OPP's revamped sex assault investigation strategy includes new training, oversight from advocacy groups

The Ontario Provincial Police says it will improve training for officers who handle sexual assault cases and introduce new oversight of those investigations. The force has also reopened 12 cases that had been previously dismissed after a lengthy internal review.

Police force tackling three distinct areas in new approach to sexual assault investigations

The OPP reviewed more than 5,000 "unfounded" sexual assault cases between 2010 and 2016. (CBC)

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has unveiled a revamped strategy to handle sexual assault reports after a seven-month internal review into cases previously dismissed as "unfounded."

The force says officers investigating sexual assault cases will receive new training and additional resources. It will also introduce new oversight from independent agencies, including victim services organizations.

After reviewing 5,322 unfounded sexual assault cases between 2010 and 2016, the OPP also reopened 12 cases that may not have been properly investigated. Unfounded cases are those in which police determine that no violation or attempted violation of the law took place.

"It is one thing to say the OPP is committed to continuous improvement to earn and maintain the confidence and trust of the public, and another to act upon that commitment," wrote OPP commissioner J.V.N. (Vince) Hawkes in a statement announcing the change.

OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes says the strategy is an effort to maintain the confidence and trust of the public. (

"This strategy is about the OPP's actions to improve the response to and support for sexual assault victims."

The decision to review old cases came after a report by the Globe and Mail that the newspaper says exposed deep flaws in the way investigators treat sexual assault allegations.

The force's new Victim Response Support Strategy includes three areas of development:

1) Victim support 

The OPP says it will now deploy "informed, responsive officers" to handle sexual assault reports. Those officers will also be given expanded access to resources and more opportunity to consult with sexual assault experts during investigations.

Victims of sexual assaults will also have access to new support liaisons at each OPP detachment. The liaisons will provide guidance and consultation, according to the report.

2) Additional training

The OPP says it will develop additional training courses to complement existing sexual assault training.

It says that training will also be reviewed annually, with a focus on "neurobiological, trauma-informed practices directly related to myth and stigma reduction."

The force will also review how data is collected around sexual assault cases, with the aim of reducing gaps in how that information is gathered.

3) Oversight

The report also identified the need for improved oversight and accountability for sexual assault investigations.

In response, the OPP will establish committees in each of its six regions to oversee policy and training. The members of those committees will include the Ministry of the Attorney General's Sexual Violence Advisory Group, child protection services and local victims services organizations.