British Columbia

Kelowna mayor apologizes for defending RCMP on dismissal of sex assault cases

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran issued an apology Tuesday morning for comments he made defending Kelowna RCMP after the police agency announced it was conducting a review into why so many sexual assault cases have been dismissed.

Basran says he's 'sorry' for intial reaction to news of high number of unfounded cases

'While the RCMP operates independently of the City of Kelowna, it is the city’s responsibility to ensure matters of concern to our citizens are being addressed,' said Basran. (Colin Basran/Facebook)

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran issued an apology Tuesday morning for comments he made defending Kelowna RCMP after the police agency announced it was conducting a review into why so many sexual assault cases have been dismissed.

Statistics Canada reported the RCMP had dismissed as unfounded 40 per cent of sexual assault cases in 2017 and 2018 — a rate nearly triple the provincial and national average.

Unfounded cases are sexual assault allegations that police believe did not occur.

"I am sorry and offer my sincere apology to anyone offended or hurt by my initial reaction to this news. The number of local sex assault complaints deemed to be unfounded is deeply concerning, and I know the local detachment is taking this matter seriously," said Basran in an emailed statement.

"In retrospect, I should have waited for the results of an investigation into the matter before expressing my opinion."

Basran previously told CBC in an interview last week, that while he is "happy to hear" the RCMP are reviewing those cases, that he has a good relationship with the RCMP superintendent and trusts how investigations had been handled.

"So when he tells me that he believes that the due diligence [was] put into these cases … I take him at his word that that is what, in fact, is happening."

RCMP review

Last Friday, the southern Interior city's detachment issued a news release saying it was reviewing why the number of unfounded cases are so high in Kelowna.

"We are currently not in a position to provide specific examples of why any of these investigations were deemed unfounded," said Cpl. Meghan Foster.

"We're taking immediate steps to get answers...The team will look at each file to ensure that all investigative steps were followed and that the file was properly categorized."

Statistics Canada released new figures about unfounded sexual assault cases after a decade long hiatus, during which it worked to standardize the definition of "unfounded." 

It cautioned it had revised the definition of founded and unfounded complaints, and, that as a result, the figures reported in 2017 and 2018 might not be comparable across police services but would become more reliable over time.

Mayor Basran said he has instructed city staff to stay in close contact with the RCMP until the review is finished.

"While the RCMP operates independently of the City of Kelowna, it is the city's responsibility to ensure matters of concern to our citizens are being addressed," he said.

"I support what the Kelowna RCMP has done in response to this new information from Statistics Canada — starting with an internal review and a subsequent request to have the RCMP's Sexual Assault Review Team at national headquarters review the files.

Basran declined CBC's request for another interview.

With files from Chris Walker and Daybreak South

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