The RCMP in the Northwest Territories say it was a data entry mistake — and not conclusions reached by investigators — that led to a report that 30 per cent of sexual assault complaints are deemed "unfounded" — or "baseless."
That figure was reported earlier this year by the Globe and Mail, which studied the outcome of sexual assault complaints across Canada between 2010 and 2015. The report relied on police data. The only province or territory where investigators concluded a higher percentage of complaints as unfounded was in New Brunswick, at 32 per cent.
Police define "unfounded complaints" as complaints that are dismissed because investigators believe it never happened.
In the wake of the story, the RCMP in the Northwest Territories launched a review of the complaints. As a result, the RCMP adjusted the number of "unfounded complaints" from 30 per cent to 18.7 per cent, explained Justice Minister Louis Sebert to MLAs on Thursday.
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"This was because they found that the number of cases classified as unfounded were done so in error, due to a coding issue and not to an investigative conclusion," said Sebert, reading from a prepared answer to a written question asked by Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green.
All police investigations must be coded. There are three possible codes: unsubstantiated or equivalent, unfounded, or founded.
The RCMP could not immediately provide any details on how or why the mistake occurred.
Sebert said the police review also found that 42 per cent of the unfounded complaints were not made by the alleged victim, but by someone who had heard something and believed a sexual assault had occurred.