Kelowna RCMP apologizes for failing to investigate sexual assault complaint at university campus
Superintendent says response was not in line with investigative standards
The RCMP superintendent in Kelowna, B.C. has apologized to a woman at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus for failing to properly investigate her complaint that she was sexually assaulted by a fellow resident advisor.
"On behalf of the RCMP please accept my apology for the way in which you were treated and the failure to properly investigate your complaint in the first place," Supt. Kara Triance wrote in a letter to the victim dated Oct. 21, 2021.
Triance's letter was shared with CBC News by the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter (VRRWS) on behalf of the victim.
In a news release, Triance said the RCMP's initial response to the woman's complaint was "not in line" with the Kelowna RCMP's investigative standards.
"I have very high expectations of my police officers when it comes to professionalism, respect, accountability, and how we deliver our police services," Triance said in the statement.
According to VRRWS, which says it is speaking on behalf of the victim, the 20-year-old was working as a resident advisor at the UBC Okanagan Campus in Kelowna in September 2019 when she was sexually assaulted by another resident advisor.
CBC News attempted to reach the woman Tuesday evening, but she was not immediately available for an interview.
The woman reported the incident to police the following May, according to Triance's letter. In a statement, VRRWS says police told the woman that "investigating the complaint was not worth the RCMP's time."
Vancouver Rape Relief says the victim begged the officer in question — who has been identified as a woman in private correspondence with the victim — to look into it, hoping an investigation would lead to charges.
However, Triance states in her letter that the officer ignored the victim's requests and falsely recorded in the file that the victim wasn't interested in police pursuing charges.
Ten months later, in March 2021, the woman filed a complaint with the RCMP's Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC). Police then reopened her file, launched an investigation, and recommended a sexual assault charge against the alleged attacker.
In her letter, Triance said she supported all allegations made by the victim against the RCMP, including neglect of duty and improper attitude.
She said the RCMP is committed to investing in training and holding officers accountable, and working with community services that can offer support to sexual assault victims.
"We are working to ensure that our response to crime centres around persons — knowing that if we can change the trajectory of a person's life, impacted by violent crime, in how we respond and how we provide police services, we can have improved outcomes in the long term for those individuals impacted by trauma and for our society as a whole."
A sex crimes investigator has since been assigned for the Kelowna detachment.
The officer who received the initial complaint has since retired from the force.
Last year, it was announced that 12 sexual assault cases in Kelowna were being reinvestigated by RCMP after they were originally deemed "unfounded."
A national RCMP Sexual Assault Review Team was tasked with looking over files from the Kelowna detachment after an unusually high rate of cases were being put aside as unfounded: 70 cases of sexual assault were reported to the police in Kelowna in both 2017 and 2018 according to Statistics Canada, 40 per cent of which were dismissed as unfounded — three times the national average.
Sophia Hladik with VRRWS said in a statement she hopes this case will be a "turning point" for how the Kelowna RCMP handles reports of sexual assault.
"Unfortunately, poor police conduct towards rape victims is still very common in many police detachments across the province," Hladik said.
"We believe that only media exposure and consistent public pressure will force a transformative change in the criminal justice system and its response to violent crimes against women."