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Head of victims' advocacy group resigns after client alleges she felt forced into sexual relationship

The head of a victim's advocacy group who is also a retired police inspector has resigned after one of his clients — a domestic violence survivor — reported she felt forced into a sexual relationship. On top of that, the Lethbridge Police Service, where Bill Kaye spent 35 years until his 2014 retirement, insisted on investigating the sexual assault complaint internally until CBC News contacted the force.

Relationship with 35-year veteran of Lethbridge Police Service now being investigated by RCMP

Bill Kaye was the program coordinator with the Domestic Violence Action Team in Lethbridge when it is alleged he started a sexual relationship with one of his clients. (Charlotte Dumoulin/Radio-Canada)

The head of a victim's advocacy group who is also a retired police inspector has resigned after one of his clients — a domestic violence survivor — reported she felt forced into a sexual relationship.

On top of that, the Lethbridge Police Service, where Bill Kaye spent 35 years until his 2014 retirement, insisted on investigating the sexual assault complaint internally until CBC News contacted the force. 

The woman says Kaye initiated an unwelcome sexual relationship with her while she was his client at Domestic Violence Action Team (DVAT) in Lethbridge.

Kaye has not been charged and the allegations have not been proven in court.

CBC News has identified the woman as Emma since she is now the complainant in a sexual assault investigation.

'A favour system'

Three weeks ago, Kaye resigned as program co-ordinator and co-chair of DVAT and stepped down as a board member of the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre within days of Emma raising a complaint with the agencies.

"I just felt trapped because I needed him so much," said Emma. "You just think to yourself, 'This is a favour system' because that's how I grew up.

"[It was a] small price to pay for knowing my kids will be safe because he was doing that," helping her with court matters on domestic violence. 

When reached at his home in Coaldale, Kaye declined to answer any questions about his relationship with Emma or about his resignations from the organizations he represented as a victims' advocate. He asked that he not be contacted again.

CBC News has reviewed several text messages and emails between the two that confirm there was a sexual relationship. 

At first, 'he was my superhero'

Emma first met Kaye in 2018, when she was 25 and he was 58.

She had been referred to DVAT by the Lethbridge police victims assistance unit as she was navigating the justice system through provincial court, as a victim of domestic violence, and the Court of Queen's Bench, with a family court matter ongoing. 

She initially felt lucky that her case was taken on by Kaye — who was not only the DVAT program co-ordinator but also worked with other victims' advocacy organizations.

As a teen, Emma was a victim of human trafficking. It was then she says she learned it was often easier to comply than fight. It's a dark history and Emma says Kaye knew every detail of it. 

"He was my superhero," said Emma. "I was truly broken then…. In three months, so much was cleared off my plate."

In a reference letter on DVAT letterhead, Kaye acknowledges Emma was the victim of domestic violence and stalking. 

Then, three months into their advocate/client relationship, Emma says Kaye began pushing boundaries in his text messages.

A request for bath photos

Emma says one afternoon in April 2018, she texted Kaye about a difficult day.

He asked what she planned to do for herself that night for self-care.

A glass of wine and a bath, Emma explained. 

"Send me pics," Kaye messaged back.

At first, Emma says she laughed it off. But Kaye's sexually suggestive messages continued.

Instead of thinking "how do I help you," he seemed to be thinking "how do I get you," she says in retrospect.

"It rocked me to the core."

CBC News spoke with a friend of Emma's who says she disclosed the relationship with Kaye around June 2018. He said she felt she was being taken advantage of and the normal "level and cool" Emma was "obviously shaken" at the time.

'I tried to say no'

Emma says she also tried to resist when Kaye turned the relationship physical.

Sometimes, she says she'd say, "no." At first, she says he'd back off. But he'd try again, she says, and sometimes he'd turn aggressive.

She says it became easier to give him what he wanted than continue to fight it. 

"I tried to say no but in my mind I remember being like 'just make it through,'" she said.

Emma says she eventually turned to drinking to get through the nights he came over.

Text messages between Kaye and Emma show what appears to be a vulnerable young woman asking for help.

In one text message, she describes feeling "wild anxiety" and explains she needs to see a doctor.

"See me first," says Kaye. 

Emma then says she's lying in bed trying to breathe but should be doing dishes.

Kaye responds, "You better be naked. F**k the dishes. Send me pics."

Emma shared this text sent to her from Kaye, a victims' rights advocate who was supposed to be helping her through the court process. (Supplied)

In another text exchange, Kaye appears to acknowledge Emma's reluctance to be physical with him.

"I like letting you rest a while and then starting over. You say no but your body calls for more."

Part of her reluctance to end things with Kaye, says Emma, was that he had photos of her and she worried what he'd do with them. 

In August, four months after the sexual relationship began, emails between Emma and Kaye show his wife had found out about the relationship with Emma. 

At the time, Emma was just weeks away from a trial that Kaye had promised to support her through.

Emma still needed help 

Kaye wrote at least two emails to Emma, apologizing for the harm he'd caused and telling her he needed to stop communicating as he tried to work things out with his wife.

"So when I need help with court and the barrage of very serious circumstances I am dealing with, are you not helping me?" Emma asked Kaye in an email. 

Kaye also told Emma he'd deleted all photos he had of her. 

But two weeks later, he messaged again to say, "Guess what picture I just looked at. lol."

Emma discloses to DVAT 

Emma eventually cleared all the court matters off her plate — two of them with Kaye's help back in 2018. She went on to get a job working with vulnerable people but by January 2021, she says she felt she was being disingenuous with her clients. 

She'd be telling them to be strong and believe they deserved better but wasn't able to take her own advice. 

So at the end of January, Emma disclosed the relationship to DVAT and the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre. She says both were immediately supportive and confronted Kaye, who promptly resigned. 

"Bill Kaye has tendered his resignation as DVAT co-ordinator, effective Jan. 29, 2021. Given that this matter is under investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time," wrote interim DVAT co-ordinator Adonus Arlett in an emailed statement.

The Chinook Sexual Assault Centre (CSAC) said directors on its board do not have access to victims, their files or any identifying information. 

"Regardless of personal relationships, reputation, or standing in the community, the CSAC holds our trust with those we are here to serve in the highest regard."

The assault centre also confirmed Kaye resigned.

With support from the two agencies, Emma then went to Lethbridge police — Kaye's former employer, and the force with jurisdiction.

LPS refused to stop calling Kaye 'the inspector'

While giving her statement, Emma says Sgt. Marc Smallbones refused to stop referring to Kaye as "Inspector Kaye."

She says Smallbones refused to look at an email she had proving there had been a sexual relationship.

Emma says she left in tears after Smallbones suggested she was simply the victim of regret.

"I didn't need him to tell me 'I believe you and I support you,' I needed him to tell me he was going to make sure [an investigation] was unbiased and [would be] done right."

CBC News asked the Lethbridge Police Service specifically about Emma's interaction with Smallbones but the service refused to address questions and instead provided a written statement that did not address the interview. 

Emma felt support with RCMP

DVAT then helped Emma arrange a meeting with Coaldale RCMP on Jan. 29. Coaldale is a town about 20 km east of Lethbridge, which uses RCMP for policing services.

There, she felt she was taken seriously.

Two officers spent six hours listening to Emma and she says she handed over 500 copies of emails and text. 

But Coaldale RCMP did not have the jurisdiction to investigate and referred the case back to LPS, which on Feb. 11 agreed to take it on.

LPS investigators connected to Kaye

Even though Kaye retired from the Lethbridge Police Service in 2014, Emma said it felt impossible to find anyone at the force who wasn't connected to him.

The investigator assigned was Staff Sgt. Pete Christos, who had coached minor sports teams in Lethbridge with Kaye.

Insp. Jason Walper, who had been Kaye's co-chair at DVAT and was also a former colleague, was assigned to oversee the case.

Emma shared emails written by RCMP comforting her when she expressed distress that LPS would be investigating. The officer suggested Emma reach out to the provincial solicitor general asking him to direct the RCMP to investigate. 

She wrote a letter to Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu.

"Mr. Madu, I plead with you, to please consider that all I am asking is for an opportunity to have an impartial detachment and police members collect, conduct and control the investigation and information of this case," wrote Emma.

LPS relinquish file to RCMP 

Two days after CBC News contacted Lethbridge police to inquire about the perceived conflict, the service changed course and agreed to hand over the case to the RCMP.

"The Lethbridge Police Service is aware of sexual assault allegations against a former employee and has been made aware that a formal complaint has been filed with Coaldale RCMP," wrote Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh.

"Although the incidents are alleged to have occurred within the City of Lethbridge, Coaldale RCMP were requested, and have agreed, to continue with the investigation to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest between the LPS and its former employee."

Madu's office confirmed receipt of the letter but declined to comment because of the active investigation. 

"We understand this matter has been referred to the RCMP, to avoid any potential conflicts of interest," said Madu's press secretary, Blaise Boehmer.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story said the investigator assigned was Insp. Jason Walper and Staff Sgt. Pete Christos was assigned to oversee the case. In fact, Christos was the investigator and Walper was overseeing the case.
    Feb 17, 2021 12:53 PM MT

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Bill Kaye had been a Coaldale town councillor. In fact, he had been on the town's community safety committee.
    Feb 17, 2021 2:30 PM MT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is a justice affairs reporter. She has been covering courts, crime and stories of police accountability in southern Alberta for more than a decade. Send Meghan a story tip at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter.

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