POLITICS

Hundreds attend funeral for RCMP officer who shone light on struggles of PTSD

10/10/2014 02:21 EDT | Updated 12/10/2014 05:59 EST
FREDERICTON - Hundreds of people filled a Fredericton church Friday to say goodbye to Ron Francis, the RCMP officer who shone a light on the struggles of post-traumatic stress disorder among first responders.

Rev. Monte Peters presided over a funeral service for Francis at St. Anthony's Catholic Church and said the church was filled to standing room only, with about 350 people in attendance.

"It was an incredible number of people who were there," Peters, who didn't know Francis, said following the hour-long service. "It was a Catholic funeral service, but we tried to integrate some native rituals as well."

Francis, a 22-year veteran of the force, was dressed in his red serge for the service that featured readings from the Book of Wisdom that were chosen by his family, Peters said. Francis, whose obituary said he was of Maliseet ancestry, was laid to rest at a private burial at Ste. Anne's Catholic Cemetery.

The 43-year-old Mountie was found dead Monday in his home at the Kingsclear First Nation. It appears no one else was involved in his death, but no details were released about how he died.

Francis made national headlines last year after he complained he wasn't allowed to smoke medicinal marijuana while in uniform to ease symptoms of PTSD.

Last November, Francis returned his red serge uniform, saying he was doing so on orders from his superiors, and accused the RCMP and the federal government of not doing enough to support officers with PTSD.

At the time, the RCMP said its officers who are prescribed medicinal marijuana should not be in red serge or regular uniform while taking their medication as it wouldn't portray the right message to the public.

The Mountie, who was described in his obituary as being an avid hunter and outdoorsman, struggled after his public falling out with the RCMP.

Francis pleaded guilty last month to assaulting four fellow RCMP officers and was to be sentenced next month.

Provincial court heard that in December, officers confronted Francis on a Fredericton street in an effort to take him to hospital for a mental health assessment. Francis pushed one officer and during the ensuing scuffle, he punched another officer in the face.

A month later, the RCMP received a call from Francis, went to his home and believed he was under the influence of alcohol. He was arrested for breaching a judge's order not to consume or possess alcohol. The father of four was then taken to the RCMP detachment in Oromocto where he pushed one officer and grabbed another by the shirt and pushed him.

Chief Gabriel Atwin of the Kingsclear First Nation said his community remembers Francis as a role model, particularly for youth.