Nova Scotia

RCMP officer who allegedly groped 2 female officers won't face charges

The province's independent police watchdog says it won't press charges against an RCMP officer accused of sexually assaulting two female officers.

2nd woman punched the 'very drunk' officer in the face after alleged assault

The alleged incident happened on April 17 at a private function following training exercises at CFB Aldershot, just north of Kentville, N.S.

Nova Scotia's independent police watchdog says it won't press charges against an RCMP officer accused of sexually assaulting two female officers.

The alleged incident happened on April 17 at a private function following training exercises at CFB Aldershot, just north of Kentville, N.S.

According to the Serious Incident Response Team's (SIRT) report, beer and food were served.

Sometime near midnight while people were settling their tabs, an officer, described by witnesses as being "very drunk," allegedly reached up a female officer's shirt. According to SIRT, she had never met him before.

After another officer pulled the woman away, she looked back and allegedly saw the officer who groped her putting his hand up another female officer's shirt.

Female officer punched alleged attacker

The second female officer swatted the man's hand away and continued a conversation with another officer. When she felt his hand under her shirt a second time, she turned and punched him in the face.

According to SIRT's report, the punch didn't appear to have an effect and the man was removed from the premises. 

The report said on a scale of one to 10 — 10 being blackout drunk — the man was an eight or nine.

According to the report, "it is clear that both APs [affected parties] were touched, in circumstances of a sexual nature, without their consent and therefore a charge of sexual assault under sec. 271 of the Criminal Code of Canada could be brought against the [offending officer]."

However, SIRT said because both female officers said they didn't want to press criminal charges, the independent police watchdog opted not to lay charges.

"The details of the offences are not such that the public interest outweighs the clear wishes of both [female officers]," read the report.

RCMP spokesperson Const. Natasha Dantiste said the male officer has been suspended with pay since April. She said the RCMP are doing an internal code-of-conduct investigation. She wouldn't say why the RCMP was not charging the man, but referred questions to SIRT. 

Concerns about repercussions

Jackie Stevens, executive director of Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, said people often don't pursue charges or come forward right away because they are worried about repercussions in the workplace.

"Even when they did speak out nothing was done, or they felt like they were discriminated against or targeted because they had disclosed experiences of violence," said Stevens.

"[It] certainly is something that we hear over and over again from, you know, various victims particularly when it comes to workplace situations, including inside institutions or systems like military or police."

More than 2,400 allegations

In 2016, the RCMP delivered a formal apology to female RCMP members and committed to a range of anti-harassment training and enforcement as part of a settlement in two class-action lawsuits.

About 2,400 women have come forward alleging they suffered sexual harassment while working for the RCMP. 

The historic RCMP sexual harassment settlement covers all women harassed while working for the RCMP, starting in September 1974 when the force first began taking female recruits. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

Last year, a judge approved a plan to settle a class-action lawsuit on behalf of female RCMP officers. The federal government originally set aside $100 million for compensation. 

It was the first gender harassment class-action settlement in Canada.