A woman who complained she was assaulted by a retired RCMP officer says she was never informed the charge was stayed and still wishes she could have her day in court.
Former RCMP officer Derick Hilliker, who twice sought the Conservative nomination in federal election ridings, was charged in 2016 with assaulting Myra Colon of Cross Lake, Man. Hilliker says he personally called senior RCMP officers to discuss his arrest warrant, and early this year his charge was stayed.
But Colon says she only found that out when informed by CBC News — and she believes the accused got preferential treatment because he used to be an RCMP officer.
"This thing is just another thing that's been swept under the rug," Colon said.
The former RCMP officer, who served at one time in Cross Lake — about 530 kilometres north of Winnipeg — and retired in 2009, said he believes the charge never should have been laid and getting a warrant for his arrest was an attempt by officers at Cross Lake to embarrass him.
"If you're looking at it from the perspective of 'former policeman gets off,' it could not be further from the truth," Hilliker told CBC News. He vehemently denied he committed an assault and said he was unfairly targeted by some officers at Cross Lake detachment.
"It was completely rubbish," he said.
Colon said Hilliker assaulted her after picking her up in his vehicle and giving her a ride as she was walking along the road one night in September 2015. The two had never met before, she said, but when she previously dated Hilliker's brother, there was bad blood between their families.
Colon explained that when Hilliker realized who he had picked up, he pulled over and ordered Colon out of the vehicle.
"I didn't even get a chance to close the door. He slammed it, and then he put me up against his vehicle and just choked me," Colon said. "Once I got off his grip, I just ran."
Colon said a few days later she went to the RCMP on the advice of her family. "Just because he used to wear a badge doesn't give him the right to treat you like that — that's how they looked at it."
After giving her statements to police, she says she waited for a trial to happen but was never informed when the case was resolved.
"I would have liked to have my day in court with him," Colon said.
Hilliker confirmed he did give Colon a ride in his vehicle that night, and that he kicked her out at one point, holding her by her shirt.
"I removed her from my vehicle and essentially held her and said, 'get out of here,'" he said. "I did not choke her."
Hilliker said he went to the RCMP detachment in Cross Lake right after the incident happened and gave a statement, in case Colon filed a complaint.
Then on May 28, 2016 — some eight months after the incident — RCMP laid the assault charge and subsequently got a warrant for his arrest.
Hilliker said he learned of the warrant from Canadian border officials when he was travelling home from a trip to the United States. He says he wasn't arrested, though, because he was at an Ontario border crossing and the warrant was not Canada-wide.
Upset about the warrant, he said he did not go to an RCMP detachment to have the warrant executed, but instead phoned senior officers in the Manitoba RCMP hierarchy about the issue.
He said one of those seniors officers ordered the Cross Lake RCMP detachment to pull the warrant out of CPIC — the Canadian Police Information Centre — though the warrant remained in a different RCMP database.
RCMP said "there was no special consideration" given to Hilliker, and that anyone can make a complaint about RCMP, either by phone or in person.
Arrest warrant removed
RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre said the warrant was sworn by a justice of the peace for the province.
"The warrant was issued following multiple unsuccessful attempts to arrest Mr. Hilliker in Cross Lake," Manaigre said by email.
"The warrant was removed from CPIC on June 28  following a file review by a supervisor in North District which identified further investigative steps that were required on the matter. This included taking steps to locate Mr. Hilliker at his address in Winnipeg," said Manaigre.
Hilliker said he was incredulous on learning of the warrant.
"I live in Winnipeg. I'm a former member of the RCMP. I served 17 years of distinction. They don't know where I lived?" Hilliker said.
"That is complete rubbish, they couldn't find me," he said.
Hilliker hired veteran Winnipeg lawyer Hymie Weinstein, and on July 25, 2016, the provincial Crown attorney recalled the warrant. He agreed to voluntarily appear without the execution of the warrant.
The Crown entered a stay of proceedings on the charge on Jan. 4, 2017 on the basis that Hilliker completed anger management counselling under the province's Restorative Justice Act.
Hilliker said he agreed to undergo five hours of anger management counselling on the advice of his lawyer and is adamant that he made "no admission of guilt" through the restorative justice process.
The act says restorative justice is "an approach to addressing unlawful conduct outside the traditional criminal prosecution process."
"A Crown will review all the circumstances surrounding an alleged offence to make the determination whether a matter can be diverted to an out-of-court process," said a statement from a Manitoba Justice spokesperson.
The criteria considered include the nature of the allegations, the accused's prior criminal record, and the type of programming to address the alleged offence.
"An accused person is not always required to accept full responsibility for an alleged offence," the justice spokesperson said.
However, the justice department's own policy directive says "restorative justice approaches are generally only appropriate if the accused is prepared to admit his or her responsibility for the offence," or is not challenging the allegations.
Colon said the Crown never informed her about the restorative justice process nor consulted her on it. She said she learned of that, too, from CBC.
The justice department spokesperson said prosecutors try to keep victims informed of such developments, and specifically, "attempts were made to speak to the complainant in this case. However, they were not successful."
Winnipeg lawyer David Newman, who championed restorative justice in Manitoba during his time as an MLA in the 1990s, questions its use in this case.
"Normally you only go into the process if there is consent by the perpetrator and the victim to go into the process, and there is also an acknowledgment of the facts that caused the perception of wrongdoing by the victim," said Newman.
"In this instance it was a process which allowed leniency and a generous treatment to be given to the accused," he said.
"The victim," he said, "was not given an opportunity herself to participate in a restorative process which would deal with her own wounding."
Newman also says under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, the Crown and the Department of Justice are required to provide information to the victim and keep the victim informed as the case progresses.
"Under the rule of law, the Victims Bill of Rights says that if that doesn't happen, somebody can complain," he said.
"The question is, how often does this happen?" said Newman. "This is one instance, so is this the tip of the iceberg? Is this a failure of a the system?"
'I want my chance to be heard'
Myra Colon certainly feels the system failed her.
"It's very degrading for me," Colon said of the outcome of the charge. "It's not fair."
"I feel that there's a crack in that system, and I'm one of those people that always falls through that crack. Helpless, can't do nothing about it."
She said the experience with the assault charge has left her confused.
"You try to put your faith in the system that's supposed to help you out. And then they go back and do this to you. How can you put your trust in this system again?
"I want my chance to be heard. They cannot just shut up my mouth about the incident because that incident, it really did something to me as a person. Way down here, it did something to me, it hurt me. Real bad."
"I feel degraded," she said. "I'm not human. I'm nobody, I'm worthless."
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