The way forward II – An update on the implementation of the RCMP’s sexual assault review and victim support action plan
Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes in Canada. Results from the General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization indicates that only 6% of sexual assaults in 2019 were reported to police. This finding is consistent with former studies.
In February 2017, The Globe and Mail published a series of articles on how police handle sexual assault reporting. The articles raised concerns about police classifying sexual assaults as unfounded (20% of the time on average), as well as victim mistreatment.
Later in 2017, the #MeToo movement brought to light a number of sexual assault cases involving public figures. Sparking more open conversations about sexual violence, many people felt comfortable sharing their stories, and the number of sexual assault cases reported to the police increased.
In 2017, the RCMP established a national RCMP Sexual Assault Review Team (SART). The SART is the internal centre of expertise on sexual assault investigations.
In December 2017, supporting Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence, the RCMP published The way Forward the RCMP's sexual assault review and victim support action plan. In this report, the RCMP committed to 13 action items under the categories of:
- File review
- Police training and awareness
- Investigative accountability
- Victim support
- Public education and communications
The following tables will highlight each of the action items and inform of progress.
|The RCMP's file review has been expanded to include all sexual assault investigations not cleared by charge for calendar years 2015, 2016 and 2017.||Completed|| |
The review included over 30,000 files across all contract divisions where the RCMP is the police of jurisdiction (which excludes Ontario and Québec). Footnote 1
The review had two primary objectives:
The review found consistent deficiencies in some files, which required action to address gaps in training and oversight.
SART is now conducting file reviews of recently concluded sexual assault investigations. These reviews allow SART to identify investigational shortcomings. In time, they will also allow SART to measure the effects of:
In 2022, SART plans to conduct a file review of sexual assault investigations involving youth aged 12 to 17.
|The RCMP created a Best Practices Guide for Sexual Assault Investigations that complements RCMP policy and provides investigators with a reference guide and checklist to assist them in conducting comprehensive investigations.||Completed||The Best Practice Guide was created and has been continually updated with new information.||The Best Practice Guide will continue to be updated as required.|
The RCMP will develop a sexual assault training curriculum that addresses existing legislation and consent law; focuses on trauma-informed investigative tools and approaches, and gender-based violence; highlights common myths and stereotypes; reinforces victim rights and support services; and bolsters supervisory oversight and review. This training will be inclusive of vulnerable populations including but not limited to: Indigenous people, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, sex trade workers, children and youth under 18.
The training will be reflective of the diverse cultures and communities the RCMP serves.
|Ongoing – on track|| |
New tools, resources and training are now available to RCMP employees. These include the:
SART has also:
SART has developed an in-class course on sexual offence investigations to complement the online training.
SART will focus on developing tools and resources for child and youth sexual violence investigations in 2022.
The RCMP will continue to develop additional trainings that includes specific modules on vulnerable populations.
|RCMP Divisions will share components of the RCMP training curriculum with all employees who may interact with sexual assault victims and/or support investigations.||Completed|| |
All RCMP employees can access the tools, resources and training.
The Trauma-Informed Approach course is mandatory for all RCMP employees who interact with the public.
|RCMP Divisions will continue this objective as new training is developed over time.|
|The RCMP will form a national unit to provide training, guidance and oversight for sexual assault investigations; work with Divisions to establish external advisory committees where appropriate; and provide advice and guidance on sexual assault files where the RCMP is the police of jurisdiction.||Completed|| |
The RCMP created the Sexual Assault Review Team (SART) to be the internal centre of expertise on sexual assault investigations.
The RCMP has an internal Advisory Committee for Sexual Assault Investigations (ACSAI). The ACSAI acts as an open forum for investigators to:
All divisions where the RCMP is the police of jurisdiction are forming Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committees (SAIRCs). Victim advocates and other experts sit on Committees that are an extension of the RCMP's sexual assault investigation process. The SAIRCs help ensure investigations are thorough, timely, impartial, and properly classified. This helps strengthen and improve the RCMP's response to sexual assault crimes and investigations.
As of December 2021, SAIRCs are active in ten RCMP divisions. One remaining division encountered delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Planning is underway to establish the remaining SAIRC in 2022.
Work is ongoing to establish the remaining SAIRC in 2022.
SAIRCs will continue reviewing sexual assault investigations on a regular basis.
|The RCMP will update its policies and procedures to direct that investigators must provide clear justification for classifying a file as unfounded, and the classification must be approved by the immediate supervisor.||Completed|| |
The RCMP regularly reviews and updates operational policies. The RCMP national policy on sexual assault investigations was updated in 2019 and again in 2020. Updates include direction on correct file classification and emphasizes the need for supervisory approval.
Work is ongoing to update national policy to address findings from SART reviews and consultations with external partners.
|RCMP policies are reviewed periodically and updated as required.|
|The RCMP will continue to work with partners and stakeholders, including NGOs, to consult on the development of training, public awareness and internal policies associated with sexual assault.||Ongoing – on track|| |
The RCMP collaborates with stakeholders to develop sexual assault training, public awareness materials, and internal policies.
Individual divisions have also progressed this initiative. Some examples include:
|Efforts in this area will continue through participation on working groups and committees, as well as collaborating with community agencies on the SAIRCs, trainings, and policies.|
|Each RCMP Division will put in place a process to ensure appropriate supervisory oversight of sexual assault files.||Ongoing – on track|| |
The RCMP national policy directs that supervisors in all RCMP divisions must:
RCMP divisions are taking steps to ensure appropriate supervisory oversight of all sexual assault files. For example, one or more divisions have:
The RCMP continually reviews and updates operational policies.
Efforts to ensure appropriate supervisory oversight of sexual assault files will continue.
|RCMP Divisions will establish protocols for providing safe, secure and private environments for victims to report sexual assault.||Ongoing – on track||Some detachments have designated interview rooms where victims can provide a statement in a more comfortable environment. These are usually called "soft interview rooms." Other detachments can use private rooms for this purpose. Not all RCMP detachments are able to offer soft interview rooms. In some remote communities, RCMP buildings are too small to create soft interview rooms. When soft interview rooms are not available, divisions can use other spaces in the community or the soft interview room of a neighboring detachment. The RCMP supports the use of external partners for victim support during the investigative process.||Understanding the severity of the crime and its effect on victims, the RCMP continues to work towards making safe spaces available to people reporting sexual assaults to police.|
|Employees that interact with victims of sexual assault will be given a list of available victim services programs, and clear procedures for referring victims.||Ongoing – on track|| Several RCMP divisions have access to a list of victim services programs that can be provided to victims of sexual assault. Some examples include: |
Several divisions also have specific policies that provide clear direction on the use of victim services.
|In some northern and remote areas, a lack of community resources and/or culturally relevant resources makes it difficult to provide meaningful referrals. The RCMP will continue to work with partners and advocate for access to these essential services for victims.|
|Investigators, supervisors and detachment commanders will strengthen relationships with victim services partners, and hold regular meetings to share information, identify concerns, and work collaboratively to support victims.||Ongoing – on track|| |
RCMP divisions are working with external partners to support victims. For example, one or more divisions have:
|The RCMP will further strengthen relationships with outside agencies and continue to work towards this objective.|
|The RCMP will continue to explore alternative options for victims to report sexual assaults, such as third party reporting.||Ongoing – on track|| |
Third Party Reporting allows a survivor to report a sexual assault, anonymously, through a community-based organization. It is generally a community/organization-led initiative with police support.
Several provinces and territories have implemented third party reporting, including:
The RCMP continues to support alternative reporting options in communities within our jurisdiction. Some developments to date include:
|The RCMP will continue working with partners across the country to explore the option of Third Party Reporting in interested communities.|
|The RCMP will develop public awareness products that encourage victims to report allegations to police, and explain what victims may expect when reporting a sexual assault.||Ongoing - on track|| |
The RCMP has developed an infographic and brochure on sexual consent.
The RCMP has also added information for sexual assault survivors onto our national public website.
The RCMP uses its corporate and divisional social media accounts to:
|The RCMP will continue working towards this objective.|
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