Kelowna RCMP drop 40 per cent of sexual assault cases

Mayor confident in RCMP

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has spoken with RCMP Supt. Brent Mundle about recent statistics revealing the number of sexual assault cases being dropped in the city.

"I'm satisfied that our RCMP officers investigating these files are doing the best they can with the resources they have," said Basran.

But, with information revealing that 40 per cent of sexual assault Level 1 cases have been dropped over the last two years, Basran believes it is a serious issue and that RCMP can do better.

"We're always looking to improve – but I don't believe the public is at risk or that these files are not being taken seriously. I think quite the opposite," said Basran.

"I think the RCMP is taking them seriously, investigating appropriately, and they can always be better.... This is a serious issue, and it needs to be treated as such."

The Elizabeth Fry Society believes the RCMP would benefit from a specialized unit in Kelowna, but it is not yet known if that will happen in the future.

ORIGINAL: 9:36 a.m.

"It's appalling and very disappointing, but it's not surprising," Michelle Novakowski with the Elizabeth Fry Society says of the number of sexual assault cases deemed "unfounded" in Kelowna.

Data collected from StatsCan shows the ratio of sex assault cases either dropped or deemed unfounded in Kelowna over the last two years is a whopping 40 per cent.

In 2018 alone, there were 88 sexual assault Level 1 incidents reported to Kelowna RCMP, and 35 of those incidents were deemed unfounded.

The results dwarf the provincial average of 15 per cent unfounded cases.

"There's a lot of victim blaming – 'she shouldn't have been in that place, or she shouldn't have been drinking.' Police agencies are part of society, and although we hold them to a higher standard, they still reflect those public beliefs," says Novakowski.

She says there is a need for better police training when it comes to sexual assaults.

"We have been working with the RCMP for the past couple of years. We put together a training plan and resources, and we've done three sets of training with RCMP members and with school district staff as well."

The training focuses on sensitive handling of sexual abuse disclosures. 

"I think we're on the road to making some changes but theres still work to be done," said Novakowski.

"The reality is that under 10 per cent of sexual assaults are ever reported to police across Canada, so this is a small number that they're seeing."

Sexual assault and rape cases are often hard to prove due to a lack of witnesses or evidence. Novakowski believes Kelowna would benefit from a specialized unit such as those in larger cities.

The Elizabeth Fry Society is launching Speak Out, a campaign focused on supporting survivors. 

"We want to raise awareness for sexual and domestic violence and people involved to learn how they can help and not be a bystander," said Novakowski. 

The campaign will launch Nov. 1. More information is available, here.

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