RCMP Review of Sexual Assault Cases
Date: October 21, 2020
Branch / Agency: RCMP
- For years, we have known that sexual assaults are among the most under-reported crimes in Canada.
- With the goal to strengthen public trust in policing, survivors are encouraged to report these serious crimes through whatever mechanism they are most comfortable with.
- The RCMP is working hard to ensure that all sexual assault survivors feel comfortable bringing their allegations forward; receive the same standard of care regardless of jurisdiction; and, trust investigators to thoroughly and professionally investigate these crimes.
- The RCMP established the National Sexual Assault Review Team (SART) to conduct reviews of sexual assault investigations, provide recommendations and guidance for further action. SART also developed tools and training resources to enhance police officer knowledge, skills and practices related to the investigation of sexual offences.
- The creation of an Advisory Committee for Sexual Assault Investigations also serves as an open forum to share information on good practices, as well as discuss challenges and concerns with respect to sexual assault investigations.
- Further, the RCMP is committed to establishing external sexual assault review committees in all Divisions where the it is the police of jurisdiction. This an important accountability mechanism that has proved beneficial to many police agencies in North America.
- To date, these committees have been established in six divisions and the remaining divisions are on track to form committees by Spring 2021.
- Working collaboratively with victim advocates and other experts will strengthen the RCMP's response to sexual assault crimes, and improve the quality of these investigations, while enhancing public trust.
- The RCMP and myself are committed to ensuring that victims are treated fairly by the justice system and that investigations into these crimes are conducted effectively.
In February 2017, the Globe and Mail published an investigative series on how police handle sexual assault allegations, highlighting that police classify, on average, one in five reported sexual assaults as unfounded. The series also uncovered stories that raised questions about how some investigators may treat victims of sexual assault.
In response, the RCMP launched a review of 2,225 unfounded sexual assault investigations. The RCMP also created the Sexual Assault Review Team (SART) at National Headquarters to examine all aspects of how the RCMP addresses sexual assault cases; identify best practices; formulate recommendations to enhance investigations going forward; and, develop and implement trauma-informed training for employees at all levels.
The file review and consultation resulted in key findings and culminated with the RCMP’s December 2017 report entitled The Way Forward: The RCMP’s Sexual Assault Review and Victim Support Action Plan Report.
Budget 2018 included $10 million over five years, and $2 million per year ongoing, for the RCMP to establish the Sexual Assault Review Team, complete the expanded file review, and provide accountability across the force for investigations. The funding also provides for the establishment of an external advisory committee, better supports for victims, and the development of training.
Actions taken by the RCMP:
Since 2018, the funding received has allowed the RCMP to complete and implement many aspects of the Way Forward Action Plan, such as completing reviews of: all 2015, 2016 and 2017 sexual assault investigations that were not cleared by charge (i.e., over 30,000 sexual assault files); the Kelowna RCMP Detachment’s 2018 and 2019 unfounded sexual assault investigations; and sexual assault investigations involving child victims under the age of 12.
The RCMP has also developed several tools, resources and courses to help RCMP members improve their knowledge, skills and practices, including: the Common Sexual Assault Investigational Gaps Guide; the Consent and Sexual Assault Myths Course; Guidance with respect to UCR Scoring; the Using a Trauma Informed Approach Course (now mandatory for all RCMP employees that interact with the public); and updating the RCMP’s Sexual Assault Investigations Best Practice Guide.
The RCMP also created an Advisory Committee for Sexual Assault Investigations (ACSAI) that includes representatives from all RCMP divisions where the RCMP is the local, general duty police of jurisdiction. ACSAI serves as an open forum to share information on good practices as well as discuss challenges and concerns with respect to sexual assault investigations. The Committee also provides recommendations and guidance on sexual assault training, investigative policies and procedures.
Finally, establishing external sexual assault review committees is an important accountability mechanism that has proved beneficial to many police agencies in North America. To date, Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committees (SAIRCs) have been established in six (6) RCMP divisions for this purpose. Most of the remaining divisions were well on their way to have their respective SAIRCs established by spring/summer 2020; however, training sessions and implementation have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once physical distancing measures are relaxed, the SAIRC training and implementation will resume.
Prepared by: Alicia LaPierre, Junior Policy Analyst, Contract and Indigenous Policing, RCMP, 613-371-7696
In consultation with: Josée-Anne Hedgecoe, SART, Contract and Indigenous Policing, RCMP
Approved by: Brian Brennan, Deputy Commissioner, Contract and Indigenous Policing, RCMP
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