N.W.T. minister confident in RCMP response to unfounded sex assault cases
RCMP to review classification of unfounded cases between 2010-2014, increase training, oversight
The Northwest Territories' minister of justice says he's satisfied with the initial response by N.W.T. RCMP to a Globe and Mail investigation that suggested one-third of all sexual assault complaints in the territory are dismissed as "unfounded."
Speaking to Loren McGinnis on The Trailbreaker Wednesday morning, Louis Sebert said he's spoken with the commanding officer of the RCMP's G Division about steps the office has taken since the statistics were made public.
Between 2010-2014, police classified about about one out of every three sexual assault allegations as unfounded in the N.W.T. and Nunavut. In Yukon, one out of every four cases was dismissed on those grounds, according to data obtained by the Globe and Mail.
Clarifying comments made Friday in the Legislative Assembly, Sebert said the RCMP will be reviewing the classification of all files dismissed as "unfounded" from 2010 to 2014.
"They have found in their initial research that some of the ones that were classified as unfounded, there was simply insufficient evidence to proceed," he said.
"They are re-examining the files over the last five or six years. Some senior officers will be looking at those files."
In addition, Sebert said that all future sexual assault cases classified as "unfounded" or found to not have sufficient evidence to proceed will be automatically reviewed by a senior officer.
The officers are also "increasing their training, I understand," he said. "As recently as January there was some additional training.
"I didn't go into details with the commanding officer. But I imagine it is to make investigators more sensitive to the needs and concerns of alleged victims."
'The RCMP will treat the complaint seriously'
When asked to speak to the public about taking a sexual assault complaint to the RCMP, Sebert expressed confidence in the police force, saying "the RCMP will treat the complaint seriously."
"I think, over the past couple of years, the police have become much more sensitive to the needs of victims," he said. "So they will treat the matter very seriously."
Sebert also acknowledged that a lack of evidence may stall some cases, pointing out that the N.W.T. also has victim services workers in eight communities who are able to offer assistance.
During Sebert's discussion with the RCMP, he said that he was also told that some of the cases dismissed as unfounded came from third parties, who were not directly involved in the alleged assault.
"It's not a case of making up things," he said. "It may be that police heard a complaint from a third party, investigated the complaint, and found out there was nothing to it. So the police are carefully looking at all those files in which they did not proceed.
"I think the question, which was properly raised by the Globe and Mail, is why so many cases are not being proceeded with. That is the issue, and I think the RCMP are treating this matter with the seriousness that is required."
CBC requested an interview with the commanding officer of the RCMP's G Division.
In response, the RCMP sent a statement saying that "commanding officers from divisions across Canada have been directed to review their unfounded sexual assault cases from 2016 for compliance with RCMP policy. The RCMP will also be reviewing a sample of historical cases.
"At this time the review will be managed centrally at national headquarters so that the RCMP can better assess all aspects of this complex issue."
With files from Loren McGinnis