The RCMP is reviewing past sexual assault allegations Kelowna police have previously dismissed as “unfounded,” after stats came to light showing the local detachment had dismissed a much higher percentage of cases than the provincial average.
In a statement released Friday, Cpl. Meghan Foster of the Kelowna RCMP said they are currently unable to provide any specifics about why almost 40 per cent of sexual assault complaints were deemed unfounded in 2018, compared to roughly 15 per cent across B.C. In 2017, nearly 42 per cent of complaints were dismissed in Kelowna.
“We are aware that people may find the number of unfounded sexual assault files unsettling, and we are committed to ensuring the public that we are accountable for our investigations,” Foster said in a statement.
“For every investigation there are many variables – each investigation is different and we do not want to deter any survivors from bravely coming forward to report a sexual assault.”
Statistics Canada shows that in 2018, 53 "level 1" sexual assaults occurred in Kelowna, while an additional 35 were dismissed as unfounded.
As a result of the recent public attention over the stats, the national RCMP Sexual Assault Review Team is reviewing Kelowna's unfounded sexual assault files from 2018 and 2019. The RCMP says the team is made of sexual assault investigators and experts in gender-based violence.
“If this review indicates that not all investigative steps were followed, the file will be designated for a secondary review to determine what additional steps need to be taken by investigators and will be sent back to the BC RCMP for further review and/or investigation,” Foster said.
Earlier this week, Kelowna mayor Colin Basran said he's satisfied the RCMP is “doing the best they can with the resources they have.”
Meanwhile, Michelle Novakowski of the Elizabeth Fry Society called the statistics “appalling.”
Stats from Penticton show a similarly high percentage of sexual assaults that have been deemed unfounded.