Yellowknife MLA Julie Green has ripped into the local RCMP detachment for what she calls the “totally unacceptable” response it gave after a sexual assault victim was thrown in jail in 2017.
Green, whose riding includes the laneway behind the Capitol Theatre where the woman was attacked, said among the problems she has with the RCMP internal review is that they did it themselves.
She says an outside agency should have conducted an investigation as is usually the case when RCMP in the NWT are accused of wrongdoing.
Mounties began the internal review after territorial court Judge Garth Malakoe also lit into them for arresting the intoxicated 57-year-old victim and holding her in what is known as the drunk tank at RCMP headquarters, instead of taking her to hospital.
In a summary of their review, police stated that the officer who did not take the victim to hospital would not be disciplined and they could not guarantee a similar situation might not happen again.
“The RCMP have a duty to provide a safe space for persons who have been involved in a criminal activity, victim of crime, or are unable to care for themselves. These officers operate under a legal framework of authorities to take a person into custody. Officers who interact with these persons often have to make decisions on what type of care is available and how to access, and how to keep them safe,” police stated. “The RCMP recognizes that sexual assault is a devastating crime that has traumatic and long lasting effects on the victims. We recognize that victims do not belong in jail, however we must also ensure their safety, and sometimes cells is the only option.”
Police offered no apology to the victim, an Indigenous woman who has since left the city.
Green says the police response is unsatisfactory.
“It’s completely outrageous. The RCMP investigated themselves. I would have more comfort if someone else had done that investigation. They still haven’t answered the question why didn’t they take her to hospital where she needed to go. They’ve just absolved themselves of any responsibility,” Green said.
She added that RCMP, the government and social agencies must establish a third-party agency where women can report sexual assaults and file a complaint against police if they feel their report is not being taken seriously.
Green says the reputation of the RCMP in Yellowknife with female advocates is currently “in the dirt.”
“I was shocked and disappointed and it’s something the RCMP have to address. The culture there of dealing with women is not as responsive as it needs to be.”
Inspector Alex LaPorte, the officer in charge of the Yellowknife RCMP detachment, said they are trying to do better in these types of situations.
“We continue to learn from our interactions with victims and members of the public. We continually strive to improve the options available for care for our more vulnerable,” LaPorte stated. “We will continue to work closely with our partner agencies in providing care services for the community.”
The offender, who was also intoxicated at the time of the attack, received two years in jail when he was sentenced last week by Malakoe.