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Kelowna  

RCMP respond to outrage

The RCMP says its handling of sensitive sexual assault investigations has evolved since the 2012 questioning of a First Nations teenager in Kelowna that caused ripples in Ottawa Wednesday.

In an email to Castanet News, E Division spokesperson Sgt. Janelle Shoihet referenced an RCMP effort titled "The way forward: The RCMP’s sexual assault review and victim support action plan."

"We do understand there is a greater discussion taking place around sexual assault investigations. The RCMP has been public in the past around the evolution of police investigational standards and training," she said.

"Those efforts have included strengthening police training and awareness, investigative accountability, victim support, and public education and communication."

The 2012 questioning of the teen girl sparked outrage in parliament Wednesday as MPs and ministers on all sides of the Commons branded police handling of the incident as outdated, inappropriate and insensitive.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said: "The apparent attitudes and techniques that were on display in 2012 are profoundly outdated, offensive, and wrong."

The teen had reported a sexual assault and was asked by an investigating officer: "Were you turned on during this at all, even a little bit?"

Video of the questioning came to light as it is part of a civil lawsuit against the B.C. Ministry of Child and Family Development, where recent allegations of wrong-doing have caused heads to roll at the Kelowna branch.

Shoihet said new training for RCMP officers continues to be a priority.

"Training on myths surrounding sexual assault and consent law is already available to employees through the RCMP’s online learning portal. A course on interviewing witnesses and victims was recently updated. Cultural competency training, trauma-informed investigations training and an advanced course for sexual assault investigators are under development. We are developing this training with subject matter experts in psychology, advocacy, and sexual assault investigations." 

Shoihet said the RCMP is "not in a position to provide further context or perspective" as the case is subject to restrictions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, an ongoing Criminal Code matter and civil litigation. 

"However, we believe that the ongoing judicial processes may allow for a fulsome disclosure of all the 2012 investigative findings and actions for assessment."

The RCMP is also establishing an external review model, she said, that can be adapted to fit various jurisdictions and includes developing national guidelines.



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