A Nova Scotia woman has lodged a complaint with the federal RCMP watchdog after listening to an inadvertent voice mail message in which several "Neanderthal" officers could be heard cursing and making light of a domestic assault she had reported.
The woman fears for her safety and the safety of her children because of a previous relationship. CBC News has agreed to protect her identity.
The woman's problems began last week when she was hosting a family gathering at her house near Parrsboro in Cumberland County. She said her partner became angry and he stormed out of the house with her cellphone.
Concerned that he would start harassing her friends and family whose names were stored in the phone, she set off to retrieve it from her boyfriend's house in Springhill, approximately 35 kilometres away.
While driving there, she swerved to avoid a deer on the road and ended up plunging her car down an embankment, she said. Wet and cold, she said she walked for about an hour before a passing motorist picked her up and delivered her to her boyfriend's house in Springhill.
Her boyfriend was still angry and refused to hand over her phone, she said.
"He had already called the police — his friends, as he says — that I was there assaulting him," she told CBC News on Monday.
She said he started assaulting her.
"He had me around the neck," she said. "He threw my coat and my shoes out."
She said he was dragging her by the hair and trying to throw her out the door when RCMP arrived. Some officers drove her home. When they questioned her about her car accident, she told them her boyfriend had assaulted her.
'So did she deserve to get hit?'
On Wednesday morning, with a blizzard closing in on Nova Scotia, RCMP investigators from the Oxford detachment told her to report to the Parrsboro detachment so officers could photograph a facial injury she suffered in the alleged assault.
While she was at the Parrsboro detachment, an Oxford RCMP member called her home phone. He didn't leave a message — but he also failed to properly end the phone call, so the woman's voice mail continued to record as members in the Oxford detachment discussed her case.
"The way she was talking she was very nonchalant about everything," one officer can be heard saying in the conversation.
At one point they questioned the nature of her injury.
"She said it was from the f--king door jamb or something like that, on the door," one officer said. Then he adds, "It's f--king foolish."
Another officer replied, "So is the f--king accident."
Shortly after that, one officer said, "So did she deserve to get hit?" He then laughs.
Parts of the conversation are inaudible, with at least one talker being too far away from the phone to have his voice picked up.
But the woman had heard enough.
"I was ashamed to be a female from Nova Scotia," she said, struggling to maintain her composure. "How could I do my own job to advise people to contact the RCMP for help? When it was clearly apparent that there was no help to be had."
Not in the '70s
The woman says it was important for her to speak up about her experience.
"We're not in the '70s. We are in 2014. People need to learn that when they get paid to do a public service, they need to actually do their jobs and not be neanderthals," she said.
"That's exactly what I feel like I've been dealing with. Not only my partner but with the RCMP, the local RCMP, I'm appalled and stunned."
The woman called other RCMP officers and provided them with a copy of the recorded message.
"It's obvious that the RCMP officers on this message are not new," she said. "They're seasoned RCMP officers. I believe they don't need to be working with the public."
Staff Sgt. Gary Fournier, the head of the RCMP for northern Nova Scotia, was upset when he heard of the recording.
"The comments brought to our attention today are totally unprofessional. They're unacceptable," he said.
"They certainly don't represent the views of the RCMP or the members of the district or members across the province who respond to calls for service each day."
Fournier has already taken action.
Partner charged with assault
"We immediately reached out to the victim in an effort to discuss the recording with her and the contents of that recording," Fournier said. "We've also initiated a code of conduct investigation on the members involved and we've immediately reassigned the investigation to other officers."
The woman is considering the RCMP offer to meet with her. In the meantime, she's filed a complaint with the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP and is also considering a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
"It's happened to me once and it's clearly not acceptable," she said. "Women that are routinely assaulted and abused and mentally abused that go to these people for help and they get this in return? It was just a fluke that these people left that message on my answering machine."
Fournier is reaching out to the woman.
"I'm hoping that we can learn from this and take steps to ensure it doesn't happen again," he said.
"This is one step in that direction, meeting with her first, and again, having that discussion to ensure that we understand everything that concerned her and affected her so that we can improve upon our service delivery."
The woman's partner has been charged with assault and is due to appear in provincial court in Amherst later this month.