2 police agencies investigate historical abuse accusations against Hydro workers, RCMP

Outside investigators will look into the allegations of assault and sexual abuse by Manitoba Hydro employees and police officers in northern Manitoba communities.

Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba has a public duty to investigate, watchdog argues

The allegations of assault and sexual abuse facing Manitoba Hydro employees and contractors will be investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police, while the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba will investigate the charges facing RCMP officers. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Outside investigators will look into the allegations of assault and sexual abuse by Manitoba Hydro employees and police officers in northern Manitoba communities stemming from a report released last month.

The RCMP has enlisted the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba to investigate the accusations made against police officers.

The Ontario Provincial Police will probe the allegations that involve Hydro employees or contractors because RCMP members may have been present during the activities being investigated.

The referrals to outside agencies follow calls for the police to investigate the allegations of discrimination and sexual violence, which date as far back as the 1960s.

The allegations, made by members of Fox Lake Cree Nation, were detailed in a report produced by the Clean Environment Commission, an arm's-length provincial agency asked to study the social impact of hydro development past and present on communities in northern Manitoba.

Though it is not mandatory for the police watchdog to review the allegations against officers, the civilian director of the Independent Investigation Unit​ believes it is in the public interest for the agency to take part. The IIU was notified of the allegations on Aug. 22, one day after the CEC report was made public, it said.

In the report, people spoke of witnessing rape and being unable to interfere, and the RCMP is accused of failing to take complaints seriously.

'We needed somebody independent'

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas is optimistic that external agencies will bring credibility to the investigation process, he said in an interview Friday.

"We did ask, in finding out there were so many implications of negligence and potentially assaulting [by the] RCMP themselves, that we needed somebody independent and objective to take a look, and I'm glad that the RCMP have decided that that is the right way to do it." 

Grand Chief Arlen Dumas with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs appreciates that outside agencies will investigate the conduct of Manitoba Hydro workers and RCMP officers linked to alleged examples of assault and sexual violence in northern Manitoba communities during Hydro development projects. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

Earlier this week, Premier Brian Pallister said he was puzzled why the damning allegations hadn't been investigated or come to light sooner.

The report was released by the province in August, although it was completed in May.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee welcomes the involvement of external investigators, but said it doesn't preclude the need for a provincial inquiry.

In a statement Friday, Settee echoed last week's call from York Factory First Nation for an inquiry. He said any information arising from such an inquiry could be forwarded to the appropriate investigative body.

The RCMP said any new allegations will be referred to either the IIU or OPP if they fall within their mandate. The police promised to investigate all ongoing and new investigations of sexual assault and criminality in the area.

With files from Sean Kavanagh