The head of the Yellowknife RCMP detachment says officers can not force a sexual assault victim with no obvious physical injuries to seek medical treatment.
In an interview with CKLB, Inspector Alex Laporte also said that Mounties can not lodge someone in their cells without first arresting them.
Laporte was responding after criticism from Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green who last week told CKLB that she was outraged to learn that a sexual assault victim was thrown in jail in 2017 instead of being taken to Stanton Territorial Hospital.
Laporte says he agrees with Green that it was not an ideal situation but added that the officer who arrested and jailed the woman will not be disciplined.
Laporte could not guarantee that a similar scenario might not happen again.
He said that when officers arrived in a laneway behind the Capitol Theatre where the woman was attacked, there was a fluid, ongoing investigation involving an intoxicated and uncooperative victim.
“How do we care for that person to make sure that person right now is not being re-victimized and she’s getting the services she needs. This is the angle that I’m satisfied that the (RCMP) members took,” Laporte said. “They assessed that person based on their observations as far as injuries. They asked (her) if she had an injuries and she said no, and she declined to attend the hospital at that time.”
Laporte said officers were concerned the woman, who was 57-years-old at the time, was unable to care for herself so they arrested her under the liquor act and lodged her in RCMP holding cells – commonly referred to as the drunk tank.
He said the woman was offered victim services the next day but again she declined.
It is believed that she has since left the city.
Her attacker received a two-year jail sentence earlier this month.
Laporte said police did in fact respect the woman’s rights and did not force her to accept medical treatment or counselling against her will.
He added that things have changed in the city since this event.
He noted that we now have a 24 hour – seven days a week sobering centre which he said might have been an option for the woman that night.
Green hammered away at Justice Minister Lou Sebert about the issue in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.
She wants a program similar to one in Whitehorse where women can report sexual assaults to a third party agency if they don’t feel comfortable with the RCMP.
Green said there is a cultural insensitivity problem with RCMP when it comes to dealing with women who have been sexually assaulted.
The judge who heard the case also called out RCMP for their actions that night.
Garth Malakoe said the woman was not treated with respect and dignity and said he could not understand why she was arrested and not taken to hospital.