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We take all sexual assault cases seriously, say Yukon RCMP

Inspector Archie Thompson of Yukon's M division says he's 'surprised' by high numbers of unfounded sexual assault cases in the territory. He's afraid it gives the impression that police do not always respond appropriately to complaints.

'Unfounded' does not mean a case wasn't investigated thoroughly, says Inspector Archie Thompson

Yukon RCMP Insp. Archie Thompson said the recent media reports '[are] really leaving the community with an unclear impression of what 'unfounded' really means.' (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

The RCMP's M Division in Yukon is downplaying the number of unfounded sexual assaults it has recorded from 2010 to 2014, after the issue was highlighted by a lengthy investigation by the Globe and Mail.

The newspaper examined the numbers of sexual assault cases that had been thrown out by police forces across the country. The report showed that several Yukon communities had rates of "unfounded assaults" of 20 per cent and higher. 

RCMP Inspector Archie Thompson says he was "surprised" to read the Yukon numbers in the Globe and Mail's investigative story. He's also afraid they can be misinterpreted. 

He said the recent media reports "[are] really leaving the community with an unclear impression of what 'unfounded' really means.

"I would say it's creating a false impression that victims are coming to the front counter, reporting that they've been sexually assaulted, and the RCMP's not believing them. That's just not the case," he said.

"'Unfounded', to me, would mean as a result of a complete and thorough investigation, we've confirmed that a crime did not take place, or was not attempted."

Thompson cited a hypothetical example of an uncle reporting that his 16-year-old niece has been sexually assaulted, but an investigation determines that the teen is in a consensual sexual relationship with a 20-year-old man.

"Sex has taken place, it's completely consensual — that matter would be unfounded," he said.

Thompson also stressed that police always want complainants to come forward, and not to be discouraged.

"We take all sexualized assault cases very seriously, and investigate them all thoroughly," he said.

Thomspon also confirmed that Yukon is included in a nation-wide RCMP review of unfounded cases from 2016.

"If there's any gaps, at that point, we would address those," he said.

Special training for officers

Yukon Justice Minister Tracey McPhee calls sexual assault a "very serious problem in Canada, and particularly here in the Yukon," adding that sexualized violence is three times higher in the Yukon than the national average.

The Yukon's Women's Coalition says how sexual assault cases are dealt with in the criminal justice system can be "very problematic." The organization has called for more specialized training for RCMP officers, to deal with sexual assault complaints.

Thompson said in December, 21 RCMP employees — mostly investigators — received "response-based training with their 'partner agencies' — making sure that we treat women with respect and dignity, and using the proper language when we're referring to cases, right through the judicial system."

But Thompson said he's "not sure" about the Coalition's suggestion that each detachment should have an officer who has received specialized training in sexual assault.

"We do have a specialized response unit in M division, in the Yukon, looking at all sexualized violence. So they're an expert team, if you will, looking at all files."

Thompson said if complainants aren't comfortable reporting to the RCMP, they can do "third party reporting" through Kaushee's Place and the 24-hour crisis line (668-5733), or report to the hospital or victim's services.

   

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said that victims can do third party reporting at the hospital, the 24-hour crisis line or victim's services. In fact, only Kaushee's Place and the 24-hour crisis line offer third party reporting for sexual assault victims.
    Feb 22, 2017 12:33 PM CT

With files from Sandi Coleman

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