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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