of vaccination.

Though she categorically denied it in her interviews with police, she admitted in court to using the word ‘nazi’, after several witnesses attested to it in the statement of fact hearing that took place Oct. 13 and 14.

Rancourt was arrested and charged with resisting a peace officer, and entering a premises when entry has been prohibited, contrary to the Trespass to Property Act (TPA). She paid her $750 fine, and had her charges withdrawn under the Direct Accountability program from the John Howard Society, in which she took responsibility for her actions.  

Count one of the discreditable conduct charges applies to the arrest at the arena on Sept. 26, 2021. Count two of discreditable conduct is specific to social media posts Rancourt made between September 2021 and January of this year. These posts include her commenting on a post featuring the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that “It used to mean something, but now I might as well wipe my ass with it.”

Opposing counsel, Joël Dubois, submitted several social media posts, and noted that prior to Sept. 26, Rancourt was cautioned by GSPS for her use of social media. 

He characterized the posts as “anti-vaccination," and included a post made the day before Rancourt planned to go to the arena. Dated Sept. 25, a Facebook post by Rancourt, now removed, states, “I will be going to the complex tomorrow, walking in to take my kids. Our private medical information will not be disclosed. If anyone wants to join, PM (private message) me.”

There were comments on the post, including one from an individual who attended the arena when Rancourt was issued a trespass notice in the morning police interaction. 

There is also a clearer picture of the day's events emerging. 

Video evidence from the cameras at the arena also gave a better indication, and confirmed much of what reported.’s article about Rancourt’s arrest was also submitted by Dubois as Exhibit 29 under the Findings of Guilt.

It was considered by Dubois to be an element of “media scrutiny” that would hurt the reputation of the police service. Defence attorney Butts called the article “fiction,” “not worth the paper it is printed on,” and “worse than hearsay, legal fiction, without evidence.”

At the time of the misconduct, Allan Hewitt, CAO and treasurer for the Town of Espanola, said that although he was not present for either incident on Sept. 26 — one of which occurred at that 10 a.m. practice and another later in the day at 12 p.m. — his staff confirmed that OPP officers were called for both incidents. 

In the article, he explained to that the Espanola Recreation Centre was adhering to all government regulations required for COVID-19 protocols, and the officers were called when two women did not show proof of vaccination, and also during a second incident when the OPP were forced to arrest the two women and remove them from the building. 

Witnesses attested to what they saw, and it matched what the source told

The Facebook post, said Dubois, showed premeditation, an intent to do wrong. “She 100-per-cent intended on challenging this in court,” he said. “She went back because her goal had not been attained.”

Dubois is referring to Rancourt’s afternoon return to the arena. She was told that morning by arena staff if she returned to the arena that the police would be called again, as they had been that morning. “She is quoted as saying ‘it is what it is’.” 

When she arrived at noon, OPP was called and a sergeant was dispatched, the court was told. The video picks up in the hallway and the rear exit, and shows Rancourt repeatedly ignoring requests to leave. In the video, her wife, Dana Rancourt, is arrested, then Rancourt begins a physical altercation with the officer, grabbing his vest. She is arrested for resisting arrest and taken outside.

Rancourt was emotional through much of her lawyer’s submissions, and stoic while listening to opposing counsel. She wept openly when the court heard of the events of the day, how “she only wanted to see her son play,” and the ways in which the pandemic had hurt her mental health. 

Butts also noted the pandemic had been hardest on working mothers, and that this stress contributed to Rancourt reaching what he called her “breaking point.”

Butts referred to opposing counsel's submissions as “desperate” and accused him of misogyny in his approach to Rancourt’s case.

In the year since the incident, Rancourt has been on administrative duties, which include writing search and production orders. Her superiors report her as dedicated and hardworking, “even with the veil of this hearing over her head,” said Butts. 

In addition to taking professional development courses and courses specific to mental health and policing, as well as coping during the pandemic, Rancourt also worked on a “customized course” to with the Friends Of Simon Wiesenthal Center For Holocaust Studies, a Toronto-based non-profit human rights organization focused on countering racism and antisemitism. 

She received high praise from the organization on her work to better understand the use of Holocaust terms and the harms they can cause. 

She has also apologized to the people involved with her altercation on Sept. 26, 2021, to the staff, parents, children and officers. She has had her trespass order lifted and now is assistant coach for several young Espanola Minor Hockey teams.  

She also should be judged with regard to her “stellar record as a police officer for 24 years,” and that she has apologized and made amends, including a $750 donation to the Espanola Hospital Foundation. 

She also submitted 20 letters of character reference, 11 of which were from “the Police community,” said Butts, and all spoke to her “strength of character.” 

Rancourt also read into the record a letter of apology she penned, in which she described how ashamed she was, and the way the situation has impacted her public image. She said the incident is not “consistent with her integrity as a person or an officer.”

Butts said that any penalties applied should be done with a view to the “insight and growth” Rancourt had achieved, and with compassion to the “highly stressed” emotions she had at the time of the arrest.

Counsel on both sides then presented submissions related to the penalty Rancourt would face, based on the severity of the crime and the damage to police reputation.

Defense counsel proposed that penalty of “24-40 hours, per charge, served concurrently,” meaning that Rancourt would forfeit 24-40 hours of pay,  “and 40-60 hours of volunteer service with the Centre for Holocaust studies.”

Opposing counsel Dubois said a demotion from First Class Const. to Fourth Class Const., with at least 12 months spent at each level, would be more appropriate. Dubois did not seek dismissal of Rancourt from the Sudbury Police. 

Police Chief Paul Pedersen said at the time of her arrest the allegations, if true, were “dishonourable and discouraging.”

“Our members have sworn an oath to uphold the law according to any act, any regulation, rule or by-law. Although these accusations have not yet been proven in a court of law, the alleged actions of this officer during this incident are dishonourable and discouraging. 

Superintendent Peter Lennox will release his decision regarding Rancourt’s penalty soon. 

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized, including the Black, Indigenous, newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and issues of the downtown core.


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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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