The RCMP protest is this Saturday starting at 11am. Poster credit: Jo
Voices Up

Towards a Proper Understanding of Consent. The RCMP Protest is this Saturday

Triple the national average of rape charges dismissed as unfounded is a huge wake up call.

Why are almost 40% of reported sexual assault cases deemed unfounded in Kelowna? This alarming stat is eight times the amount of Vancouver’s and it’s triple the B.C. average.

Our public institutions have not reacted with the concern this demands. The Kelowna RCMP have responded with a preliminary review revealing nothing but to kick it down the road with an undetermined future review to be undertaken by RCMP themselves. Our mayor took a long time to reckon with it, initially defending the RCMP’s abysmal outcomes wholeheartedly.  Meanwhile victims, activists, reporters, journalists, and one councillor (Mohini Singh) have voiced up for the dismissed rape-reporters and against this abhorrent statistic. This Saturday there will be an opportunity for further public pressure to demand better “serving and protecting” by the Kelowna RCMP for those reporting sexual assault.

“Unfounded” basically means there is evidence to prove that the rape did not happen

It cannot be repeated enough that our unfounded stat is triple the B.C. average, and triple the national average. To be clear, unfounded does not mean there is not enough evidence to move forward on a case, it means there is enough evidence to rule that the rape in fact, did not happen. So that means, when you finally get the courage to report to the RCMP – if you do – there is a large likelihood that your case may get dismissed as unfounded.

The stories are sickening. As reported to the Kelowna Capital News, a brave rape survivor reported her sexual assault to the RCMP only to have them dismiss her case based on a misdirected phone call. A recent caller to CBC Daybreak was moved to share how, when her daughter was raped, impregnated and eventually underwent an abortion, she never went to the RCMP because of their poor reputation on taking sexual assault seriously.

Kelowna was rocked last spring when the media revealed a video of an officer asking a unaccompanied indigenous minor reporting a rape “were you turned on by this at all?”. While this reported case was by the West Kelowna RCMP, it speaks to the local culture. As I write this I am just now reading articles of her bravely sharing her story with the media.

It would appear that cops are re-traumatizing the victims, asking them if they consented in situations where they physically could not (either because they were unconscious or overpowered), allegedly providing inadequate investigation of the alleged perpetrators, and then almost 40% of the time finding enough evidence to categorically say reported rapes did not happen. Moreover, studies tell us that a large majority of sexual assaults are not reported. In the face of these insane unfounded numbers (almost half!) it’s easy to see why.

Where is public accountability when elected officials favour relationships over data?

How have the RCMP and our local officials reacted in the face such outsize and embarrassing numbers? And is it even the numbers themselves they’re reacting to, or the national scrutiny from the Globe and Mail, CBC and Stats Canada reports?

While the RCMP has put a female corporal out in front of this to state that while a “preliminary review” is complete, and they are “currently not in a position to provide specific examples of why any of these investigations were deemed unfounded”,  they will get around to reviewing each file (at some point in the future I guess – they never said when). Sounds super accountable.

RCMP Kelowna release by Corporal Meghan Foster.

Basran, we all know by now, fucked this up royally. When initially asked about the comparatively large numbers by CBC’s Chris Walker, he said “I have a good relationship with our RCMP superintendent… so when he tells me that he believes that the due diligence put into these cases … I take him at his word that that is what, in fact, is happening” – so much for Statistics Canada data (y’know, evidence).

So with those public institutions not on the side of rape survivors, there was still public pressure from many corners. In the media, CBC Daybreak and Kelowna Capital News’ Michael Rodriguez kept on the story with dogged determination, amplifying survivors’ voices and analyzing the culture around rape. One especially brave survivor and fighter lit up social media (and council chambers), often directly challenging the mayor.

The journalist who spearheaded the “Unfounded” investigation series for the Globe and Mail, Robin Doolittle came on CBC and called them “shocking” in today’s culture of MeToo. Doolittle’s analysis echoes the Elizabeth Fry Society’s worry that there is a misunderstanding of rape culture – myths that ‘women are asking for it’, or that they ‘shouldn’t have been drinking’, taking the responsibility off of the assailant – and that their training is a big problem that needs more work, and perhaps a better understanding of consent law (listen to Doolittle on CBC Daybreak clip here).

Add to this national scrutiny from the Globe and Mail’s ongoing reporting and spectre of becoming Canada’s Easiest Place To Get Away With Rape and finally we get an apology from our mayor. Last Friday, Basran expressed his regrets:

“I am sorry and offer my sincere apology to anyone offended or hurt by my initial reaction to this news. The number of local sex assault complaints deemed to be unfounded is deeply concerning, and I know the local detachment is taking this matter seriously”.

While the RCMP needs to review how they wrote off so many rape allegations and unlearn societal myths around consent and sexual relations, the focus must be on getting investigations right going forward. We need proper training here and we need the resources to do it – other cities have special units for sex crimes and so should we.

Join the protest this Saturday at 11am across from the RCMP station and demand more from our public protectors – they work for us.