Alberta agency to investigate historic allegations RCMP in Prince George, B.C., harassed Indigenous girls
Allegations disturbing, being taken very seriously: B.C.'s public safety minister
The British Columbia government says the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team will lead a probe into allegations of historic misconduct by members of the Prince George RCMP detachment, and the failure of the force to act on the complaints.
A statement from the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, says the allegations are disturbing and being taken very seriously.
The independent commission that ensures the impartial examination of complaints about the RCMP already issued an interim report to the RCMP commissioner about the matter, and Farnworth's office says the commissioner agreed with the report's findings and recommendations.
The minister's statement says he spoke with his federal counterpart minister Marco Mendicino about the case, and B.C.'s director of police services has now ordered an independent investigation by an external agency.
Farnworth says the Assembly of First Nations and family members of alleged victims were informed before the independent investigation was announced.
Historic wrongdoing alleged
The investigation will cover allegations that RCMP in Prince George harassed Indigenous girls, and later allegations that a video showing some of this harassment went missing after it was reported to police.
It was prompted by a November 2022 story in the Toronto Star newspaper detailing a report from the Civilian Reviews and Complaints Commission (CRCC) into the missing tape.
The CRCC found the RCMP failed to properly investigate the allegations around the missing tape, which could amount to criminal charges related to obstruction of justice and criminal conspiracy or misconduct under the RCMP's own Code of Conduct.
It said any of the alleged videotapes could be considered "supporting evidence of his suspected criminal conduct with underaged sex workers in Prince George."
Speaking to CBC News, ASIRT executive director Mike Ewenson said his team will be investigating both sets of allegations.
"We're going to learn the file first ... but if we were to uncover allegations of criminal activity either regarding the sexual abuse [in] Prince George or the more recent allegations of a coverup, we would handle all of that."
Police actions 'unacceptable'
In a release, B.C. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee said he is "cautiously optimistic" about the investigation after years of calls for justice.
"First Nations people in Prince George have been the target of violence, racism and discrimination by the RCMP for decades," he said in a written statement.
"These actions are unacceptable from Canada's national police force, and the individual officers responsible must be held accountable."
Farnworth's statement supports the "ongoing dedication'' of family members, survivors, community leaders and partners to respond to violence against Indigenous peoples.
"Our government is resolute in its commitment to ending systemic violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ+ people, particularly in northern B.C. and the cases which involve the police,'' Farnworth said in the statement.
A timeline for the investigation was not provided and Farnworth said no further comment will be made while the case is active.
With files from Andrew Kurjata and Rhianna Schmunk