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Two Reports Put The RCMP In The Spotlight: Bullying In The Force And Abuse Allegations On BC’s ‘High
February 13, 2013
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The RCMP is under the microscope at the moment, with two reports (released today and yesterday) examining behaviour in the force.

Today's report was created by the RCMP public complaints commission. It's based on 718 harassment complaints filed by RCMP employees between 2005 and 2011, representing about 2.5 per cent of the force.

The report finds that "the RCMP has a bullying problem", according to CBC News.

The commission launched its investigation in November, 2011, in response to widespread reports from female Mounties about sexual harassment in the force.

Ian McPhail, the chairman of the commission, said about 90 per cent of the complaints lodged by RCMP employees were about bullying, while four per cent concerned sexual harassment.

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Ian McPhail, RCMP public complaints commission chairman (Photo: Canadian Press)

"Yes, there's a problem of harassment, but overwhelmingly the problem was abuse of authority," McPhail told CBC News.

The commission is calling for a faster, more centralized mechanism for reviewing harassment complaints, and a new training program to make sure all Mounties understand how to prevent harassment and deal with issues when they're flagged.

At the moment, complaints can take up to four years to be resolved.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced a "gender and respect" action plan on Thursday, with 37 measures he says will improve conditions in the force.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also released a report alleging that the RCMP has failed to protect aboriginal women and girls in parts of northern BC. The report details claims of abusive treatment of women and girls by some officers, including excessive use of force and physical and sexual abuse.

The report calls on the federal government to launch a national inquiry into possible RCMP misconduct.

Last summer, two researchers with HRW spent five weeks visiting 10 communities between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

They spoke to 50 indigenous women and girls, and conducted 37 interviews with indigenous leaders, the families of missing and murdered women, community service providers and other members of the community.

Their 89-page report contains accounts of ongoing police failures to protect indigenous women and girls from violence and violent behaviour, as well as allegations of mistreatment suffered at the hands of police, including graphic and disturbing depictions of physical and sexual abuse.

One woman, who is identified as homeless, alleges in the report that police took her outside of town and raped her.

The woman told one of the report's authors that officers, "threatened that if I told anybody they would take me out to the mountains and kill me and make it look like an accident."

All of the communities the researchers visited are linked to the so-called 'Highway of Tears', a stretch of Highway 16 where 18 women have disappeared over the past several decades.

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The report also suggests that many aboriginal girls and women are unable to get the help they need when abuse or violence occurs.

"The threat of domestic and random violence on one side, and mistreatment by RCMP officers on the other, leaves indigenous women in a constant state of insecurity," said Meghan Rhoad, a women's rights researcher at HRW. "Where can they turn for help when the police are known to be unresponsive and, in some cases, abusive."

Rhoad also told reporters that researchers saw levels of fear among some aboriginal women "comparable to post-conflict situations, like post-war Iraq."

"We look to the police for protection, and our girls and women have not been able to trust them to protect them," Sharon McIvor, a member of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, told reporters.

"Not only are they not protecting them adequately, but they are perpetrating offences against them -- criminal offences," she said.

In a statement, RCMP Chief Supt. Janice Armstrong says the force takes the allegations "very seriously," but added that complainants must come forward with their stories.

"In a written response to a series of questions posed by Human Rights Watch in fall 2012, the RCMP emphasized the seriousness of allegations of police misconduct and that these allegations must be brought forward for proper investigation.

"We also explained that complaints could be made to the RCMP directly, to the Commission of Public Complaints against the RCMP or to other independent investigative bodies without fear of retaliation."

The HRW report includes some important disclaimers, CBC News reports.

"Human Rights Watch does not contend that this information proves a pattern of routine systemic abuse," it says. "But when such incidents take place in the context of an already deeply fractured relationship with the police, they have a particularly harmful, negative impact."

As well as calling for a national investigation, the report recommends that BC hold a public inquiry into the allegations.

It also calls on the UN Human Rights Council to raise the issue of violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada as part of the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review.

Related:

Canada's Education System is Failing First Nations Kids: Report to the UN

Examining Aboriginal Rights and Education

The State Of Aboriginal Land Claims

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