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article imageReport: High number of sex assaults in Canada marked 'unfounded'

By Arthur Weinreb     Feb 8, 2017 in Crime
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called on police services across the country to review sexual assault cases. The Minister’s statement comes after the Globe and Mail reported a high number of sexual assault complaints were marked as “unfounded."
Ralph Goodale Canadian Public Safety Minister
Ralph Goodale Canadian Public Safety Minister
made the request yesterday. Prior to the Minister’s statement, three major police services had already begun a re-examination of these cases. Goodale is asking police and Crown Attorneys to re-examine the ways investigators treat these cases and to examine approaches, the way sexual assault cases are investigated and managed and all of their procedures. The Minister said this is necessary to ensure Canadians who are “brutally victimized” receive justice.
On Feb. 1, the Globe and Mail published a report entitled “Will the police believe you?" In conducting the research during a period of 20 months, the newspaper put in 250 freedom of information requests to 178 police jurisdictions across Canada. Police services representing 92 percent of the Canadian population provided information to the Globe.
The research showed 19 percent of sexual assaults reported throughout Canada between 2010 and 2014 were designated as “unfounded.” According to the Globe, unfounded means the investigators did not believe a sexual assault took place or was attempted. These cases are not used by Statistics Canada that compiles sexual assault information used to determine appropriate funding for police services and victims of crime.
Between the release of the report and Goodale’s request for a review of sexual assaults, some major police services had already announced they were going to undertake these reviews. John Pare, Chief of the London Police Service, announced a review of his department’s handling of sexual assault claims on Saturday, the day after the report appeared. He said, we are all human and not perfect and there is always room for improvement. In addition to ordering the review, Pare went a step further and issued an apology on Monday. He apologized to sexual assault victims who felt they were not supported and who now mistrust his police service.
About one-third of sexual assaults investigated by London police were marked “unfounded,” much higher than the national average of 19 percent.
The Globe found Halton Regional Police, just west of Toronto, had an “unfounded” rate of 30 percent. Chief Stephen Tanner ordered a review of all cases beginning with those that occurred in 2016. Tanner said why a case is marked unfounded can range from being improperly classified to showing the crime never occurred.
The Globe report found police in Saanich, B.C. had the highest rate of unfounded sexual assault cases in Canada. The report states 60 percent of reported sexual assaults in that jurisdiction were classified as unfounded. The Saanich police chief disputes this finding.
Chief Les Sylven said the fact 15 out of 25 cases were marked unfounded does not mean police did not believe the victims. The chief added six of these 15 cases did not proceed because there was not enough evidence to prosecute the alleged offender. It was not because police did not believe the victims.
In contrast to Saanich, the report found the Toronto Police Service determined seven percent of sexual assault cases to be unfounded during the time period of the Globe and Mail study. This was way below the national average of 19 percent.
Other police services throughout the country have also said they will be conducting reviews of how they handle sexual assault complaints.
More about Sexual assault, unfounded sexual assaults, globe and mail report, Report, public safety minister ralph goodale
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