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Letter to Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP related to referrals to victim services, complaints under the CVBR and the Sexual Assault Investigation Review Committees

 

May 29, 2020

 

Brenda Lucki, Commissioner Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Brian Brennan, Deputy Commissioner Royal Canadian Mounted Police
RCMP National Headquarters
73 Leikin Dr.
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0R2
By Email: Brenda.Lucki@rcmp-grc.gc.ca & Brian.Brennan@rcmp-grc.gc.ca

 

Dear Commissioner Lucki and Deputy Commissioner Brennan,

 

Thank you for making time to meet with Dr. Nadia Ferrara, Executive Director, and myself on May 21. I wanted to briefly summarize the matters we discussed. As the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, I work to identify emerging and systemic issues that negatively affect victims of crime and recommend ways that the federal government can make its laws, policies and programs more responsive to victims’ needs.

Firstly, we discussed the number of RCMP referrals made to victim services. This is very important in my view, given the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) states that upon request, victims have a right to information about the criminal justice system, the role of victims in it, and the services and programs available to them as a victim, including restorative justice programs. I therefore recommend RCMP leadership commit to officially track the number of referrals made to victim services in all jurisdictions, and report publicly on the total number of offers accepted and declined by victims. We understand from our discussion that this could be relatively simple data to collect across divisions, given there are existing check boxes and codes that officers are using to record this information in your systems. This would allow us to better measure respect for victims’ rights by criminal justice professionals, such as police, at the federal level.

Secondly, we discussed that year after year since the CVBR was passed in 2015, Public Safety Canada reports that the RCMP has recorded no complaints under the CVBR.  During fiscal year 2018-2019, Correctional Services Canada forwarded one complaint to the RCMP flagging it as CVBR-related but upon further analysis by the RCMP it was determined that the complaint was outside the realm of the CVBR. In order for victims to make a complaint to the RCMP, they must identify at a detachment or go directly to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) for the RCMP. Currently the CRCC does not collect whether public complaints infringed or denied CVBR rights. The lack of ability to identify victim complaints is a gap to be addressed, as it is highly unlikely that there are none related to the conduct of RCMP members. We note that two of the top allegation categories at the CRCC are neglect of duty or improper attitude. I therefore recommend RCMP leadership commit to disaggregation of complaints made by victims of crime about police officer conduct relating to their rights. As you know, victims have a right to file a complaint related to these CVBR rights and the following RCMP responsibilities:

  • general information regarding the status and outcome of the investigation;
  • accessibility to victim services and programs including restorative justice;
  • information on the victim’s security, privacy and identity protection from public disclosure; and
  • protection from intimidation and retaliation.

Lastly, we discussed the RCMP’s Sexual Assault Investigation Review Committees (SAIRC).  We let you know that the OFOVC has heard concerns from frontline anti-violence and sexual assault/rape crisis centre workers across Canada that these are not truly external advocate-led reviews.  Advocates are concerned the RCMP is claiming privacy concerns as an impediment to advocate-led reviews. We note that municipal police services across Canada are moving forward with advocate-led case reviews to address unfounded sexual assaults and are having advocates sign MOUs/non-disclosure agreements so that all files can be legally shared and reviewed. Other concerns we have heard are:

  • The data collection instruments (i.e. checklists, etc.) such as the Philadelphia-model or the Canadian version, the Violence against Women Advocate Case Review Model, are quite different from those currently utilized by RCMP. OFOVC has been apprised that the RCMP’s checklist misses key considerations (i.e. could not determine category) so the SAIRC cannot list if rape myths were used by investigators.
  • The RCMP is internally collecting data, processing the data and coming up with trends. This data collection and its process is kept restricted and not being shared with frontline workers; therefore, advocates cannot actually hold the RCMP to account.
  • All files should be reviewable. The RCMP is only taking samples and selecting those files the SAIRC can review. The reviewers do not see all the information available to the investigator.
  • There is a need to review/examine cases of vulnerable victims, such as Indigenous cases, with particular care and attention, given their historic treatment by police.

In order to improve external oversight led by community-based sexual violence subject matter experts into how sexual violence is investigated and cleared by the RCMP, I recommend RCMP leadership update SAIRC practices to reflect the CACP’s Canadian Framework for Collaborative Police Response on Sexual Violence.

I look forward to your response and to working with you to ensure positive change for victims and survivors of crime in Canada.

 

Sincerely,

 

Heidi Illingworth
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime




 

Response


August 20, 2020

 

Ms. Heidi Illingworth
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

 

Dear Ms. Illingworth:

 

It was a pleasure to meet with you and Dr. Ferrara. Thank you for your correspondence of May 29, 2020, highlighting the matters discussed during our meeting, and to highlight your concerns and recommendations.

Below, you will find my responses to the various concerns and recommendations you have raised.

It is recommended that RCMP leadership commit to officially track the number of referrals made to victims services in all jurisdictions and report publicly on the total number of offers accepted and declined by victims.

The RCMP works in close partnership with victim services organizations to ensure victims of crime receive the support they need without delay and provide referrals to victim services programs across Canada. Three records management systems (RMS) are currently used to track victim services referrals offered and whether these services are accepted or declined by victims, and this use of three systems poses challenges to extracting and validating the information for the purpose of making it available to the public. The RCMP will assess the possibility of reporting these numbers publicly and will advise the Ombudsman of the results of this assessment.

It is recommended that RCMP leadership commit to the disaggregation of complaints made by victims of crime about police officer conduct relating to their rights.

The conduct of RCMP employees is expected to reflect the RCMP’s core values of honesty, integrity, professionalism, compassion, accountability and respect. Any individual may make a public complaint if they have concerns about the conduct of an RCMP police officer, a civilian member, or a supernumerary special constable by contacting any RCMP detachment or the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC). Details on how to make a public complaint can be found on the RCMP’s website at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cont/faq-comp-plainte-eng.htm.

Over the last two years, 10 to 12% of complaints about the RCMP were received by the RCMP, while the remaining 88 to 90% were received directly by the CRCC. The RCMP is currently examining the best approach to track and report on complaints made to the RCMP by victims of crime about police officer conduct related to their rights under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR).

With regards to Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committees: Concerns have been raised from frontline anti-violence and sexual assault/rape crisis centre workers across Canada that these are not truly external advocate-led reviews. 

The RCMP recognizes the importance of ensuring that investigations are robust and professional and result in timely justice for the victims and their families and that the reviews of sexual assault investigations are impartial, transparent, and accountable. The Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committee (SAIRC) Framework is meant to be flexible to allow divisions to use and benefit from the resources available in their respective province or territory (e.g., there are no sexual assault or rape crisis centres in Nunavut). As such, many SAIRCs are composed of multidisciplinary teams of experts of varied backgrounds to the table to conduct the reviews. 

More specifically, the SAIRCs are mandated to: 

  • make case-specific recommendations which could lead to the file being reclassified and/or the reopening/taking of further investigative actions for cases determined to have deficiencies that may impact the outcome of the investigation; and,
  • make broad-based recommendations to improve the RCMP’s response to complaints of sexual assault and enhance RCMP policies, procedures, and training.

Although SAIRC members may not all be “sexual assault or rape crisis centre workers”, they must all work directly with victims of sexual assault. The SAIRC Framework includes specific guidelines: a SAIRC should be comprised of individuals representing reputable agencies and organizations engaged in delivering direct/frontline services to victims of sexual violence and should be representative of the diverse communities and vulnerable populations where the RCMP is the police of jurisdiction. These subject matter experts (SMEs) may include community service agencies and experts from rape crisis centres, sexual assault centres, sexual assault victim advocacy agencies, victim/witness assistance program providers, sexual assault nurse examiners, friendship centres, and/or native women’s resource centres, as well as child and youth protection and/or welfare social workers.

Advocates are concerned the RCMP is claiming privacy concerns as an impediment to advocate-led reviews. We note that municipal police services across Canada are moving forward with advocate-led case reviews to address unfounded sexual assaults and are having advocates sign Memoranda of Understanding (MOU)/non-disclosure agreements so that all files can be legally shared and reviewed.

It is critical that the RCMP’s approach to case reviews adheres to federal law. The RCMP is not attempting to impede or limit case reviews in any way, and SAIRCs are being established in all divisions where the RCMP is the provincial or territorial police of jurisdiction.

Section 18 of the RCMP Act sets the legal parameters for the RCMP’s collection and use of information collected during the course of a criminal investigation. The Privacy Act sets the legal parameters for the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information contained in RCMP investigation files, and the Access to Information Act sets the legal parameters for, and exceptions to, public access to information contained in RCMP investigation files. In order to maintain compliance with federal privacy legislation, SAIRC members must sign and adhere to a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement.

Other concerns heard include:

          1. The data collection instruments (i.e., checklists, etc.) such as the Philadelphia-model or the Canadian version, the Violence against Women Advocate Case Review Model, are quite different from those currently utilized by RCMP. OFOVC has been apprised that the RCMP’s checklist misses key considerations (i.e., could not determine category) so the SAIRC cannot list if rape myths were used by investigators.  

The RCMP developed its checklist based on existing review tools, such as the checklist recommended by Ending Violence against Women International, the Victim Advocate Case Review’s (VACR) checklist, and the Ontario Provincial Police Regional Collaborative Review Committee checklist. The VACR and RCMP checklists are similar in that they cover similar areas of interest and similar questions. There are also notable differences, as one is meant to assist reviewers while they review the file, while the SAIRC checklist is meant to assist the RCMP in collecting, tracking, measuring, and reporting on SAIRC findings and recommendations, and ensuring appropriate follow-up.

The decision to exclude a “could not determine” or “unknown” category was intentional. When reviewing files, the reviewer needs to make a decision on the available information. If the information is not on file, the answer should be no. This does not mean the investigator did not take the necessary steps, but rather that the documentation or articulation on file does not confirm the action. Experience has shown that including a “could not determine” or “unknown” category significantly impacts overall results. For example, when answering a question such as, “Were victim services offered?” a reviewer may feel more inclined to say “could not determine” instead of “no” when the file does not clearly articulate that the referral was completed. 

Nevertheless, the SAIRCs have all been advised that the checklist is being developed and will be reviewed and improved as feedback gets received. Potential improvements can include adding, deleting or reframing questions.

          2. The RCMP is internally collecting data, processing the data and coming up with trends. This data collection and its process is kept restricted and not being shared with frontline workers; therefore, advocates cannot actually hold the RCMP to account.

Once the RCMP checklists are completed, they are uploaded to a database managed by the Sexual Assault Review Team (SART) at RCMP National Headquarters. The SART is responsible for collecting the checklist data and overseeing divisional responses. This is to ensure appropriate action is taken to address any findings and recommendations made by the SAIRCs. This also allows a central point where all data can be reviewed to assess if any issues transcend provincial and territorial boundaries and require national leadership from a policy or training perspective.

At the start of each review session, the SAIRC Divisional Coordinator is responsible for providing an update on any actions taken on cases from the previous review. This may include general information about any cases that were sent back for further investigation, whether files were reclassified, or the type of feedback provided to the detachment with respect to the quality of their investigations. It is, however, important to note that specific details with respect to investigations or individual RCMP member conduct will not be provided to the SAIRC to ensure both the confidentiality of the investigative process and of employee conduct matters. 

At the end of each year, to ensure accountability and transparency, the SART will report back to each SAIRC with an account of how many files were reviewed, how many findings and recommendations were made, a summary of review findings and recommendations, and what actions were taken by the RCMP.

           3. All files should be reviewable. The RCMP is only taking samples and selecting those files the SAIRC can review. The reviewers do not see all the information available to the investigator.

As previously mentioned, the SAIRC Framework is meant to be flexible to meet the specific needs of each province and territory. The number of files reviewed depends on the SAIRC’s availability to meet to review files (e.g., one day, 
three days, or five days per quarter), as well as the Divisional Coordinator’s ability to gather relevant material and to follow up on the SAIRC’s findings and recommendations. In some cases, it will be possible for divisions to review all Not Cleared by Charge (NCBC) sexual assault investigation files, such as in Prince Edward Island (“L” Division), Newfoundland and Labrador (“B” Division), and all three territories (“G”, “M”, and “V” Divisions). However, in many cases, such as for British Columbia (“E” Division), Alberta (“K” Division), Saskatchewan (“F” Division), and Manitoba (“D” Division), it is not feasible to review all NCBC files due to the volume of cases. 

With respect to how files are selected, the SART is responsible for selecting the files and a randomizer is used. This ensures the divisions are not “hand-picking” the files for review. Files where the subject of complaint was a young person (under 18 years old) at the time of the incident are excluded from the review to ensure compliance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act. When reviewing a file, the SAIRCs have access to the complete investigation file, including all the material that the investigators relied on to make their decision(s), with the exception of client-solicitor privileged information, which is redacted. Only documents, correspondence, or emails directly from the Crown are redacted. To date, the vast majority of files reviewed by the SAIRCs did not include any redactions.

           4. There is a need to review/examine cases of vulnerable victims, such as Indigenous cases, with particular care and attention, given their historic treatment by police.

The RCMP concurs with this statement. The SAIRC should include members that are experts in sexualized violence and that work with vulnerable persons, including Indigenous women and girls, children and youth, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQ2+ people and communities. From a file selection perspective, the RCMP does not presently collect race or ethnicity data. Nevertheless, the RCMP will be exploring options and working with the Privacy Commissioner to confirm how this type of information may be collected in the future.

           5. In order to improve external oversight led by community-based sexual violence SMEs into how sexual violence is investigated and cleared by the RCMP, it is recommended that RCMP leadership update SAIRC practices to reflect the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police’s (CACP) Canadian Framework for Collaborative Police Response on Sexual Violence.

The RCMP, unlike municipal police services, has over 700 detachments located from coast to coast to coast. Many of the RCMP’s detachments provide policing services for vast geographic areas with a limited number of police officers. Many of the communities served by the RCMP have access to limited, if any, local victim services and other critical social services. As such, establishing external review committees at the municipal or community level is simply not possible.

As a result of the vast geography covered by RCMP policing services, the extensive number of investigations it conducts on a yearly basis, the decentralized nature of its RMS, and the requirement to adhere to federal privacy legislation, the RCMP Act, and Treasury Board policies and directives, the RCMP needed to develop an RCMP-specific model. Having an RCMP-specific model also helps ensure consistency across divisions.

A table that outlines the main similarities and differences between the original Philadelphia model, the VACR model (the model endorsed by the CACP) and the RCMP’s SAIRC has been enclosed for your reference. While the processes are indeed different, the SAIRC Framework nonetheless allows external SMEs to review RCMP sexual assault investigations and provide direct feedback to help the RCMP improve the quality of its investigations and ensure it develops and applies a victim-centred and trauma-informed approach.

The RCMP continuously strives to improve and work towards ensuring the delivery of gender- and culturally aware, trauma-informed police services to all Canadians. I hope these answers provide additional insight into the work undertaken to date related to the issues you have highlighted.

 

Kindest regards,


Commissioner/Commissaire 
Brenda Lucki

 

 Attachment - RCMP’s Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committees (SAIRC)

 


 

 

Response to the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

 

The following provides a response to concerns and questions raised by the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (FOVC) with respect to the RCMP’s Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committees (SAIRC).

We let you know that the OFOVC has heard concerns from frontline anti-violence and sexual assault/rape crisis centre workers across Canada that these are not truly external advocate-led reviews.


The RCMP’s Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committee (SAIRC) Framework builds on existing case review models while ensuring compliance with federal law and policies.

The Framework also ensures that the Sexual Assault Review Team at NHQ can provide national oversight to the SAIRCs as well as track, measure, and report on Committee findings and recommendations as well as all responding RCMP actions.

The SAIRC Framework is meant to be flexible to allow Divisions to take advantage of the resources available in their province and territory (e.g. there are no sexual assault or rape crisis centres in Nunavut). As such, many SAIRCs will be composed of multi-disciplinary teams bringing experts of varied backgrounds to the table to conduct the reviews. 

Although the SAIRC members may not all be “sexual assault or rape crisis centre workers” they must all work directly with victims of sexual assault.

The SAIRC Framework includes specific guidelines in this regard. The SAIRC should be comprised of individuals representing reputable agencies and organizations engaged in delivering direct/frontline services to victims of sexual violence and should be representative of the diverse communities and vulnerable populations where the RCMP is the police of jurisdiction.

Ideally, organizations/agencies and the individuals selected to join the SAIRC:

  • Work with sexual assault, its victims, and/or the behaviours of its perpetrators as their primary mandate;
  • Are independent in funding from the RCMP;
  • Are duly bound by agency confidentiality oaths;
  • Offer support and advocacy to victims free of charge and thus are accessible to the widest range of marginalized victims (those whose cases most frequently fail to progress past reporting);
  • Work in an environment that accounts for vicarious trauma, provides peer and clinical supervision, and has healthy workplace policies in place to support people working with trauma, etc.

This may include community service agencies and experts from: Rape Crisis Centres; Sexual Assault Centres; Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy Agencies; Victim/Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) Providers; Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners; Friendship Centres / Native Women’s Resource Centres; Child and Youth Protection and/or Welfare Social Workers; etc.

As a starting point, each RCMP Division was tasked with identifying a group of experts to start the review process.  From there, we will evaluate and seek feedback from participants to figure out how external review can grow and evolve in a sustainable and meaningful way in each province and territory (e.g. what may work in Prince Edward Island may not work in British Columbia). 

Advocates are concerned the RCMP is claiming privacy concerns as an impediment to advocate-led reviews. We note that municipal police services across Canada are moving forward with advocate-led case reviews to address unfounded sexual assaults and are having advocates sign MOUs/non-disclosure agreements so that all files can be legally shared and reviewed.

The RCMP is NOT impeding or limiting case reviews. SAIRCs are being established in all Divisions where the RCMP is the police of jurisdiction (e.g. all provinces and territories except Ontario and Quebec). That being said, our approach to case review must adhere to federal law.

Section 18 of the RCMP Act sets the legal parameters for the RCMP’s collection and use of information collected during the course of a criminal investigation.  The Privacy Act sets the legal parameters for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information contained in RCMP investigation files, and the Access to Information Act sets the legal parameters for, and exceptions to, public access to information contained in RCMP investigation files.

The RCMP’s obligations under the federal law – are not negotiable.

To participate on a SAIRC, members must sign and adhere to a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement. While an MOU is an option that we discussed and considered at length with RCMP internal stakeholders (e.g.: RCMP Legal Services, Contracts, MOU Coordination Unit, Human Resources, etc.), ultimately this option was not approved. 

In terms of access, SAIRC members review the complete police investigation file. This includes the written police reports, members’ notes, any /all audio/video interviews, as well as any other evidence that was collected during the investigation. The only information excluded from the review is any client-solicitor privileged information.

Other concerns we have heard are:

  1. The data collection instruments (i.e. checklists, etc.) such as the Philadelphia-model or the Canadian version, the Violence against Women Advocate Case Review Model, are quite different from those currently utilized by RCMP. OFOVC has been apprised that the RCMP’s checklist misses key considerations (i.e. could not determine category) so the SAIRC cannot list if rape myths were used by investigators.

The RCMP developed its checklist based on existing review tools such as the checklist recommended by Ending Violence against Women International; the VACR’s checklist, as well as the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Regional Collaborative Review Committee (RCRC) Checklist.

The VACR and RCMP checklists are similar in that they cover similar areas of interest and similar questions. That said, they are indeed quite different as one is meant to assist reviewers while they review the file while the SAIRC checklist is meant to assist the RCMP in collecting, tracking, measuring and reporting on SAIRC findings and recommendations and ensuring appropriate follow-up.

The decision to exclude a “could not determine” or “unknown” category was intentional. When reviewing files, the reviewer needs to make a decision on the available information. If the information is not on file – than the answer should be no.  This does not mean the investigator did not take the necessary steps but rather that the documentation or articulation on file does not confirm the action.  Experience has shown that including a “could not determine” or “unknown” category significantly impacts the overall results.  For example – when answering a question such as: “Were victim services offered?” a reviewer may feel more inclined to say “could not determine” instead of NO when the file does not clearly articulate that the referral was completed. 

That being said, the SAIRCs have all been advised that the checklist is a “work in progress” and further to a year of reviews we will seek feedback on how to improve it.  This includes adding, deleting or reframing questions. 

  1. The RCMP is internally collecting data, processing the data and coming up with trends. This data collection and its process is kept restricted and not being shared with frontline workers; therefore, advocates cannot actually hold the RCMP to account.

Once the checklists are completed, they are downloaded to a database managed by the Sexual Assault Review Team (SART) at NHQ. The SART is responsible for collecting the checklist data and overseeing Divisional responses. This is to ensure appropriate action is taken to address any findings and recommendations made the SAIRCs. This also allows a central point where all data can be reviewed to assess if any issues transcend provincial/territorial boundaries and require national leadership – from a policy or training perspective.

At the start of reach review session, the SAIRC Divisional Coordinator is responsible for providing an update on any actions taken from the previous review. This may include general information about any cases that were sent back for further investigation; whether files were re-classified; or the type of feedback provided to the Detachment with respect to the quality of their investigations. It is however important to note that specific details with respect to investigations or individual RCMP member conduct will not be provided to the SAIRC. This is to ensure both the confidentiality of the investigative process and the confidentiality of employee conduct matters. 

That said, at the end of each year, the SART will report back to the SAIRC with an account of how many files were reviewed, how many findings and recommendations were made, a summary of the review findings and recommendations; as well as what actions were taken by the RCMP.  This ensures the RCMP is accountable and transparent.

  1. All files should be reviewable. The RCMP is only taking samples and selecting those files the SAIRC can review. The reviewers do not see all the information available to the investigator.

As previously mentioned, the SAIRC Framework is meant to be flexible to meet each province and territory’s specific needs.

The number of files reviewed depends on the Committee’s availability to meet to review files (e.g. 1 day, 3 days or 5 days per quarter) as well as the Divisional Coordinator’s ability to gather the relevant material as well as to follow-up on the Committee’s findings and recommendations.

In some cases, it will be possible for Divisions to review all not cleared by charge (NCBC) sexual assault investigation files. For example, provinces such as Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland as well as all 3 territories may be able to review all NCBC files – however in many cases, such as for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – it will simply not be possible to review all NCBC files as the numbers are simply too large.  

With respect to how files are selected – the SART is responsible for reporting on quarterly stats for the SAIRCs and using a randomizer to randomly select files.  This ensures the Divisions are not “hand picking” the files for review. 
In terms of information or files that are not reviewable – files where the subject of complaint was a young person (under 18 yrs) at the time of the incident are excluded from the review.  This ensures we comply with the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

When reviewing the files, the SAIRC have access to the complete investigation file. This includes all the material that the investigators relied on to make their decision with one exception. Any client-solicitor privileged information is vetted.  In this regard, only the documents, correspondence or emails directly from Crown are vetted.  To date, the vast majority of files reviewed by the SAIRCs did not include any vetting.  

  1. There is a need to review/examine cases of vulnerable victims, such as Indigenous cases, with particular care and attention, given their historic treatment by police.

The RCMP concurs with this statement. The SAIRC should include members that are experts in sexualized violence and that work with vulnerable persons – including Indigenous women and girls; children and youth; persons with disabilities; the LGBTQ2+ people and communities; etc.      

From a file selection perspective - the RCMP does not collect race / ethnicity data and our records management system does not have the ability to systematically identify which files involve vulnerable persons. That being said, research confirms that vulnerable persons are far more likely to be victims of violence and/or sexualized violence.1

In order to improve external oversight led by community-based sexual violence subject matter experts into how sexual violence is investigated and cleared by the RCMP, I recommend RCMP leadership update SAIRC practices to reflect the CACP’s Canadian Framework for Collaborative Police Response on Sexual Violence.

While some may have concerns that the SAIRC Framework was developed by the RCMP for the RCMP – the reality is a RCMP specific process needed to be developed to ensure compliance with federal law and policy as well as ensuring consistency across RCMP divisions.
The RCMP is not like a municipal police service. The RCMP has over 700 RCMP detachments located from coast to coast to coast. Many of our detachments police extremely vast geographic areas while only having a handful of police officers. Further, many of these communities and regions have access to limited (if any) local victim services and other critical social services.  As such, establishing external review committees at the municipal or community level is simply not possible.

As a result of the RCMP’s complex geography, the vast number of investigations we conduct on a yearly basis, the decentralized nature of our records management system, as well as the requirement to adhere to federal privacy legislation, the RCMP Act and Treasury Board Policies and Directives – the RCMP needed to develop a RCMP specific model. 

The development of the RCMP’s Privacy Impact Assessment and Framework is based on extensive internal and external consultations. In particular, NHQ SART worked arduously with the RCMP’s Departmental Security Branch to streamline and simplify the security clearance process.  For the purposes of SAIRC, members receive a restricted enhanced reliability clearance that is limited to their role on the SAIRC. This was required to ensure security clearances could be expedited as well as and more importantly to eliminate the requirement for fingerprints, the 10-page questionnaire and interview; and credit check. Many advocates felt the usual government and RCMP security clearance requirements were overly intrusive. Further, many felt that the usual requirements would significantly limit the number of people who could successfully meet the screening requirements or would be willing to participate on the SAIRC.   

We have included for your information a table that outlines the main similarities and differences between the original Philadelphia model, the VACR model and the RCMP’s SAIRC.

While the processes are indeed different – the SAIRC Framework nonetheless allows external subject matter experts to review RCMP sexual assault investigations and provide direct feedback to help the RCMP improve the quality of its investigations and ensure we develop a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach. More specifically the SAIRCs are mandated to:

  • make case-specific recommendations which could lead to the file being re-classified and/or the re-opening/taking further investigative actions for cases determined to have deficiencies that may impact the outcome of the investigation; and,
  • make broad-based recommendations to improve the RCMP’s response to complaints of sexual assault and enhance RCMP policies, procedures and training.

 

Understanding Sexual Assault Case Review Models

Review Model

Philadelphia Model

VACR

SAIRC

Reviewers

Sexual Assault Victim Advocates

Sexual Assault Victim Advocates

Combination of Sexual Assault Victim Advocates and other experts that work directly with victims of sexual violence. This is necessary, as some RCMP jurisdictions do not have Sexual Assault Centres.  That being said, all reviewers must work directly with victims of sexual assault.

MOU btw Police and Agencies

No

Yes

No. This was explored yet not supported by RCMP internal stakeholders.

Confidentiality and NDA

Yes

Yes

Yes.

Individual vs Group Reviews

Individual

Individual

Group and individual. Model encourages group reviews in the beginning to allow for consistency however does allow for individual reviews once competencies are established.

Frequency of Reviews

Yearly

Quarterly

Model encourages quarterly reviews yet is flexible to meet Division and the Committee members’ availability.

Duration of Review

5 days

3 to 5 days

Model is flexible depending on the Division and Committee members’ availability. Most meet from 1 to 3 days. Is it important to ensure the reviews are sustainable and manageable for both the RCMP and SAIRC members.

Files Reviewed

All unfounded and a sample of NCBC sexual assault investigations concluded in the last year.

All NCBC sexual assault investigations concluded within the previous quarter.

A non-representative sample of NCBC files selected from sexual assault files concluded within the last quarter. To date most committees review anywhere between 3 to 5 files per review session.

Access to Information

Paper review

All information the officers relied on make decision about the investigations – full file disclosure

All information the officers relied to make their decision about the investigations EXCEPT client solicitor privileged information.

Recording Findings

Yellow Sticky Notes

Checklist is used to document findings yet checklist is not shared with police. Feedback is provided verbally to police.

A checklist was developed to document, track and report on the Committees’ findings and recommendations as well as actions taken by the RCMP to respond to the findings and recommendations. 

Police Involvement

No police in the room.  Advocates meet with Officer in Charge (OiC) of major crime / sex crimes to discuss findings.

No police in the room. Advocates meet with OiC major crime / sex crimes to discuss findings.

SAIRC Divisional Coordinator is present in the room to answer questions and provide context.  This was a requirement outlined in our PIA ensuring files are always in the care and control of the RCMP.

 

1 https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/ccs-ajc/rr06_vic2/p3_4.html