'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

Sexual harassment in the RCMP and the failure to catch a serial killer

This page is a continuation of the post on this blog entitled "Sexual harassment in the RCMP and the failure to catch a serial killer". I have placed follow up news articles to that post in the comments sections on the original page. However, I am unable to add more than 200 comments to each post on this blog, and this particular news story is an ongoing extremely important story. There are ongoing and future lawsuits, investigations and inquiries related to both major elements of this story: 1) missing and murdered women, mostly Indigenous, who have been failed by Canadian police forces, including Canada's iconic Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP); 2) sexism and sexual harassment within the RCMP that hindered their investigation into a serial killer responsible for dozens of murders of vulnerable women, and prompted several lawsuits by mostly female RCMP officers complaining of intimidation and abuse of authority.

I will post further follow-up news articles related to those two issues in the comments section below.


  1. RCMP questions claim of 600 missing aboriginal women

    CBC News February 16, 2013

    The RCMP is questioning the oft-cited claim by an aboriginal group and some federal politicians that about 600 aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada.

    On today's edition of CBC Radio's The House, host Evan Solomon says that when he contacted the RCMP to confirm that there are 580 cases of aboriginal women who were either missing or killed in the country, the force said it wasn't aware of about 500 of them.

    The question of exactly how many aboriginal women are missing or killed in Canada comes during a week that included the Annual Day of Justice for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women on Friday, and a debate in the House of Commons that included a Liberal proposal to strike a special committee to investigate the issue. This week also sawa report from New York-based Human Rights Watch that accused the RCMP in British Columbia of abusive acts, including rape, against aboriginal women.

    The number 600 — used repeatedly in the House of Commons this week — comes from the Native Women's Association of Canada. In 2005, they began a program called Sisters in Spirit — a five-year research, education and policy initiative funded by Status of Women Canada – to collect data and examine the causes of the missing and killed Aboriginal women and girls. They say they documented 580 aboriginal women and girls across Canada as either disappeared or dead. That number counts cases until 2010, the year their funding was not renewed.

    But spokeswoman Sgt. Julie Gagnon said in an email that the Sisters in Spirit have shared the names of 118 alleged victims with the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing Services.

    Sixty-four of the 118 names were confirmed to be in a police database, while 54 could not be confirmed.

    "The RCMP is concerned with the over 500 possible victims from the Sisters in Spirit database that have not been shared," she said.

    The RCMP said they investigate all cases of missing and killed people regardless of sex, ethnicity, background or lifestyle and run special programs to investigate the aboriginal women file.

    The Native Women's Association of Canada did not reply to a request for an interview.


  2. On the front line in the old war against sexual assault

    Somewhere along the line — maybe always — women stopped trusting the male-dominated police to investigate and help bring such cases to court

    By Nahlah Ayed, CBC February 19, 2013

    The primary targets: throat, eyes and groin. After that, it’s the ears and the nose. "Whatever you do has to end the fight," counsels the taekwondo master.

    The abbreviated prescription for swift self-defence is dispensed matter-of-factly by Ramy Jerair Latchinian at an exercise studio in the upscale Cairo neighbourhood of Maadi.

    His techniques could help his female students win individual battles against sexual assault. But theirs is a full-scale war, fought daily on the streets — and lately, at almost every political protest against the government.

    "Sexual harassment has always existed in this society," says Zainab Sabet, an activist and a member of Tahrir Bodyguard, a fledgling anti-harassment group that organized the session.

    "But what's happening now is more of a political thing. I wouldn't call it even sexual harassment. I think it's sexual violence against women. It's very well-organized and it's done to really stop women from going and protesting."

    The shocking attacks, occasionally caught on camera, show large groups of men swarming a single female, taking her clothes off, groping and even raping her.

    They have become so commonplace — and the angry reaction to them so vocal — that they've caught the attention and invited the wrath of everyone from Amnesty International to the United Nations.

    They've also served to highlight the root problem of everyday sexual assault and harassment here, and to push young women to fight against it in the open.

    One of the world's oldest wars is flaring up in conservative societies like Egypt's. The front lines in the battle against sexual assault are now in places like Cairo and Delhi, where the attacks are common and increasingly violent, and resistance to ending it seems equally fierce.

    Both cities were recently outraged by singular incidents that highlighted a buried problem. And the similarities in Cairo and in Delhi — both places I had the chance to visit recently and discuss the subject — are breathtaking.

    Women feel they are considered fair game: harassed, groped, assaulted in public — even raped — with near impunity. In both places, women are still seen as having a role in society that is second to a man's, and one that is still intertwined with a family's honour.

    "These traditional views of what a woman's role should be are currently being challenged in a changing world," says Eba'a El-Tamami of Harassmap, an Egyptian organization whose research into sexual violence is supported by the Canadian International Development Research Centre.

    Increasingly in both places, women are joining the workforce and reaching beyond those traditional expectations.

    That may be one explanation of what must be a multitude of reasons for such appalling behaviour.

    But the bottom line, El-Tamami and other experts in both places tell me, is that somehow, at some point, sexual harassment became socially acceptable.

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  3. The only thing more shocking than the 2008 Egyptian Centre of Women's Rights' survey indicating that 83 per cent of local women and 98 per cent of foreign women experienced harassment in Egypt is the 62 per cent of male respondents who admitted they did it.

    Somehow, at some point, it also became OK to witness harassment in public and do nothing about it. When it happened, it became the norm to blame women, what they wear — or what they don't. As a "shameful" occurrence, it also became the norm for family, spouses, society, even the perpetrators, to expect women to keep their mouths shut.

    Somehow, women were adjusting their own behavior to avoid harassment. In Delhi, for example, they structured their entire day around getting home at a certain time to avoid being alone with men in the underground metro. In Cairo, they stayed home or close to home at all times to avoid groping on the street.

    And somewhere along the line — maybe always — women stopped trusting the male-dominated police in both places to investigate and help bring such cases to court.

    In both cities, examples were cited of complainants either being dismissed or ignored, and perhaps even harassed further by members of the police.

    Young Egyptian and Indian women have grown weary of waiting for the state to do something, and in the face of recent shocking incidents they’re acting on their own — whether through protests, raising awareness or direct action.

    In Egypt, Tahrir Bodyguard is just one of several groups that have banded together to form Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, a growing team of men and women who have formed a kind of hardcore swat team that will intervene in the mob sexual assaults in Tahrir Square protests and retrieve the victim and get her to safety.

    A key member of that coalition is also Harassmap, whose army of volunteers have long been on the front lines using other approaches, working in their own communities for example to destroy myths and establish safe spaces for women to seek shelter in case of emergency.

    "When someone tells us [harassment happens] because of what she wears, or it’s only unveiled women who wear tight clothes who get harassed, you say actually, 'No,' " says El-Tamami.

    "Veiled women get harassed, old women get harassed, young women get harassed, all women of all ages and social classes."

    After decades of activism produced only incremental progress, today's youthful fightback seems to be working.

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  4. It took a while, but the outcry in India over the rape and murder of a university student in December yielded some results: a new court to expedite cases of sexual assault and a new law this month that toughens penalties.

    In Cairo, as in Delhi, the sustained work of many activists has made sexual assault the subject of numerous recent Egyptian television shows and newspaper editorials. Prime Minister Hisham Qandil is promising to deliver a new law soon on sexual harassment and assault that would impose harsher punishment.

    There have also been big setbacks. In a comment that isn't the first of its kind, a cleric said on television this month that women who go to Tahrir Square to protest go because they want to get raped.

    Even worse, several members of the human rights committee of Egypt’s upper house who had been looking at sexual assault blamed women last week.

    The woman is to blame "when she chooses to protest in places filled with thugs," said one member, adding women bring on rape when they put themselves in a position that "makes them subject to rape."

    "They are completely relieving the Ministry of the Interior of protecting the people and blaming the women," says Rana Allam, managing editor of the English Daily News Egypt. "They're saying, 'Let's put women in their homes and stay there, and shut up.' "

    Such comments just seem to motivate youthful activists. Groups say a growing number of young women — and men — are signing up to combat the problem on the streets and at protests alike.

    Others fight back by returning to protests time and again despite the danger. But they now come prepared, some carrying a stun-gun-like weapon, for example, or a simple knife.

    The volunteer instructors at the Maadi class counsel women against carrying weapons because they can be used again them.

    Patricia Stein, a transplanted American who has practised taekwondo for years, says it's more about how women carry themselves.

    One night, she herself managed to grab one assailant by his throat and hit him in the eye after he groped her on a Maadi street.

    "They don’t expect you to fight back, they're so shocked that they just run," she said.

    "Half the battle is knowing how to carry yourself. If you're able to stand tall and walk like you know how to do anything … it could possibly save you."

    The students were appreciative, though some felt two hours was hardly enough to master the moves.

    "Actually I have been looking for such a course for a long time, even before the revolution, because it's not safe to walk anymore," said Rania Muhammed.

    "Now when I'm walking and I feel steps behind me, I move to the other side of the road. It's not safe anymore, society is changing a lot."

    It certainly is. And as in the revolution itself, it's the youth who are bent on changing it again.


  5. Angels Story: Trapped in a Violent World

    Brutal forces 'funnel' some aboriginal women into prostitution, say advocates who oppose legalization. A multimedia report.

    By Krystle Alarcon and Sam Eifling March 4, 2013

    Angel Gates has been trying to exit prostitution ever since she was "turned out" at the age of 11 in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Money issues, addictions and lack of support services have held her back from escaping.

    She's not alone. The harsh realities of what women like Gates go through have caused national aboriginal women's groups to take a stance against calls to legalize prostitution, saying what's needed instead is a commitment to creating alternatives for women facing brutal pressures to become, and remain, sex workers.

    Gates says she was "tied up, blindfolded and gagged," on her first day at the Balmoral Hotel on East Hastings.

    She does not blame her mother, a former prostitute herself, for forcing her to turn her first trick to pay for her own addictions.

    "She did the best she could with the tools she was given. I know that. I miss her a lot," Gates says. Despite (or perhaps in spite of) all the traumas Gates has been through, including losing custody of her children and having to kill a john in self-defence, she walks around with eyes on the back of her head. She's the type who can hear two conversations at once and does not take well to pity. (Gates shares more of her views and story in the video at the top of this article.)

    Her mother's picture now hangs in her aunt Bernie Williams' community space, The Sacred Circle, as part of a collection of missing and murdered aboriginal women in the Downtown Eastside.

    'It breaks my heart'

    Gates and Williams hail from the Haida nation of northern B.C. Williams has been begging Gates to stop ever since she found out she was prostituting. "I understand why, you know, why you've ended up down here. It breaks my heart every time I see you," Williams says to Angel.

    "I just look at these pictures and I hope to God I never have to carry you."

    Williams has been advocating for an end to prostitution for three decades now -- her fire has never been quelled since her two sisters and mother are among the missing and murdered First Nations women in the Downtown Eastside.

    That burning yearning for justice kindled a strength in her to walk hundreds of miles with other aboriginal women to bring attention to the missing and murdered women. They trekked along the so-called "Highway of Tears" in 2009, from Kamloops to Winnipeg in 2010, and from Vancouver to Parliament Hill in 2011. Williams co-founded the Walk4Justice marches withGladys Radek, a Gitxsan/Wet'suwet'en woman.

    Williams believes social forces such as poverty, residential schools and the lingering effects of colonization have funneled aboriginal women into prostitution. "These are women who have been so well entrenched in violence that they think this is all they are worth," she says. "They didn't end up down here just because they wanted to get away (from home), no."

    Roots of exploitation

    According to a report in 2005 of prostitution in Vancouver, 52 per cent out of a sample of 100 people interviewed identified themselves as aboriginal (First Nations, Metis or Inuit). A startling link may be drawn with childhood abuse: 96 per cent said they were sexually abused, 81 per cent said they were physically abused as minors.

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  6. A separate study on trafficked and prostituted aboriginal youth in the Downtown Eastside connected Canada's historic residential schools to prostitution. "The impact of the residential schools is illustrated by harmful behaviours adopted by many of the survivors like alcoholism, compulsive gambling, substance abuse, and high incidences of sexual problems including sexual abuse and incest. These intergenerational effects of trauma leech outward from the victims to touch all the people surrounding them, like parents, spouses, children and friends," the report states.

    Robyn Bourgeois, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto whose forthcoming dissertation is titled Pathways of Resistance: The Politics of Addressing Violence Against Aboriginal Women and Girls in Canada, 1980-2010, agrees with this systemic analysis of prostitution. In her research, she found that the prostitution of aboriginal women was used as a means to prevent mixed marriages with western men, to enforce residential schools, to facilitate the widespread removal of children from aboriginal families into the child welfare system -- the so-called "sixties scoop."

    "It is one of those systems of oppression that has been used to establish the inferiority of aboriginal women in particular in order to justify colonialism again and again and again. And it slips really nicely with that language that aboriginal women are dirty, promiscuous easy 'squaws,' right?"

    'Scared to death'

    Bourgeois, who is Lubicon Cree, is also a former prostitute, trafficked by one of those "boyfriend" types of pimps. Although she only prostituted for a few years, the experience scarred her for life.

    In an interview with The Tyee, she recalled the first day she was forced to prostitute in Vancouver. Her pimp took her to a hotel, where they "were daydreaming about how beautiful it was." He then invited her to a nice stroll in the park, by the dock. There, he forced her head underwater.

    "I was freaked out of my mind and scared to death and I knew what was going on. But you take these drugs and you take a drink and you can forget that. You do what you have to do," she laments.

    Bourgeois was 18 at the time. Ten years later, she is releasing her PhD dissertation on violence against aboriginal women and girls in Canada. She knows her privileges and "pledged every ounce of it to ending this violence," she says in a blog interview.

    Like Williams, Bourgeois also sees family as the only way out of prostitution right now. "It was family who had resources who were able to help me," Bourgeois says. "Either you have somebody in your family who really loves and cares about you, or you go out in a pine box and that's it," Williams echoes.

    State responsibility

    The personal has become political for First Nations women such as Gates, Williams and Bourgeois. They strongly oppose the current cases launched in Ontario and B.C. to legalize brothels, pimping, street transactions of prostitution and to make sex work a constitutional right. These cases are better known as the Bedford case and the Sex Workers United Against Violence v. Canada case.

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  7. Gates does not agree with the legalization of the whole sex industry, but also thinks that prostitutes should not be criminalized. "Men go to john school and women go to jail. I think they should fix it so the women are safer. Legalizing only puts little kids out on the street and makes it okay. We don't come into prostitution by accident. We're made this way. It's some form of pain that you put there in the first place, usually sex crimes when you're little. I don't think it's okay," she says.

    Gates, who still lives in the Downtown Eastside, says that Canada should create more harm-reduction services such as those implemented in the neighbourhood. She says that as an "active prostitute," she does not see the eradication of prostitution as realistic.

    Bourgeois, Williams and advocates of the Aboriginal Women's Action Network (AWAN) do. They prefer the "Nordic model" over legalization -- where prostitutes are decriminalized and pimps and johns are criminalized. The model, implemented in Sweden, Iceland and Norway, is a three-prong approach to slowly ending the demand to prostitution.

    "This model includes law reform that criminalizes the male demand for paid sex and decriminalizes prostituted women, offers comprehensive social programs to all women and girls, and educates the public about prostitution as a form of male violence against women and girls. We, Indigenous women, believe this model encourages true social change that works in our interest," AWAN states in a 2011 Women's Worlds Conference declaration.

    'Not asking the hard questions'

    Samantha Grey, a member of AWAN, vehemently disagrees with the way the Bedford case would potentially change prostitution laws in Canada. "The women who are doing the Bedford case do not represent the majority of women in prostitution, they represent that very small minority of women who claim that that is their choice. And the sad part is that they're always the ones more vocal because they have the freedom."

    Another national aboriginal women's group, the Native Women's Association of Canada,intervened in the Bedford case and agree with the Nordic model. Their position is based on the582 cases they documented of missing and murdered aboriginal women throughout Canada as of 2010.

    Grey says that there also needs to be more exiting services for women to leave the prostitution. "We don't want safer, we want safe. We don't want a band-aid solution, Grey says.

    Grey echoes other First Nations women advocates in declaring that the discussion around poverty, addiction and prostitution is too limited, even at the very top levels of policy and legal decision-making. "They're not asking the hard questions," says Grey. "They're not asking the questions that need to be answered in order to make prostitution non-existent."

    to see the numerous links embedded in this article and to view the mulit-media go to:


  8. Ex-Mountie claims she is being censored

    Denied chance to speak before Commons committee on sexual harrassment in RCMP

    CBC News March 8, 2013

    A veteran RCMP officer who was scheduled to testify before a House of Commons committee investigating harassment within the force says she's being censored and excluded after submitting her speaking notes.

    Krista Carle said Friday she was shocked when Conservative members of the House of Commons standing committee on the status of women cancelled her appearance yesterday on Parliament Hill, shortly after she submitted her speaking notes to the committee 36 hours before hand, as required.

    Carle said she was told she couldn't testify because she's among 300 female RCMP officers waiting to join a class-action lawsuit alleging they were sexually harassed while working for the force.

    The committee began looking into harassment of female officers within the ranks of the RCMP and of woman throughout the federal workforce afterCBC News broke the story of former officer Catherine Galliford's alleged harassment more than a year ago.

    Carle says she believes some of the seven Conservative MPs who hold the majority of the 12 seats on the committee are trying to silence her.

    "Some of Canada's bravest women received a terrible blow yesterday from their own government — to be muzzled by our own government after finally having the courage to speak up," Carle said Friday.

    Carle said she is used to being silenced. When the former corporal and three other female officers accused RCMP Sgt. Robert Blundell of sexual assault in the late 1990s, they weren't allowed to testify then either, she alleges.

    "I speak for countless numbers of women," she said.

    Officer derided

    Yesterday, only one former Mountie, who is not currently involved in any litigation against the RCMP, got to tell the committee about her years of working under a male boss at the RCMP.

    "My supervisor — the one who was in charge of me — and another officer thought it was funny to call me 'beaver' and 'raisin tits,' not only in the office but on the radio and in public," Sherry-Lee Benson-Podolchuk testified on Thursday. "And when I would sign birthday cards they would put 'Beaver' or 'Raisin Tits' under my name," said Benson-Podolchuk.

    Judy Sgro, vice chair of the committee, is angry about the decision to cancel Carle's appearance.

    "To not hear from a woman who was an integral part of the sexual harassment for many years, to not to hear them when we heard from Mr. Paulson who admitted there were some issues, and to deny the committee the opportunity to hear in detail more on some of these issues — we only have, I believe, these two individuals who are going to speak directly to it — I think really leaves the committee at a disadvantage," the Liberal MP said.

    The NDP says if the harassment lawsuits are an issue, the federal government should settle them and listen to the alleged victims' stories.

    "What we've called on the government to do is start a process of reconciliation with these women and not drag them through the courts for years and years," said NDP MP Randall Garrison.

    "It's shameful what is happening and it's an affront to women on International Women's Day," Carle said.

    But Carle and other former female Mounties may still get a chance to tell their stories on Parliament Hill, because the Senate plans to launch its own investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment within the RCMP.

    to read Krista Carle's speaking notes and see the links embedded in this article go to:


  9. Complaint against psychologist critical of RCMP dismissed

    College of psychologists rules Mike Webster's conduct within realm of professional discretion

    CBC News March 27, 2013

    The College of Psychologists of B.C. has dismissed an RCMP complaint against an outspoken critic of the force.

    B.C.-based police psychologist Mike Webster was blacklisted by the Mounties last summer amid allegations he had no right to focus on systemic changes to the force rather than individual treatment.

    Webster used to treat Mounties on medical leave after on-the-job conflicts. But last summer, his patients were told to find another doctor or pay for his sessions themselves.

    The national police force then filed a formal complaint with the College of Psychologists of B.C., alleging Webster lacked objectivity and sound medical judgment by publicly criticizing the status quo and advocating for organizational change.

    The RCMP also alleged Webster was practicing outside his areas of expertise by offering opinions about the structure of the force.

    Webster maintained the RCMP was a toxic work environment and improving it would also improve the health of his clients.

    In his response to the complaints, Webster told the college he based his advice on available public and academic data, his experience working with the force for more than 30 years and the basic police training he got at the RCMP academy.

    The college of psychologists dismissed all of the RCMP’s allegations, saying Webster's conduct fell within the realm of professional discretion and judgment.

    The RCMP has 30 days to appeal the decision.


  10. Senate finds possible privilege breach over Mountie's testimony

    CBC News May 8, 2013

    In a landmark ruling, Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella concluded that, at least at first glance, an alleged attempt by the RCMP to discourage a BC Mountie from travelling to Ottawa to testify about harassment within the police force before a Senate committee could constitute a breach of parliamentary privilege.

    Earlier this week, CBC British Columba reported that, just days before his scheduled appearance, an RCMP health official informed Corporal Roland Beaulieu that if he felt "physically and cognitively able to participate in these hearings," he would be considered ready to return to "administrative duties" at his unit immediately.

    The agency also issued a new directive forbidding Mounties on sick leave from travelling to Ottawa, "or anywhere else outside their jurisdiction" without written approval from both RCMP medical staff and management.

    That sparked Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan to rise in the Red Chamber yesterday afternoon to make the case that the move to prevent Beaulieu from testifying could constitute a double-barreled breach of privilege, violating, as it did, both "the right of witnesses to appear before Parliament unobstructed and the right of parliamentarians to hear from witnesses."

    As it turned out, the speaker agreed - as did the Chamber, which unanimously supported a motion to refer the matter to the Senate privilege committee for further study.

    Given that such matters take precedent over virtually all other parliamentary business, that investigation could get underway as early as next week, and will almost certainly result in a second invitation being extended to Beaulieu, as well as other senior RCMP officials, not all of whom, it's worth noting, may be quite so eager to appear.

    Here's the full ruling, as delivered in the Senate chamber earlier today:

    Yesterday, Senator Cowan raised a question of privilege about media reports suggesting that a witness invited to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence during its study of Bill C-42 had not done so because of pressures exerted on him by his employer. The bill had been reported earlier in the sitting, without amendment but with observations. As the Leader of the Opposition explained, Corporal Roland Beaulieu, a member of the RCMP currently on medical leave, had been invited to appear before the committee on Monday, May 6. Senator Cowan indicated that last week Corporal Beaulieu had been informed that if he came to Ottawa to testify his medical leave would be terminated. As a result he did not attend. A number of other honourable senators then participated in consideration of the question of privilege. After these interventions, the chair committed to ruling today.

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  11. Before dealing with the substance of the question of privilege -- the allegation of deliberate witness intimidation -- it should be made clear that the proceedings of the committee at its Monday meeting have not been questioned. The committee heard witnesses, including representatives of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, to which Corporal Beaulieu belongs, and reviewed the bill clause-by-clause. Bill C-42 was then reported back to the Senate. The bill is now on the Order Paper and open to debate at third reading.

    As already noted, the fundamental issue is the protection of witnesses. Privilege is the sum of the rights enjoyed by this house and its members that are necessary for us to conduct our work. We must be mindful that this protection of privilege is not limited to parliamentarians alone. More importantly, with respect to the current situation, witnesses also enjoy a range of protection. As stated at page 267 of the 24th edition of Erskine May, "Any conduct calculated to deter prospective witnesses from giving evidence before either House or a committee is a contempt." Erskine May then continues to explain "It is also a contempt to molest any person attending either House as witnesses, during their attendance in such House or committee," as are threats against those who have previously appeared. These points are repeated at page 840. Similar statements are made at pages 114 and 115 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which explains that witnesses are protected from threat or intimidation.

    On April 13, 2000, the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders -- now the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament -- presented its fifth report, dealing with allegations about reprisals against a witness. The report stated in part as follows:

    The Senate, and all Senators, view with great seriousness any allegations of possible intimidation or harassment of a witness or potential witness before a Senate committee. In order for the Senate to discharge its functions and duties properly, it must be able to call and hear from witnesses without their being threatened or fearing any repercussions. Any interference with a person who has given evidence before a Senate committee, or who is planning to, is an interference with the Senate itself, and cannot be tolerated.

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  12. The essential issue is not whether representatives of the association appeared before the committee. They did. The issue is whether there was a deliberate attempt to impede the appearance of an invited witness, agreed to by the Steering Committee. Witnesses or potential witnesses who fear retaliation, directly or indirectly, arising from their testimony, whether because of implied or direct threats or because previous witnesses or potential witnesses have suffered due to the fact that they appeared or considered appearing, will either be unwilling to appear or, if they do, will not be forthcoming in their evidence. Since this impedes parliamentarians on the committee in the full exercise of their duties, it would represent a breach of privilege.

    Based on the information available, the witness had agreed to travel to Ottawa and come before the committee. He cancelled because an RCMP medical officer informed him that, if he did testify, he would be considered able to return to work and his medical leave would be terminated. Furthermore, on the last working day before the committee meeting, it would seem that a new policy was issued by the RCMP, requiring that a member on medical leave seek approval before undertaking certain types of travel. All this could be coincidental, but the chronology of events and the allegations are such as to raise concern.

    I will now turn to the four criteria of rule 13-3(1), all of which must be met for a prima facie case of privilege to be established. Senator Cowan clearly raised this issue at the first opportunity, thereby meeting this first criterion.

    In terms of the second criterion, that the matter must "directly concern[] the privileges of the Senate, any of its committees or any Senator," the references to the procedural works already given make clear that this matter does involve the privileges of the Senate and its committees. Unlike many other parliamentary bodies, questions of privilege relating to the work of a committee can be raised in the Senate itself, without requiring a report of the committee.

    If there were intent to intimidate the witness, it is clearly a grave and serious breach, therefore meeting the third criterion.

    The final criterion is that a question of privilege must seek a remedy the Senate can "provide and for which no other parliamentary process is reasonably available." In this case, the issue is not whether the committee did its work properly. As far as can be ascertained, it did. Instead, the fundamental issue is whether there was a deliberate attempt to prevent a witness from appearing. Were this to be so, it would constitute contempt. The accepted remedy is to treat such issues as cases of privilege. As such, the final criterion has also been fulfilled. This ruling, to be clear, does not establish that there was a deliberate intent to intimidate, which would be a decision for the Senate to eventually make, but rather that there is reason for concern.

    The ruling is, therefore, that there is a prima facie case of privilege. [...]


  13. Families of Four Pickton Victims File Sweeping Lawsuit

    Named: RCMP, VPD, City of Vancouver, justice minister, crown prosecutors. Pickton siblings accused of 'abetting' murders.

    By David P. Ball, 9 May 2013, TheTyee.ca

    The gruesome saga of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton's trial and a scathing public inquiry may be over, but families of four of the Coquitlam pig farmer's victims today launched the first lawsuit to emerge from the tragedies.

    Seven of the women's children filed civil suit documents in the BC Supreme Court this morning, containing shocking allegations of negligence or gross negligence by authorities -- including the RCMP, Vancouver Police Department, City of Vancouver, Minister of Justice Shirley Bond, and Crown Prosecutors -- and directly accusing Pickton's siblings Dave and Linda of full knowledge and "abetting" his crimes.

    None of the allegations have been proven in court, and neither have those named yet responded to the lawsuits, which were filed by lawyers on behalf of the children of murdered women Dianne Rock, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks and Yvonne Boen.

    Pickton was convicted of six counts of second degree murder, after 27 other murder charges were dropped. However, he confessed to an undercover officer of killing 49 women.

    Though the serial killer's siblings never testified in his trial or the inquiry -- despite lawyers' requests to Commissioner Wally Oppal that Dave testify -- this is the first legal case to accuse the Pickton family of responsibility in Robert's crimes.

    "David Pickton and Linda Wright were at all times aware that Robert Pickton was bringing Vancouver-based sex workers to the Pickton Property and causing them harm," the court filings allege. "David Pickton and Linda Wright knew that Robert Pickton and others tortured and killed sex workers and other persons at the Pickton Property, and were aware that Robert Pickton represented a danger to persons attending the Pickton property. The Pickton Siblings, and each of them, owed a duty of care ... as occupiers of the Pickton Property ... and accordingly were negligent or grossly negligent."

    'Something we want behind us': Dave Pickton

    When reached by phone, Dave Pickton told The Tyee he knew nothing about the lawsuit. None of the allegations against him have been proven in court.

    "This is first time I've heard of it," Dave Pickton told The Tyee. "If they've got a problem, it's with the government and my brother -- not us.

    "They can do whatever the hell they want.... This is something we want behind us -- for everybody to move forward."

    The case is being brought forward by lawyers Jason Gratl, Robin Whitehead and Neil Chantler, on behalf of seven family members. Among other unproven accusations contained in the documents:

    That the Vancouver Police Department, RCMP, New Westminster Police, and prosecution service "caused unnecessary psychological suffering" by failing to inform victims' family members of DNA discovered in ground meat on Pickton's farm.

    That Crown Counsel "knew or ought to have known that Robert Pickton presented a substantial danger to the life and security of sex workers."

    That VPD and RCMP investigations of Robert Pickton "were negligent and, in particular, the investigations were deficient" for failing to follow up on informants' tips or properly interrogate allegations against Pickton.

    That David Pickton "lied to police investigators about his brother Robert with the intention to obstruct and hinder the police investigation and to undermine his prosecution" for a 1997 attempted murder charge which was dropped by the Crown, the documents alleged. "His intention was to assist Robert Pickton to get away with the crime of attempted murder."

    continued in next comment...

  14. Five RMCP officers named

    Though Oppal's December 2012 report accused the various police forces involved in the Pickton investigation of "colossal failure," as well as racial bias, he did not name any individual police officers.

    Today's lawsuit, however, levels accusations against five officers by name: Richard Hall, Earl Moulton, Brad Zalys, Ruth Chapman (all four members of Coquitlam RCMP detachment), and Frank Henley (a member of the RCMP "E" Division). The RCMP did not respond to interview requests regarding the lawsuit, or about the named police officers.

    "There are clear findings of misconduct, poor conduct by police officers, and arguably negligence in Oppal's report -- so there's no doubt these claims are founded in large part on what Oppal found after nine months of hearings," lawyer Neil Chantler told The Tyee. "Of course, they hope it will bring closure. It's the final step in what's been a long process."

    Chantler explained that the Pickton siblings were named because, under the province's Occupiers Liability Act a property-owner can be held responsible for harm caused on their property.

    "(The Act) essentially creates a standard of care that landowners are required to meet," Chantler said. "It provides that people who are harmed on a piece of land may sue the landowner. All three siblings owned the land on which these women are presumed to have been murdered."

    But the lawyer said that families "reluctantly" filed suit because they feared Oppal's recommendation of compensation for victims' children is not being implemented, despite Attorney General Shirley Bond's promise that B.C. would immediately begin action on the commissioner's ideas.

    "We are not going to wait," Bond told reporters on Dec. 17. "Today we are taking immediate action.... It's a beginning and there's much more to be done.

    "I want to assure the families and friends of victims, as well as all British Columbians, that our government will use the recommendations in this report to make changes and protect vulnerable women in our province. These will not happen overnight; we have a long journey ahead of us.... It has taken years to get to this place, but I am hopeful that we can move forward together."

    More lawsuits coming: lawyer

    When he released his final report on Dec. 17, 2012, Oppal called the missing women investigation a "colossal failure" but insisted that naming individual police officers or authorities by name would not be useful.

    "I have come to the conclusion that there was systemic bias by the police," Oppal said. "It was important for me to understand the underlying causes of police failures.

    "The women were poor -- they were addicted, vulnerable, Aboriginal. They did not receive equal treatment by police. As a group, they were dismissed.... These women were vulnerable; they were treated as throwaways."

    The City of Vancouver -- named in the document -- declined to comment on the matter as it is before the courts, a spokesperson told The Tyee.

    The Coquitlam RCMP and Ministry of Attorney General also declined to comment on the lawsuit, instead forwarding The Tyee to other departments' spokespeople. Minister of Justice Shirley Bond and the BC RCMP "E" Division did not return interview requests in time for publication.

    Chantler said today's lawsuit is only the first in a series, but that families hoped to give the government time to implement recommendations before using a legal avenue.

    "There are more," he told The Tyee. "We're working with some other families on bringing claims as well, and there will be more filed.

    "They'd hoped this would be unnecessary, but this is what needs to be done in order to bring them that closure."


  15. Steven Point resigns from vulnerable womens committee

    Former lieutenant governor steps down over lawsuits filed by children of missing women

    CBC News May 17, 2013

    Steven Point, the former lieutenant governor of British Columbia, has resigned as chair of the advisory committee on the safety and security of vulnerable women because of lawsuits that put him in a difficult legal position.

    Point told CBC News he stepped down because statements he might make could become evidence at several civil lawsuits launched by the children of women whose remains were found on the farm of serial killer Robert Pickton.

    "I came to the conclusion that everything that we were going to do was around and with the families, and so when you proceed to litigation it just changes everything, and so I had this discussion with government and I decided it would be best for me to step down," said Point.

    The lawsuits were launched by the children of Dianne Rock, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks and Yvonne Boen. They claim police failed to warn sex workers about a serial killer in the Downtown Eastside and even provided false assurances they were safe.

    B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond confirmed Point stepped down because the lawsuits put him in a difficult position legally.

    "The plaintiffs have put Mr. Point on notice that, in his role as chair of the advisory committee, his comments and remarks may well become evidence in the course of the litigation," Bond said in a statement issued Friday morning.

    "This would have placed an impossible burden on Mr. Point to avoid making statements that could be misinterpreted or be used in or influence the course of litigation.

    "I appreciate the decisions of the four families of missing women who have chosen to pursue civil suits related to the Pickton case, but I am disappointed that the no-doubt unintended consequences of these claims have led Mr. Point to conclude that he must step aside. When matters proceed to court, the litigation process takes precedence over all other related processes."

    Point was appointed to chair the advisory committee by Premier Christy Clark following the release of former attorney general Wally Oppal's report on the police mishandling of the missing women investigation.

    The former provincial court judge and tribal chair of the Sto:lo First Nation served as B.C.'s 28th lieutenant-governor from 2007 to 2012.


  16. RCMP has no interest in discussing harassment suit settlement

    Senators hear of bullying, harassment from Mounties in B.C.

    CBC News Posted: May 17, 2013

    A lawyer representing 300 women who worked for the RCMP alleging harassment and gender-based discrimination in a lawsuit says the national police force is declining an offer to mediate.

    "The RCMP indicated they have no interest to discuss settlement. It comes as a big surprise to us," said Vancouver class action lawyer David Klein.

    But earlier this year, RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson's action plan said the force would "expeditiously resolve, wherever appropriate, outstanding harassment-related lawsuits."

    On Friday, Klein said his clients want to see some solutions.

    "They want the RCMP and the women themselves to be able to move past this to settle," Klein said.

    The allegations in the proposed class action lawsuit have not yet been tested in court.

    Senators travel to B.C. to hear from Mounties
    Klein made his comments as some Liberal MPs and Senators were in Vancouver to hear from RCMP officers who have complained about sexual harassment or bullying but were unable to testify at parliamentary committees.

    Some women wereexcluded from speaking in Parliament because of their involvement in the ongoing legal case.

    But others who are not involved in the legal proceeding also had difficulties testifying. Just last week Cpl. Roland Beaulieu, said he had been prevented from appearing at a Senate committee last week in Ottawa. Beaulieu was informed that if he was well enough to travel to Ottawa then he must be well enough to return to work. He is on stress leave suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

    "I don't want to be fired. I'm hoping by going public here, will force management to deal with my issues," Beaulieu said on Friday in Vancouver.

    Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell said he was appalled that some Mounties suffering from post-traumatic stress and other issues were not being heard.

    "We had people who had been injured which we haven't been able to have because the government won’t let us call them before parliamentary committee," Mitchell said. "The take away is, it's deeply, deeply damaging on a personal level."

    Mounties told the panel Friday the RCMP is broken, corrupt and rife with misconduct.

    "I've seen female members harassed because they are lesbians. I've seen people picking up hookers and getting transferred and promotions," said RCMP officer Peter Kennedy.

    On Friday, the Senators and MPs listened carefully.

    "Short of blowing up the RCMP from the top down, I'm not sure after the things I've heard today and earlier, if we are ever going to be able to fix the RCMP," said Liberal MP Judy Sgro.

    "All of these women were treated as they were just wallpaper, just the pretty candy, and they had to be there for the abuse of their superior officers," Sgro said. "And because they didn't co-operate, their lives were ruined."


  17. Mountie sues 13 ex-colleagues for sex assault, harassment

    Woman alleges incidents took place while she was working on Musical Ride in 1980s

    CBC News May 21, 2013

    An RCMP staff sergeant has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against 13 former colleagues in the force's travelling equestrian show the Musical Ride, claiming she was sexually assaulted and harassed in the 1980s.

    Staff Sgt. Caroline O'Farrell, 52, who works in Ottawa, claims she was sexually assaulted, assaulted and harassed from 1986 to 1987 while working as a constable.

    Her ex-husband and their two children are also listed as plaintiffs, claiming $300,000 in damages under the Family Law Act for a loss of care and guidance from O'Farrell due to the alleged abuse.

    The defendants are listed as Kevin Baillie, Gary Beam, Sylvain Berthiaume, Luc Boivin, Greg Chiarot, Francois Duguay, Marc Godue, Mike Herchuk, Cory Hoehn, David Kopp, Christine Mackie Windover, Gerry Ogilvie and Michael Roblee, as well as the Attorney General of Canada.

    The statement of claim alleges that O'Farrell, one of the few women working in the Musical Ride, was subjected to an outdated hazing ritual in which she was doused with water and then dragged by her arms and legs through stall shavings mixed with manure and urine.

    The suit, seeking more than $8 million in damages, alleges she was subjected to this because she was a woman.

    It also alleges that when she began to complain and defend herself, she was harassed by her attackers for doing so. It alleges members of the ride took bets on when O'Farrell might attempt suicide and made fun of her for complaining.

    It also alleges that when she fell asleep on a bus ride in Alberta, someone filmed a finger through the fly of his pants next to her ear, simulating a penis. It claims the video was shown to her and others, and left her feeling degraded as though she had been sexually assaulted.

    Claimant says no substantial action taken

    The statement of claim alleges O'Farrell was eventually transferred from the Musical Ride unit "against her will" because supervisors "couldn't guarantee her safety," and that an RCMP harassment investigation upheld her complaints.

    "The final investigation concluded that there were over 100 incidents of harassment that had been substantiated. She was informed by the investigators that her complaint resulted in the largest internal investigation ever conducted in Ottawa," the statement of claim reads.

    "However, the RCMP took no real or substantial action against the harassers as a result of its investigation. Some of the harassers received informal discipline (counselling and warnings); others received no form of censure at all. Most of her harassers continue to work in the RCMP today, some as high-ranking officers and others as senior non-commissioned officers in positions of significant influence and authority," the statement of claim reads.

    continued in next comment...

  18. O'Farrell was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her time with the Musical Ride, the statement says.

    It alleges her marriage "deteriorated quickly," that she hasn't been able to have meaningful, long-term relationships with other men, and that her relationships with her children were also negatively affected.

    Criminal charges briefly entertained, suit alleges

    The statement alleges O'Farrell was called to a provincial Crown attorney's office about possible criminal charges, but that the assistant Crown attorney refused to lay any because "the statute of limitations for those offences had passed to proceed on a summary conviction basis, and that the criminal charge could not proceed by way of indictment."

    It also alleges the assistant Crown attorney was the son of a former RCMP commissioner and the brother of an RCMP officer, that he said the charges would be embarrassing for her and the RCMP, and that he would withdraw the charges if they were filed.

    The lawsuit does not name the assistant Crown attorney.

    None of the allegations contained in the suit have been proven in court.

    A statement from O'Farrell's law firm said O'Farrell and her lawyer won't be speaking to the media.

    But in an emailed statement, her lawyer, Peter Cronyn, said:

    "The assaults and sexual assaults on … O'Farrell were criminal acts perpetrated by and witnessed by police officers and yet no charges were ever laid, nor were there any consequences for the officers involved. The impact of these events and the failure of those in authority to protect her and to hold the perpetrators accountable have severely damaged our client and have substantially compromised her life and career."

    The RCMP did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday morning.

    See Statement of Claim at:


  19. I personally have no doubt that the crown prosecutors conspired to reject criminal charges in the case reported in the comment directly above, because of their relationships to the RCMP. I have seen this happen in a law clinic I worked in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. As a student lawyer I had more than one client allege misconduct and assault by police officers, only to be told by my supervisor that bringing complaints forward would not result in charges against the police because of the general reluctance of prosecutors to charge police, and the tendency of judges to believe police are more credible than regular citizens. That's not true of course; I've seen police officers lie on the witness stand.

  20. RCMP chief hits back at outlandish harassment claims

    Commissioner Bob Paulson points to 'upstart union' at Senate hearing into RCMP Act changes

    CBC News June 3, 2013

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson was heavily critical Monday of some of the RCMP members who have come forward with complaints of sexual harrassment or evidence that harassing treatment took place.

    Paulson was the key witness Monday at the Senate committee that is investigating the problem of sexual harassment within the RCMP.

    However, Paulson said that Cpl. Paul Merrifield, who told the Senate committee in May he'd seen five supervisors continually harass members, is spearheading a union drive in the force.

    He particularly singled out Cpl. Roland Beaulieu, who was prevented from attending a committee hearing unless he agreed to come back to work. Beaulieu has been on sick leave due to work-related stress. Paulson said Beaulieu "alleges" he has post-traumatic stress disorder, but said the RCMP felt if he was well enough to testify he was well enough to work.

    Paulson added Beaulieu is "secretary of an upstart union."

    At this point, the chair of the committee, Senator Daniel Lang, stopped Paulson, because the matter of Beaulieu has been raised as a question of privilege. A separate Senate committee is looking into a complaint by the Liberal leader in the Senate, James Cowan, that parliamentary privilege might be violated if a witness is prevented from testitfying.

    Paulson also mentioned Staff Sergeant Caroline O'Farrell, who has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against 13 former colleagues in the force's travelling equestrian show, claiming she was sexually assaulted and harassed as a member of the Musical Ride in the 1980s.

    Paulson said the offence "took place 25 years ago. We responded 25 years ago." He added, "it was terrible," but said when he asked O'Farrell what he could do to help, she handed him a copy of her legal complaint.

    In general, Paulson told the committee, "I can't be continually defending against outlandish claims."

    Appointed in 2011, Paulson has said his key priority is to eliminate sexual harassment in the force.

    In 2011 the issue came to a head when Catherine Galliford, an RCMP corporal and former spokeswoman for the force in B.C., told CBC News about an internal complaint she filed detailing what she says were years of sexual harassment.

    "If I had a dime for every time one of my bosses asked me to sit on his knee, I'd be on a yacht in the Bahamas right now," Galliford told the CBC. She said the trouble began as soon as she left police college in 1991 and continued to the point where she went on sick leave in 2007 due to constant stress.

    continued in next comment...

  21. The government has responded by introducing Bill C-42, legislation that would modernize the RCMP and make it easier to fire members Paulson has termed "bad apples."

    Galliford has launched a lawsuit against the RCMP on the ground she suffered post-traumatic stress because of harassment that spanned two decades.

    Another woman, Janet Merlo, a 19-year RCMP veteran, filed suit for harassment in 2012, and hundreds of current and former female members have joined her in a class-action lawsuit.

    On May 27, the Senate committee heard from Cpl. Peter Merrifield, who testified that five of his supervisors have faced serious complaints of sexual harassment. Merrifield himself is suing the RCMP for harassment and breach of his constitutional rights related to what he calls "retaliation" for seeking a Conservative nomination in Barrie, Ont., in 2005.

    The Senate committee on national security and defence conducting the study on sexual harassment was until recently chaired by Senator Pamela Wallin. In May, Wallin withdrew as chair, and left the Conservative caucus to sit as an Independent. She is being audited by the private firm Deloitte over travel expense claims totalling more than $300,000.

    It's possible Paulson will be asked at the committee about an RCMP review currently underway into the expense claims of three other senators — Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb — as well as a payment of $90,000 to cover inappropriate claims given to Duffy by the prime minister's chief of staff, Nigel Wright, who has since resigned.

    On Monday, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud told reporters he cannot say how long it will take to determine if an official criminal investigation is opened into the senators' expenses. "We're still looking into it. We still have to meet with some individuals, look at some documents, before being able to stipulate if we're going to be conducting a criminal investigation or not."

    Michaud will be heading a new division announced Monday. "We're creating this new division to bring more focus to these types of investigations, so we've got resources that are solely dedicated to these types of investigations which hopefully will be done in a more timely fashion," he said.


  22. Next step in RCMP harassment lawsuit begins today

    The Canadian Press June 4, 2013

    The next step in a lawsuit against the RCMP is expected today in a Vancouver courtroom.

    Lawyers will be looking for direction about how to take the case to class action certification.

    Former RCMP Const. Janet Merlo launched the suit last year on behalf of Mounties who allege harassment, bullying or discrimination while serving on the force.

    Merlo alleges she and fellow female members were subject to gender-based discrimination, bullying and harassment, and that the RCMP failed to ensure that they could work in a safe environment.

    None of the allegations have been proven in court.

    The RCMP has also issued denials in several sexual abuse and harassment lawsuits against the force and its officers.

    But an internal report, released last year in response to the number of high-profile allegations of sexual harassment, suggests gender-based harassment was common among the female officers who participated in a study where they detail their experiences of being bullied by colleagues and superiors.

    In response to the report's recommendations, Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens announced the creation of a 100-member team dedicated to investigating harassment complaints.

    The highest-profile sexual abuse and harassment lawsuit involves Cpl. Catherine Galliford, a former spokeswoman for the Air India and Robert Pickton cases.

    Galliford filed a lawsuit last year alleging years of abuse by numerous officers.

    Const. Karen Katz also has a lawsuit alleging a colleague harassed and sexually assaulted her, as well as a second lawsuit that alleges more widespread abuse spanning her entire career.


    Read more about Janet Merlo's lawsuit

    More on the Mounties' sweeping denials

    100 Mounties tasked with investigating sexual harassment claims

  23. 282 join RCMP sexual harassment class-action lawsuit

    121 of the plaintiffs, who are either current or former Mounties, are from B.C.

    CBC News June 11, 2013

    Almost 300 current and former female Mounties have come forward to join a class-action lawsuit alleging harassment within the ranks of the RCMP.

    Documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court Monday in support of class-action certification say the action now includes 282 women from all territories and provinces across Canada, with the exception of P.E.I. The largest provincial contingent of women who joined, 121, are from B.C., while 46 of the women are from Ontario. Another 35 are from Alberta.

    The lawyers arguing the lawsuit say 100 of the complainants are still with the force, either as officers, civilian members, or public service employees.

    The civil suit was filed last year by Janet Merlo, a former RCMP officer who was based in Nanaimo. Merlo, who alleges she suffered bullying and verbal abuse throughout a career that began in March 1991 and ended in March 2010, says she is overwhelmed by the number of other women who have come forward.

    "I'm amazed, actually, that for so many years a lot of us thought we were alone and didn't say anything," she told CBC News Tuesday. "Once we did start talking, we realized that there was quite a group of us... I'm just amazed."

    In her claim, Merlo describes a number of humiliating incidents that she alleges occurred during the course of her 19 years with the force. The alleged incidents described in Merlo's affidavit range from receiving verbal propositions, to facing gender-based comments challenging her ability to perform her duties, to witnessing differences in how male and female officers were accommodated at her workplace.

    The RCMP have applied to have certain parts of Merlo's claim struck. The plaintiffs' lawyers say they want the application for certification heard as soon as possible.

    Certification of the class action is not a finding of fault against the RCMP.

    to read affidavits in this case go to:


  24. NOTE: The following story really disgusts me for several reasons. I suffer terribly from PTSD. The RCMP commissioner's insensitive, demeaning insult was directed not just at police officers with mental illness, but all Canadians who do, citizens that the RCMP has sworn to serve and protect. But beyond my personal feelings, many of the missing and murdered women whose serial killer the RCMP failed miserably to catch due to attitudes like that also suffered from trauma related mental health problems, including PTSD. Furthermore, there have been numerous recent events where the RCMP or other law enforcement officers, such as jail guards, have seriously abused and even killed citizens with mental illness. That is personally one of my biggest fears. Being an anti-authoritarian and an activist, I fear that a similar fate awaits me if I should ever have a confrontation with the police where there is even a hint that they are abusing their authority, which would almost certainly trigger a PTSD reaction in me. The RCMP has a corrupt culture and the current commissioner is not helping to improve things much by his public denigrations of RCMP members suing the force.

    RCMP commissioner apologizes for perceived slight against mentally ill

    Bob Paulson says he is truly sorry for 'cuckoo' gesture

    By Douglas Quan, Postmedia News June 18, 2013

    The RCMP commissioner says he is “truly sorry” for making a sound and gesture during a town hall earlier this year that some have interpreted as a slight against people suffering from mental-health issues.

    A six-minute audio clip of Bob Paulson’s remarks — delivered to K Division members in Alberta in April — was recently posted on an RCMP watchdog website.

    In the clip, Paulson tells members that if they get sick or injured on the job, the force will do everything it can to help them so they can return to work.

    “I want people to hear it from me that if you get hurt on the job, and that includes (Paulson makes a whistling sound) we’re going to look after you,” he says.

    “But there’s an onus on you, though, to come back to work because that’s the objective. The objective is not get a regimental number and then cha-ching, cha-ching, we’re looking after you for the rest of your life into your grave. No, no.”

    continued in next comment...

  25. The website that posted the audio clip, re-sergeance.net, suggested that as Paulson whistled, he also twirled his finger by the side of his head.

    In an internal video message sent to all members on June 7, Paulson acknowledged that he “made a sound and gesture that some have interpreted to mean that I was making light of psychological-related issues.”

    “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Paulson said. “I know full-well the impact that work-related stress can have on an individual and their family.

    “I want to apologize to anyone who was in that audience — or who has since listened to that recording — and was offended. I’m truly sorry.”

    RCMP spokesman Cpl. David Falls said Monday Paulson’s apology “extends to all Canadians.”

    Paulson went on to say that post-traumatic stress disorder and other work-related injuries must be taken seriously and that the force is working to strengthen its support to affected employees so they can return to work. “It’s in no one’s interest to have members on protracted medical leave,” he said.

    “Similarly we cannot have members using our generous medical leave provisions for reasons other than getting better and getting back to work.”

    Paulson recently got flak for public remarks he made before the Senate Committee on National Defence and Security, which has been studying harassment issues within the force.

    The commissioner said on June 3 that while there are legitimate harassment complaints within the force, he couldn’t keep on defending “outlandish” allegations, noting that the most vocal critics are “not always the most meritorious of claimants.”

    In a surprising move, Paulson called out by name three individuals who have recently gone public with allegations against the force, including B.C. Cpl. Roland Beaulieu, who has been on stress leave for two years due to conflicts with management.

    Paulson pointed out that while Beaulieu has been off work he has had no problems helping out an upstart union effort in B.C. The commissioner also noted that Beaulieu had sent him an email in which he asked for money in order to leave the force.

    In an interview last week, Liberal Sen. Grant Mitchell said Paulson should apologize for those remarks, too.

    “Great leadership doesn’t single out subordinates” in a public forum, Mitchell said.


  26. Psychiatrists call for action over premature deaths of mentally ill

    Experts say it is time to close the gap between treatment of physical and mental illnesses

    by Jeremy Laurance, The Independent UK June 19, 2013

    An international group of psychiatrists today launches a drive to end the global scandal of premature deaths among people suffering from severe mental illness.

    UK figures show their death rate is nearly four times higher than that among the general population. On average, young people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses die 15 to 20 years earlier than their peers as a result of a combination of the effects of anti-psychotic drugs and a poor lifestyle.

    But psychiatrists say the epidemic of early death could be curbed if mentally ill patients were given the same treatment for their physical illnesses as enjoyed by the rest of the population. The Health and Social Care Information Centre released figures yesterday showing people with mental problems use hospitals twice as much as those with physical problems.

    Last February the centre published figures showing the death rate was 3.6 times higher than that among the general population in 2010-11. In a statement published today, psychiatrists from 11 countries including the UK and Australia say young people with severe mental illness suffer “stigma, discrimination and prejudice” that prevent them from leading healthy, active lives. They are up to three times more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes and up to four times more likely to smoke, but their problems often go undiagnosed and they are not offered treatment or help.

    Anti-psychotic drugs prescribed to people with mental illness often cause rapid weight gain, with some patients becoming clinically obese. Many patients also self-medicate with alcohol and drugs such as cannabis.

    Targets set by the international group include ensuring at least three-quarters of patients gain no more than 7 per cent in weight over the first two years and blood tests for diabetes and heart disease remain normal.

    Dr David Shiers, co-author of the “Healthy Active Lives” statement, said: “The evidence is now clear – weight gain, cardiovascular risk and metabolic disturbance commonly appear early in the course of emerging psychosis and are potentially modifiable. As clinicians, if we dismiss these disturbances as being of secondary to controlling their psychiatric symptoms, we may be inadvertently condoning a first step on a path towards physical health inequalities for these young people. This vulnerable group needs a far more holistic and preventive approach.”

    Professor Sue Bailey, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “A person’s physical and mental health influence one another: deficiency in the care of one can lead to serious problems with the other.”

    The statement says that two years after the onset of psychosis, fewer than 30 per cent of patients should still be smoking and more than half should be taking recommended levels of exercise. The aim is to reduce the inequalities suffered by people with mental illness and close the chasm that exists between the quality of their treatment and that of people with physical illnesses.


  27. BC accused of stalling on Pickton inquiry recommendations

    Coalition calls on province to take immediate action on missing women inquiry report

    CBC News July 11, 2013

    A coalition of 20 First Nations and women’s groups is slamming the B.C. government for failing to implement recommendations from the inquiry into serial killer Robert Pickton.

    "We're sick and tired of going to funeral after funeral after funeral. Enough is enough,” says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, one of the groups to write the letter.

    "We are completely frustrated and disgusted with the unwillingness and inaction on the part of the provincial government."

    In a strongly worded letter to B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton, the coalition — which includes Atira Women’s Resource Society, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Pivot Legal Society and others — accuses the government of stalling.

    "We don't want to see yet another inquiry with dozens of recommendations that simply sit on a shelf and go nowhere,” Phillip said.

    “We know that the status quo will perpetuate the issue missing and murdered women."

    A report released in December 2012 blamed years of inadequate and failed police investigations for allowing Pickton to prey for years on women in the sex trade in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

    Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal issued 63 recommendations, including enhancing public transit to northern B.C. communities, especially along the so-called Highway of Tears, and increasing funding so centres providing emergency services to sex trade workers can stay open 24 hours a day.

    But Phillip says work has only begun on two of the report’s 63 recommendations.

    The province says work hit a snag in May after the resignation of Steven Point, who was appointed to make sure the recommendations are implemented. His replacement hasn't been named.

    Anton says work on a number of the recommendations is underway but was unable provide details.

    "There's all kinds of them. But when we're ready to make announcements, then we will,” she said.

    Pickton was arrested in February 2002. He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2007. The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his pig farm. He once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.


  28. Former RCMP spokesman sued for alleged sexual assault

    Atoya Montague alleges Insp. Tim Shields made unwanted sexual advances

    CBC News August 1, 2013

    A former civilian member of the RCMP's B.C. communication division is suing the force and a former top spokesman for alleged sexual assault.

    In a claim filed today in B.C. Supreme Court, Atoya Montague alleges Insp. Tim Shields abused his position of authority over her to commit acts of sexual assault.

    The governments of British Columbia and Canada are also named in the lawsuit.

    Montague held a senior civilian position within the RCMP's B.C. communications division, where she worked with Shields.

    She alleges that in 2003 while driving to the B.C. Interior with Shields he made unwanted sexual advances toward her.

    "While driving and in control of the vehicle, the defendant Shields, showed the plaintiff his erection through his jean shorts and made sexual advances towards the plaintiff, asking the plaintiff to have sex with him and advising her that he could easily pull over the car so that he could perform oral sex on her," the lawsuit alleges.

    Montague also claims Shields exposed himself to her in 2008 during a similar incident in a police car.

    "On this occasion he showed the plaintiff his penis," the lawsuit alleges.

    In her notice of civil claim, Montague says the tone of sexual harassment within the RCMP began even before she formally started work.

    She claims one staff sergeant told another member "there would be a lineup" of men out the door once she began work.

    continued below

  29. She also alleges that several other senior officers made sexual comments and jokes toward her during her time with the force.

    In one incident Montague alleges she was surrounded by the male members of the police dog unit rubbing up against her, leaving her "terrified, literally running away from that encounter," the lawsuit alleges.

    Montague says she did not report the incidents at the time for fear of the negative repercussion it would have on her career.

    The lawsuit says Montague worked for the RCMP from 2002 until 2011, when she went on sick leave and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2012.

    She also alleges the RCMP's health services has since harassed her about her condition and threatened to cut off her medical leave and pay.

    None of the allegations have been proven in court.

    On Thursday evening the RCMP issued a statement saying they had already been made aware of Montague's allegations by an unnamed third party and had launched an internal investigation in the matter that had failed to turn up any evidence of wrong doing.

    "While the RCMP has not been officially served, it is our understanding the civil suit contains a series of serious but currently unproven, uncorroborated, and unsubstantiated allegations," said the statement released by Insp. Ed Boettcher.

    "Repeated attempts to gather any information directly from Ms. Montague, who has been on leave since August 2011, or her representative were unsuccessful. These efforts were extended from the highest levels, up to and including the Commanding Officer in an effort to understand the basis of the allegations.

    "The RCMP has done as thorough an investigation as possible based on the information received from the third party. None of the allegations including those which have been set out in the statement of claim could be substantiated nor corroborated."

    "Given that the allegations now form part of a civil suit we are not able to comment further and our formal response will be filed in a statement of defence."

    he lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions filed against the RCMP by former female employees and officers, following allegations of widespread sexual harassment inside the force.

    Almost 300 current and former female Mounties have come forward to join a class-action lawsuit alleging harassment within the ranks of the RCMP.

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has said his key priority is to eliminate sexual harassment in the force.

    see the statement of claim in the civil suit at:


  30. Mountie who first raised issue of systemic harassment moves step closer to being dismissed from force

    Douglas Quan, Post Media News August 23, 2013

    The RCMP is moving to dismiss Cpl. Catherine Galliford, the high-profile Mountie whose claims of systemic harassment within the force prompted a flood of similar complaints.

    Galliford, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has been on sick leave since 2006, said a “notice of intent to discharge” was delivered to her home earlier this week. The letter states that the force is seeking her dismissal “for reason of physical and/or mental disability.”

    “This discharge is based on the grounds that your disability has impaired your ability to perform your duties … and the limitations and occupational restrictions resulting from your condition are such that accommodation elsewhere in the force has not been possible,” the letter states.

    It says that a health services officer concluded that she was unfit for either operational or administrative duties and that this inability was considered permanent.

    The letter also states that Galliford did not respond to a previous letter, which gave her 30 days to come forward to discuss possible “workplace accommodations” within the force.

    As of April, the force had delivered similar letters to more than 30 employees who were on long-term leave. An updated number was not available Friday and it is not clear how many have since been discharged.

    RCMP officials have previously said the force cannot continue to pay full salaries indefinitely to employees whose health prevents them from performing their duties.

    In a memo released in February, Commissioner Bob Paulson urged members to reject the “spin” that the force was targeting employees who had filed harassment complaints.

    But Galliford, who filed a lawsuit last year in British Columbia Supreme Court alleging she was sexually assaulted and bullied for years, said Friday she believes that’s precisely what the force is doing.

    “They want to get rid of me because I complained,” she said.

    At the same, Galliford, a former RCMP spokeswoman, acknowledged that she could never work for the force again because the environment is “too toxic.”

    “The RCMP will accommodate me back to work. Unfortunately, however, the RCMP broke my brain. And so I have PTSD. In order for me to go back to work, I have to be healthy and the RCMP have done nothing to help me with that.”

    Receiving the notice of intent to discharge, she said, is probably “more of a blessing than anything else so I can move forward.”

    The notice states that a three-member medical review board will be appointed to “determine the degree of your impairment” and that she can nominate a medical practitioner to be her representative on the board.

    Galliford first went public with her allegations of abuse and intimidation in late 2011. That prompted others to come forward with similar allegations.

    Several lawsuits and a proposed class-action lawsuit have been filed against the force.

    A report earlier this year by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, which reviewed more than 700 harassment complaints lodged by employees between 2005 and 2011, urged the force to take “concrete” and “measurable” steps to improve its handling of harassment allegations.

    The force has said it has implemented a number of measures, including centralizing oversight of harassment complaints, revising its internal harassment policy and developing new “respectful workplace” training.


  31. Harper Solicits Research to Blame First Nations for Murdered, Missing and Traded Indigenous Women

    by Pam Palmater, Indigenous Nationhood August 21, 2013


    Canada's shameful colonial history as it relates to Indigenous peoples and women specifically is not well known by the public at large. The most horrific of Canada's abuses against Indigenous peoples are not taught in schools. Even public discussion around issues like genocide have been censored by successive federal governments, and most notably by Harper's Conservatives. Recently, the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights refused to use the term "genocide" to describe Canada's laws, policies and actions towards Indigenous peoples which led to millions of deaths. The reason?: because that term was not acceptable to the federal government and the museum is after all, a Crown corporation.


    Aside from the fact that this museum will be used as a propaganda tool for Canada vis-à-vis the international community, Harper's Conservatives are also paying for targeted research to back up their propaganda as it relates to murdered, missing and traded Indigenous women. This is not the first time that Harper has paid for counter information and propaganda material as it relates to Indigenous peoples, and it likely won't be the last. However, this instance of soliciting targeted research to help the government blame Indigenous peoples for their own victimization and oppression is particularly reprehensible given the massive loss of life involved over time.


    The issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women was made very public by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) several years ago through their dedicated research, community engagement and advocacy efforts. Even the United Nations took notice and starting commenting on Canada's obligation to address this serious issue. Yet, in typical Harper-Conservative style, once the issue became a hot topic in the media, they cut critical funding to NWAC's Sisters in Spirit program which was the heart of their research and advocacy into murdered and missing Indigenous women.


    To further complicate the matter, any attempts for a national inquiry into the issue has been thwarted by the federal government, despite support for such an inquiry by the provinces and territories. One need only look at the fiasco of the Pickton Inquiry in British Columbia to understand how little governments in Canada value the lives of Indigenous women, their families and communities. The inquiry was headed by Wally Oppal, the same man who previously denied the claims of Indigenous women who were forcibly sterilized against their knowledge and consent. The inquiry seemed more interested in insulating the RCMP from investigation and prosecution than it was about hearing the stories of Indigenous women.


    Now, the Canadian public has to deal with a new chapter to this story - the sale of Indigenous women into the sex trades. The CBC recently reported that current research shows that Indigenous women, girls and babies in Canada were taken onto US ships to be sold into the sex trade. While this is not new information for Indigenous peoples, it is something that Canada has refused to recognize in the past. The research also shows that Indigenous women are brought onto these boats never to be seen from again.


    continued below

  32. The issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women has now expanded to murdered, missing and traded women. One might have expected a reaction from both the Canadian government and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). Yet, the day after the story hit the news, the AFN was tweeting about local competitions and the federal government was essentially silent. I say essentially, because while all of this was taking place, the federal government put together a Request for Proposals on MERX (#275751) to solicit research to blame the families and communities of Indigenous women for being sold into the sex trade.


    Instead of making a call for true academic research into the actual causes and conditions around Indigenous women, girls and babies being sold into the sex trade, the federal government solicited research to prove:

    (1) the involvement of family members in their victimization;

    (2) the level to which domestic violence is linked to the sale of Indigenous women into the sex trade; and

    (3) even where they are investigating gang involvement, it is within the context of family involvement of the trade of Indigenous women.

    The parameters of the research excludes looking into federal and/or provincial laws and policies towards Indigenous peoples; funding mechanisms which prejudice them and maintain them in the very poverty the research identifies; and negative societal attitudes formed due to government positions vis-à-vis Indigenous women like:

    - rapes and abuse in residential schools;
    - forced sterilizations;
    - the theft of thousands of Indigenous children into foster care;
    - the over-representation of Indigenous women in jails;
    - and the many generations of Indigenous women losing their Indian status and membership and being kicked off reserves by federal law.

    The research also leaves out a critical aspect of this research which is federal and provincial enforcement laws, policies and actions or lack thereof in regards to the reports of murdered, missing and traded Indigenous women, girls and babies. The epic failure of police to follow up on reports and do proper investigations related to these issues have led some experts to conclude that this could have prevented and addressed murdered, missing and traded Indigenous women. Of even greater concern are the allegations that have surfaced in the media in relation to RCMP members sexually assaulting Indigenous women and girls.


    This MERX Request for Proposals is offensive and should be retracted and re-issued in a more academically-sound manner which looks to get at the full truth, versus a federally-approved pre-determined outcome.

    It's time Canada opened up the books, and shed light on the real atrocities in this country so that we can all move forward and address them.


  33. Native Canadian women sold on U.S. ships, researcher says

    Report says First Nations women from Thunder Bay, Ont., trafficked in sex trade in Minnesota

    By Jody Porter, CBC News August 21, 2013

    An American researcher says First Nations women from Thunder Bay, Ont., have been sold on ships in the harbour at Duluth, Minn.

    Christine Stark said the port at Duluth is notorious among First Nations people as a site for trafficking women.

    The masters student at the University of Minnesota Duluth said she has anecdotal reports of women, teenage girls and boys, as well as babies being sold on ships for sex.

    "The women and children — and I've even had women talk about a couple of babies brought onto the ships and sold to the men on ships — are being sold or are exchanging sex for alcohol, a place to stay, drugs, money and so forth.," Stark said. "It's quite shocking."

    Stark said the sex trade on ships has been going on for generations, and includes Indigenous women from Canada.

    "I have spoken with a woman who was brought down from Thunder Bay on the ships and talks about an excessive amount of trafficking between Canada and the Duluth-Superior harbor," Stark said. "There is a very strong link between Thunder Bay and Duluth."

    Her current research is an offshoot of a 2007 report on prostitution in Minnesota, in conjunction with the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition. That report included interviews with 105 indigenous women in Minnesota who have been trafficked in the sex trade.

    Stark said the stories that "women get brought out onto the boats and never come back" that she heard as part of that study begged further exploration. She's currently conducting interviews with 15 people to learn more about what happens on the ships.

    The Ontario Native Women's Association (ONWA) said it also has anecdotal reports of women being trafficked across borders,or provincial boundaries, into the sex trade.

    "We know that it's happening between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, and there have been reports of it happening in southern Ontario across the U.S. border," said Kezia Picard, the director of policy and research with ONWA.

    But Picard said more funding is needed for more formal research into how women are being spirited away.

    "Another thing we're really trying to advocate for is additional research to understand what's happening and what sort of programs help women in this sort of situation to prevent it from happening," Picard said.

    However, Picard said some of the reasons First Nations women are vulnerable to sex trafficking are all too familiar in indigenous communites.

    "The reason that indigenous women and girls are sometimes trafficked has to do with all of these ongoing issues like poverty," she said. "Another one of the large risk factors for indigenous women and girls is the lack of housing ... women will sometimes engage in survival sex, not of their choice, in order to have somewhere to live."

    Picard said the ONWA hopes to work with organizations in Minnesota and Manitoba to learn more about the cross-border sex trade, and explore ways of keeping indigenous women and their children safe.


  34. Canada rejects UN rights panel call for review of violence on aboriginal women

    By Mike Blanchfield The Canadian Press September 19, 2013

    OTTAWA – Canada will formally reject calls from a United Nations rights review body to develop a comprehensive national review to end violence against Aboriginal women.

    That will be part of its response today to the UN Human Rights Council, which is conducting its Universal Period Review of Canada’s rights record.

    Countries have their rights records reviewed every four years by the Geneva-based UN forum, but the Harper government has been skeptical of it in part because it allows countries with dubious rights records to criticize Canada.

    Recommendations from Iran, Sri Lanka and Cuba were among the 40 out of 162 that Canada chose to reject.

    That also included a rejection of a series of resolutions calling on Canada to undertake sweeping national reviews of violence against aboriginal women.

    Other countries calling for such reviews included Switzerland, Norway, Slovenia, Slovakia and New Zealand.

    Other countries with poor rights records, including Iran, Cuba and Belarus, also supported the call for an investigation into the disappearances, murder and sexual abuse of aboriginal women in Canada.

    In a response to be formally tabled Thursday in Geneva, Canada says it is “strongly committed to taking action with aboriginal and non-aboriginal groups to prevent and stop violence against aboriginal women” through a series of federal and provincial initiatives.

    “There have been a number of inquiries and resulting proposals for improvements over the years,” says the reply.

    “In addition, race-based statistics are not recorded in a systematic manner across Canada’s criminal justice system due to operational, methodological, legal and privacy concerns.”

    Canada faced similar calls to better address the concerns of its aboriginal population in 2009, when it faced its last review by the UN body.

    “Such comments were made by a range of states, some of them close allies, some not. For example, the United Kingdom, Norway and the Netherlands, as well as Cuba and Iran, recommended that Canada better address Aboriginal Peoples’ concerns,” said an April 2013 Library of Parliament review of the UN review process.

    The issue reared its head again in February when the New York-based group Human Rights Watch issued a highly critical report alleging police abuse of aboriginal women in British Columbia.

    It too urged the Harper government to strike a national commission of inquiry along with the B.C. provincial government, a measure that was endorsed by the NDP, Liberals, the Green party and the Assembly of First Nations.

    James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is scheduled to visit Canada in October to conduct his own inquiry.

    The federal government will get a chance to respond to Anaya’s findings before a final report is circulated and presented to the UN rights council.

    The Harper government has butted heads in the past with previous UN special rapporteurs.

    Conservative cabinet ministers have blasted the UN’s right-to-food envoy Olivier De Schutter for saying too many Canadian citizens are going hungry.

    It is all part of a periodic war of words between the Harper government and various UN bodies. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has criticized a Quebec law on demonstrations, prompting a quick response from Ottawa.

    The UN Committee Against Torture has also accused Ottawa of being “complicit” in human rights violations committed against three Arab-Canadian men held in Syria after 9-11.


  35. Families Compile Own Database of Missing and Murdered Women

    Aboriginal groups take tracking of lost loved ones into their own hands.

    By Martha Troian, Today, Indian Country Today Media Network September 28, 2013

    There was a time when Colleen Cardinal could not talk about her family without choking on her grief. "It took me a long time to talk about what happened to my sister," said Cardinal, from Saddle Lake Cree First Nation in central Alberta. "I'm a family member who lost two women to murder."

    Her eldest sister, Charmaine Desa, was murdered in downtown Edmonton in 1990. And Cardinal's sister-in-law, Lynn Minia Jackson, was found in a field in 2004 in Wetaskiwin, about 73 kilometres south of Edmonton.

    Cardinal's story is not unique, and this puts her among the legions of family members fed up with a lack of progress in getting to the bottom of the issue of violence against aboriginal women in Canada. She is part of a movement to take control of matters affecting not only her family, but thousands of others. Born of their determination is a newly launched community-based database of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, compiled by the victims' families themselves.

    Two grassroots organizations in Canada, No More Silence and Families of Sisters in Spirit, have teamed up to compile the database, which was launched on Sept. 12. The database will record the date of disappearance and death for missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. It will hold details such as date of birth, nation, childhood and family background, education and work history, level of permission for use of data and primary contact information.

    The need for the database is twofold, organizers said. Andrea Smith, an author, scholar and native American anti-violence activist from southern California, recalled a time not so long ago when the issue of violence against indigenous women received little visibility. It wasn't until women raised awareness about the issue that government funding began to shed light on the problem. But that didn't come without a price.

    "We found that government support often becomes a trap. We start to become dependent on it, and then when we step out of line as we saw with Sisters in Spirit, we suddenly get defunded," said Smith.

    Sisters in Spirit was the first database collecting cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. Canada's federal government stopped funding the program in 2010. Critics of the cut say it was meant to silence the Native Women's Association of Canada, the group behind the database.

    Smith has seen this happen in the U.S too. When the Violence Against Women Act was passed, with it came a mandate that native American tribes developing curricula dealing with sexual violence were forbidden to use the word "colonization," said Smith.

    "It's okay to support anti-violence work as long as your framework is about pathologizing native communities, [implying] that we're inherently dysfunctional with mental health issues," she said, adding how that makes it all the more crucial for organizations and community groups such as No More Silence and Families of Sisters in Spirit to seek ways to fund their own work. Their newly launched database will be a testament to this, she said. The group does not intend to ask for government funding -- or permission.

    'People have a right to know'

    Previous attempts have been made to compile statistics on violence against aboriginal women, as columnist Carol Goar noted in an opinion piece in the Toronto Star on Sept. 23.


    Goar details attempts by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women that ran into a shortage of data.

    continued below

  36. She describes the scattershot crime statistics kept by police, Status of Women Canada and the resource-hobbled Native Women's Association of Canada, as well as individual women's shelters.

    "The difficulty of collecting data about violence against women has been a barrier," Kate McInturff, author of a study for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, told Goar. "However, the data that do exist tell us three things very clearly: This problem is big, it comes at a high cost, and we are making little or no progress in putting a stop to it."

    The online activist group Anonymous compiled an interactive map of missing and murdered indigenous women in both the U.S. and Canada last February, but that does not contain much more than a dot marking where the person was last seen alive. The new database will fill these knowledge gaps, its creators hope.

    "All that we're doing now with the database is taking matters into our own hands," said Audrey Huntley, co-founder of No More Silence. Alluding to traditional indigenous knowledge, she noted, "We've always known how to keep track, we've always been amazing counters."

    Dr. Janet Smylie, a Métis physician and research scientist, is helping design the database, whose methodology draws upon both traditional and western practices. The team has created filters in order to conduct database searches, and soon names of missing and murdered loved ones will be added. Families of missing and murdered women and girls are encouraged to contact No More Silence and Families of Sisters in Spirit if they would like to add loves ones' names.

    "As soon as we get information, it will go public," said Bridget Tolley, co-founder of Families of Sisters in Spirit. Unlike the Native Women's Association database, the product will be available to the public, and more important, Tolley said, to family members.

    "Why have a database when nobody can see it?" said Tolley. "People have a right to know."

    Without funding, the Native Women's Association of Canada was forced to close its own database in 2010. By the time it did so, the association had reported close to 600 indigenous women and girls murdered or gone missing in the country over several years. Since then many more have vanished or been killed, and according to Tolley their names are not being recorded in a central location.

    Earlier this year the RCMP questioned the Native Women's Association total, saying that of the 118 names shared with the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing Services, only 64 of them could be confirmed in a police database. An RCMP spokesperson also said there are concerns over the 500 possible victims recorded in the association's database. Indigenous communities find this hard to believe given that these deaths are still occurring.

    "In Toronto in the last few months, there have been three violent deaths of indigenous women, and sadly there wasn't much societal response to that," Huntley said.

    Cardinal also comes from a family torn apart by adoption, severe physical abuse and alcoholism. It's a history she details in Stolen Dream, a documentary produced in 2012. Her second film, The Sixties Scoop: A Hidden Generation, to be released in 2014, will examine the adoptions of indigenous children that took place from the 1960s through the 1980s. She said she can now talk about her past because she understands the historical context of colonization in which it occurred.

    The combination of personal and political has led Cardinal to work with Families of Sisters in Spirit. She sees the need to pick up where that group left off, given the lack of information and political will to gather it.

    "I think the only people that can keep track of our women, and what's happening to our women, is our women," Cardinal said.


  37. Vancouver police, RCMP defend actions in Pickton case

    Statements of defence filed Monday by RCMP and Vancouver Police Department

    The Canadian Press October 07, 2013

    The two police forces that failed to catch Robert Pickton as the serial killer hunted sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside say they acted reasonably when they received information that women were vanishing and that Pickton might have been responsible.

    The Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP each filed statements of defence Monday in a series of lawsuits involving the children of nine missing women, who accuse both forces of inadequately investigating reports of missing sex workers in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    The case was the focus of a high-profile public inquiry last year that identified a long list of failures and concluded that, had the victims not been poor, drug-addicted sex workers, the police would have done more to investigate what happened to them.

    Both forces have issued public apologies acknowledging they could have done more to catch Pickton sooner.

    The Vancouver police has repeated that apology numerous times in the past several years, while the RCMP offered its apology during the public inquiry.

    But in separate statements of defence, each force denies responsibility and argues they should not be held liable for the deaths of women who ended up on Pickton's farm.

    "At all material times, the Vancouver police made reasonable efforts to locate and investigate the disappearances of women upon receipt of information or reports," the City of Vancouver, on behalf of its police force, says in one of its statements of defence.

    The RCMP's statements of defence offers a similar argument: "The defendant says that the actions of those (RCMP officers) were at all times taken in good faith, were reasonable and were not negligent, particularly given the information available and the circumstances prevailing at the time of those investigations."

    The Vancouver Police Department also says in its statements of defence that there is no evidence any of the women disappeared from Vancouver.

    The force has long insisted no crime occurred in Vancouver, because the women were believed to have willingly left the city with Pickton only to be killed on his farm in Port Coquitlam, which is in the RCMP's jurisdiction.

    There were three separate investigations linked to Vancouver's missing women.

    continued below

  38. The Vancouver police investigated reports of missing Downtown Eastside sex workers, while the RCMP examined Pickton as a potential suspect. In 2001, both forces formed a joint task force to review missing-person cases involving sex workers.

    Pickton emerged as a suspect as early as 1998, when the Vancouver police received tips implicating him, but he wasn't caught until February 2002.

    Commissioner Wally Oppal's final report from the public inquiry, released last December, identified a list of "critical failures" in the various police investigations.

    Those included poor report taking, a failure to take proactive steps to protect sex workers, the failure to pursue all investigative strategies, and poor co-ordination between Vancouver police and RCMP, among others.

    At the inquiry, the forces urged the commissioner not to judge their actions with the benefit of hindsight, insisting officers did the best they could with the information they had at the time.

    The Vancouver police and the RCMP also spent considerable time at the inquiry blaming each other. Vancouver police accused the Mounties of botching their investigation into Pickton, while the RCMP said the Vancouver police weren't passing along information and resisted forming a joint investigation.

    The Vancouver department released its own internal review in 2010, which identified a number of problems with how the force's management handled the case while also laying considerable blame at the feet of the RCMP.

    The City of Vancouver's statement of defence says the force will rely on that report as its version of what happened.

    The families' lawsuits also allege Crown prosecutors were negligent when they declined to put Pickton on trial for attempted murder after an attack on a sex worker in 1997.

    Pickton was set to stand trial in early 1998, but prosecutors dropped the case days before trial over concerns about the victim's ability to testify.

    The B.C. government has filed court documents arguing prosecutors are immune from being sued.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton's farm.

    He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence.

    Pickton is also named in the families' lawsuits, as is his brother, David. Neither has filed a statement of defence.


  39. NOTE: It is important when reading the following article to keep in mind that the RCMP has failed miserably on this file of missing Indigenous women. While this new initiative is welcome news, it is difficult to trust the RCMP on this issue when they have just filed lawsuit defense that denies any institutional discrimination or neglect in failing to properly follow evidence that could have captured a serial killer and stopped his killing spree of mostly Indigenous women years earlier. The RCMP is still in denial about the numbers of missing or murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Personally, I doubt their claim that this new initiative has nothing to do with the current visit of the UN Special Investigator on Indigenous Rights.

    RCMP highlight 10 cases of missing aboriginal women on social media

    Facebook, Twitter campaign coincides with visit by UN fact-finder

    By Susana Mas, CBC News October 10, 2013

    The RCMP are calling on the public to help them solve 10 outstanding cases of missing aboriginal women in Canada through a weeklong social media campaign that started on Monday.

    The Mounties have been using their Twitter and Facebook accounts to highlight two specific cases of missing aboriginal women per day from across the country. Each post calls on the public to help them find women whose cases are featured on the Canada's Missing website.

    In an interview with CBC News, Supt. Tyler Bates, the director of national aboriginal policing and crime prevention services, said "the 10 cases were selected primarily based on geography, to feature cases from all parts of Canada."

    Bates said the initiative is an opportunity "to try and get some of the faces of women that have left and not come back, and really get those into the social consciousness of Canadians."

    The RCMP's weeklong social media campaign coincides with the visit to Canada by James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

    When asked by CBC News whether the social media campaign was timed around Anaya's visit, Bates said "it wasn't a consideration. It's certainly coincidental, I would say."

    continued below

  40. Anaya is now on his fourth day of a nine-day visit to take stock of the progress that has been made since 2003 when his predecessor last visited Canada. His itinerary includes meetings with government and indigenous representatives.

    "The RCMP is one of the agencies that is visited by the special rapporteur," Bates said.

    The campaign, according to Bates, was launched on Monday to build on last Friday's Sisters in Spirit rallies that took place in over 200 locations across the country. The vigil has become a yearly event organized by the Native Women’s Association of Canada for the past eight years on Oct. 4.

    The NWAC told CBC News it is supportive of the campaign, which could generate tips to help the police solve these cases.

    Two of the eight women highlighted to date by the RCMP's social media campaign include the cases of Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander, two teenage friends who went missing from Maniwaki, Que., on Sept. 6, 2008.

    The Canada's Missing website says Maisy spent the night at Shannon’s house and that Shannon’s father was the last person to have seen his daughter.

    Laurie Odjick, Maisy's mother, attended the Sisters in Spirit rally on the steps of Parliament Hill last Friday. She was seen holding a picture of Maisy, who disappeared at the age of 16.

    Both Maisy and Shannon were remembered during the Sisters in Spirit rally on Parliament Hill.​

    Each case on the Canada’s Missing website includes information about the missing person and the circumstances around their disappearance. Canadians can print off a poster to display in a public place.

    This is the second time the Mounties have used social media to help them solve open cases. In May, the RCMP posted five profiles of missing children to coincide with National Missing Children's Day.

    "We expect there will be other opportunities to post other profiles and utilize social media in a similar manner down the road," Bates said.

    Conservative MP Ryan Leef, on Tuesday, pledged his support for a national public inquiry into the case of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    see the links and tweets in this report at:


  41. New survey probes internal attitudes toward RCMP

    by Douglas Quan O Canada October 10, 2013

    The RCMP wants to know if its members feel that their bosses and colleagues “demonstrate honesty,” that they’re “protected from reprisals” if they report wrongdoing, and how often they “feel like leaving the RCMP.”

    Distributed to employees late last month, the “Professional Climate Survey” is intended to “enhance departmental policies, practices and procedures and create a better work environment for all employees,” survey respondents are told.

    The survey coincides with the development by the force’s top brass in June of a “Professional Ethics Strategic Plan,” designed to “increase public trust” in the force and “ensure the RCMP is accountable and ethical.” The force is also in the midst of updating its code of conduct for the first time in 25 years.

    Earlier this year, the force also introduced a new “Gender and Respect Action Plan,” as well as an “Interpersonal Workplace Relationship Policy” that states that romantic or sexual relationships between supervisors or those in positions of authority and subordinates must be reported in writing as they “raise concerns of conflict of interest, preferential treatment, bias and/or abuse of authority.”

    These developments come in a period of considerable tumult for the force, punctuated by allegations of widespread sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. Later this month, retired RCMP constable Janet Merlo — the lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit against the force — is set to release a book documenting her 20-year RCMP career titled No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP.

    Robert Gordon, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University, said the survey appears to be well-organized, comprehensive and a signal that RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson is trying to turn the organization around.

    “Judging from the posture of the commissioner over the last few years, I get the impression this guy realizes there are significant, potentially fatal, problems with his organization. He’s trying to address some of these concerns,” Gordon said.

    continued below

  42. The survey asks members to indicate whether they think the RCMP is an organization with integrity, if they feel comfortable raising possible ethical breaches to their bosses, and if they feel confident that reports of possible wrongdoing will be addressed impartially. They can choose from five responses, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

    Employees are also asked if their supervisors take prompt action when unethical behaviour occurs, and if they are aware that they and their supervisors “must resolve any real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest.”

    In another section, employees are asked if they feel they had received adequate training, whether their workloads are manageable and if their supervisors listen to their concerns. They’re also asked if they feel they have been treated fairly and respectfully during their time with the force.

    Employees are also probed on their intentions to leave the force. “How often do you actively look for another position outside the RCMP?” they’re asked. Again, they have five possible answers ranging from “never” to “always.”

    They’re also asked — yes or no — if they’d recommend the RCMP as a place to work to family and friends.

    Sgt. Greg Cox, an RCMP spokesman, said in an email that while employee surveys have been done in the past, the RCMP is “seeking more specific responses to questions and demographics that will help determine problem areas and what resources will help to address them.”

    Cox said results should be available in early 2014, but are “intended to be used for internal purposes.”

    Gordon said there are limitations to such a survey. Even though respondents are promised anonymity, some may still be reluctant to complete it out of fear their answers could somehow come back to bite them.

    Survey takers are asked at the end to identify their age, gender, marital status, visible-minority status, employee category, the division they work in, and years of service.


  43. Group calls for action on Pickton inquiry recommendations

    Only 3 of 65 recommendations have been fully implemented

    The Canadian Press November 25, 2013

    The British Columbia government has to act now on compensating serial killer Robert Pickton's victims and implementing other recommendations put forward a year ago by the inquiry into missing and murdered women, said a coalition of advocacy groups Monday.

    Following a "totally emotional" meeting with B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton, Mona Woodward, who spoke for the Missing Women Coalition, said she is tired of the government dragging its feet.

    "Why do we always have to fight? Why do we always have to do these protests?" Woodward said at a media conference. "Why can't the government fulfil its duty with due care and respect and give aboriginal women and our children the same as the rest of society?"

    65 recommendations

    Wally Oppal, the head of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry,made 65 recommendations last December to address the systemic gaps that allowed Pickton to target sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

    Earlier this month, the province released a report that said only three of the recommendations have been fully implemented, while work has begun on 28 others.

    "(The government) appointed Wally Oppal and it's not following the recommendation and this is totally appalling, it's an outrage," said Woodward, who also represents the Downtown Eastside Sister Watch Program.

    "These are women in our community and they left behind orphans and children that have to go on without their mother, their grandmother, their auntie," she said.

    Woodward said the coalition wants to see specific recommendations carried out, such as compensation for victim families and safer transportation along northern B.C.'s Highway 16, or the so-called Highway of Tears, where 18 women have disappeared or been murdered over the past few decades.

    continued below

  44. The coalition also wants the government to find someone to replace Steven Point, the province's former lieutenant governor who was appointed to oversee the implementation of Oppal's recommendations, but who resigned in May.

    Opposition NDP housing critic Jenny Kwan said the government should act now on compensating the family of Pickton's victims.

    'Shouldn't have to wait anymore'

    The former pig farmer was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder in 2007. The DNA of 33 women was found on the farm.

    The family members of six women whose remains were discovered on the property have launched lawsuits against the Vancouver police, the RCMP and Pickton.

    "If (the government does) accept the facts and evidence as they were presented (at the inquiry), then the government needs to compensate the families now," Kwan said.

    "They shouldn't have to wait anymore. It shouldn't be before the courts for the community to have to fight yet another round to spend more money in the court system and for lawyers to get action."

    Anton said after the meeting with the Missing Women Coalition that there is already action underway on Oppal's recommendations.

    "I hope the coalition and British Columbians can see that we're making significant progress, with action underway on one-half of the recommendations directed at us in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report. The Province is committed to building a legacy of safety and security for vulnerable women," she said in a written statement.

    "To continue our progress on the recommendations, we're working with those who have the needed expertise. We've begun this engagement process through initial discussions with the Minister's Advisory Council on Aboriginal Women. We also continue to seek advice from other key stakeholders."

    The province has already provided what Oppal said was urgently needed funding for the WISH drop-in centre that provides services for sex workers in the Downtown Eastside, but it has yet to address safety concerns on Highway 16.


  45. Aboriginal women without documentation banned from flight

    by Andrea Hill, canada.com December 9, 2013

    OTTAWA — Two aboriginal women barred from boarding an Ottawa-bound flight Sunday because they lacked appropriate documentation were subject to “systemic discrimination,” says a Manitoba MP who planned to fly with them.

    The women, travelling from Winnipeg to Ottawa to testify before a special committee on missing and murdered aboriginal women, did not have drivers’ licences or passports, which MP Niki Ashton said is a common problem for northern aboriginal people. Because of that, they were not allowed on the Air Canada flight.

    “It is just a sign of the way the system fails these families time and time again,” Ashton said.

    Air Canada apologized for the incident, but said the airline was simply obeying the law which requires all passengers to have at least one piece of government-issued photo identification with a name, birth date and gender, or two pieces of government-issued non-photo identification.

    “It was not possible to break the law,” airline spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email. “In cases where customers do not possess the requisite ID, we may be able to make special accommodations but it requires pre-approval, which is not possible at the last-minute at the gate.”

    The grounded passengers, Gail and Joyce Nepinak, were being flown to Ottawa at the invitation of the government’s special committee on missing and murdered aboriginal women, which heard from families of missing and murdered women for the first and last time Monday. Fourteen individuals made it to Ottawa to testify.

    Gail and Joyce are relatives of Tanya Nepinak, who went missing from Winnipeg more than two years ago. The 31-year-old woman was believed to have been murdered by serial killer Shawn Lamb, but charges against Lamb were stayed last month after prosecutors determined there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.

    Ashton said both women brought their health cards and government invitations to the airport, but this was not enough to get them on the plane.


  46. VIDEO: “In Her Name—Relationships as Law” (Addressing Violence Through Indigenous Teachings and Tradition)

    Media Indigena January 18, 2014

    The following is the original transcript for a talk that MEDIA INDIGENA Contributor Sarah Hunt recently gave at TEDxVictoria 2013: Emergence.

    Obviously, the video of that presentation will contain most of the text below but, according to Sarah, the transcript she provided here is “slightly different from the video because it includes the few sections I forgot.” Consider it bonus material from an already stimulating talk.



    In the Kwakwala language, Gilaksa’la is a welcome we give at the beginning of any speech or before starting important business. In this same Kwakwaka’wkaw tradition, I am supposed to introduce myself, Sarah Hunt, and tell you that my grandparents Henry and Helen Hunt were from Tsaxis or Fort Rupert on the northern part of Vancouver Island. And that my grandparents on my mom’s side are Jack and Betty Sahaydak, with ancestry from Ukraine and England. In telling you these things, my name reveals not just who I am personally, but tells you about my standing in my community, my cultural and ceremonial rights and how I might be related to you.

    But, in truth, this talk should begin with another name: Sheila Hunt.

    Sheila Hunt was a name that I saw among dozens of other names of missing and murdered women, written on a banner at a rally in Vancouver’s downtown east side. Now I have a lot of relatives — my grandma had 14 kids after all and I have more than 60 first cousins — but Sheila Hunt was not a name I had heard before.

    At the time of this rally, I was twenty years old and in my first few years of university. I had become interested in issues of violence a couple of years earlier when a cousin of mine — Malidi — had taken her own life.

    Malidi was close to my age, she was well loved and well connected to her culture. And her death left a deep impression on me. I began to think about the silence left behind after her passing — how would I know her story now that she was gone? I began to see it as my obligation to address that silence. Even though I was only 18, I was a young woman determined on change.

    And so after taking some classes and reading books about violence, I became aware of the particular violence faced by native women in Vancouver’s downtown east side. Here, women were disappearing on a regular basis. Or they were showing up dead. And nothing was being done by police or other authorities to take it seriously.

    And so, at the age of 20 and in my third year of university, I attended my first march to remember women who had been killed or gone missing from this community.

    And it was there, standing amongst the crowd, that I spotted the name “Sheila Hunt.” Suddenly, I became aware of the depth of the silence that had begun to haunt me. Because I realized that if I had a family member living and working in the downtown east side, I would likely never hear about it. The stigma around sex work, the shame around drug use and poverty, these all create even more silence. And further distance between myself and women like Sheila.

    continued below

  47. Sheila and Malidi have stayed in my mind in the more than 15 years since then, as I worked with communities across BC to address violence. I first started doing education and outreach with young women in Vancouver. I then became a researcher and educator in small communities and cities across the province, talking about violence, sexual exploitation, and intergenerational abuse.

    Through all of this, what struck me were the similar ways violence was being talked about. Whether I was in a small northern reserve community, or a town on Vancouver Island, or in a city like Vancouver, I heard young people tell me that violence is just a part of life. It happens and nobody talks about it. Although we know that there are lots of similar problems in wider Canadian society, Indigenous people are much more likely to experience violence, both from within and from outside native communities.

    Traveling to northern BC, I learned that the situation in the downtown east side was not unique. In fact, more than a dozen young native girls and women had been found dead or gone missing from along a remote stretch of highway between Prince Rupert and Prince George. Families and community members here had been urging the police to do something for years about these cases. The girls here were not facing the stigma of working in the sex trade or being in an area known for drug use and poverty. They were simply living in remote reserve communities, which are out of sight, out of mind for most Canadians. It was only when a non-native girl, a treeplanter, went missing while hitchhiking into town that the media and the public, that we, paid attention.

    Of course, things have changed in the more than 15 years since I first attended the march. The police formed a task force, serial killer Robert Pickton was locked up and the public became aware of “the missing women.” National research was done to try to find out the extent of unsolved murders or disappearances of native girls and women. When the results were released in 2010 more than 600 names were on that list. An inquiry was also held to look in to why the violence in the downtown east side continued for so long before the police took action. And in northern BC, the police compiled a list of young women who have met a similar fate along what is now known as “the Highway of Tears.” The UN wants to investigate the missing women, calling it an issue of human rights. [Editor's note: Canada has rejected such moves by bodies of the United Nations.]

    So family members should be relieved, right? Because the police and the public finally started paying attention, finally put a name to the violence that went unseen for so long.


    continued below

  48. Despite these changes in public awareness, despite this legal action, despite the poster campaigns, the reports, and the international horror at the discovery of a serial killer… the violence continues. It’s still a part of daily life. Young women continue to go missing from rural reserves. They continue to die under suspicious circumstances. Gay native men (who we call two-spirits) — like Dolan Badger — continue to be killed without any justice. And if these stories show up in the media, they surface for a moment, very rarely to be talked about again.

    Well, a few years ago I reached a kind of turning point. These changes were just not enough. Why do we ask for help from a system that doesn’t seem to create real change? What does “justice” really mean?

    For me, this change came after I had seen case after case where violence was reported. Sometimes it got to court, and sometimes there were even convictions. But the lives of the young people I was working with did not improve. When the court case was all over, their lives went right back to how they had been before. In fact, through the court process, the victims themselves felt helpless, just waiting to hear what a judge decided. Or, more often, they were told that there wasn’t enough evidence so nothing more could be done.

    It is such a helpless feeling, to see people go through such brutality and to know the justice systems has no solutions.

    Other responses left me frustrated too. Along the highway of tears, the government contributed money… to erect billboards saying “Friends don’t let friends hitchhike.” What good is a billboard going to do when it’s -20°C and you need to get into town for a doctors’ appointment, and there is simply no bus service to get you there?

    Getting more and more fed up with these band-aid solutions, in 2010 I went back to school to get my PhD. And in my research, I started talking to people about what is making a difference, not necessarily in the courts but in the daily lives of the communities I was working with. What might actually prevent violence or help to keep people safer?

    Because surely we can do better than billboards telling girls to stay home. Surely we can do better than a thirty-second news clip.

    I realized that communities are, in fact, doing lots of things to address violence on their own, without the help of police or the government. They‘re creating solutions that address local problems and are led by local people. And many First Nations are drawing on their own cultural teachings and traditions in these solutions.

    One program that stands out for me is the Moosehide Project, started by Paul Lacerte at the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centers. In Paul’s program, boys and men within a community take a pledge not to be violent toward the girls and women in their lives. And they also pledge to keep one another accountable. Often, communities go through traditional hunting processes to harvest the hide and integrate other local cultural practices. It draws on the strengths of the land, the animals and the men’s obligations to their ancestors. This is happening on a small scale in communities all across BC and it’s spreading fast.

    continued below

  49. Other solutions involve restoring the cultural roles of young people, integrating traditional conflict resolution, calling on elders to settle disputes. Or creating informal safe houses, or training emergency response teams made up of local people.

    As I talked to people in native communities all across BC, my view on law started to shift. I started to see these solutions not as just local social changes, but as the operation of a different kind of law: Indigenous law.

    Now what do I mean by Indigenous law? Don’t we need the courts to uphold our laws?

    Well before the Indian Act turned us into Indians, before Canada became Canada, we native people were Kwagiulth, Haida, and Nuu-Chah-Nulth. We were Skeetchestn, Tsimishian and Nisga’a. We can see on this map that there were, and are, many distinct language groups across BC. Each language represents a distinct Indigenous Nation, with their own set of cultural systems, social norms, ceremonial practices, and yes, laws. These laws governed our lives for thousands of years, not upheld through a court system or police, but by a network of individuals who kept each other accountable.

    Canadian law turned all these individual groups, all these distinct cultures, into one thing: Status Indians. And all of us became subject to federal law. This federal law is now supposed to help us to address violence and abuse, but clearly it is failing.

    Thinking about these networks, we can see that the laws of Canada that were plunked down on top of native communities have an entirely different geography. One big national law versus local level networks. But what is rarely seen is that those legal relationships, the identities and cultural practices remain alive and active underneath the laws of Canada.

    Right now, in many rural areas, if you call the police for help, they may not get there for a day, or two, or, I’ve heard, even a week. So you can see why local solutions, right here and now, might be more effective.

    I’ve noticed that local strategies have a different quality than those offered by criminal law. Instead of appealing to some powerful figure like the police or a judge for help, with Indigenous law, all members of a community are actively involved in upholding local laws. This activates our sense of power, our agency.

    So what is agency? We might define it as the capacity of a person to act in the world. Or the ability to make choices for yourself. This is a fundamental quality of being a person in society, of feeling like you matter, like you are in control of your own life.

    And in many Indigenous teachings, it’s not only people who have agency but also plants, animals, the land and the ocean — every living thing has agency. Each living thing has an important role in the order of the world. The teachings that emerge from our longstanding relationships upon the land and the ocean have allowed us to live with each another for thousands of years. And they have much to teach about creating healthy and strong relationships. Relationships that don’t allow violence.

    continued below

  50. You may not know about them, but if you take the time to learn about local Indigenous communities, here on the lands we live on, you might be surprised at what we learn.

    In my Kwakwaka’wakw community, our laws tell us we are responsible for “raising one another up.” We hold up our hands in recognition of our ancestors, honoring one another and recognizing each other’s gifts. We must look to our neighbors, to ourselves, to “raise one another up.”

    We now remember the missing women. But how could we have raised up women like Sheila Hunt, before her name ended up on that banner?

    In these teachings, our relationships are what hold us to account. Our relationships become our law. If laws are rules we form to determine how we live with one another, it seems that laws formed from within these local relationships have much to offer. Not just for violence, but so many other issues too.

    You might be familiar with seeing native culture and resistance being put to work in political actions like Idle No More, but I think we also need to turn its power toward the smaller, everyday level of our relationships. And how we envision our communities.

    We see allies show up at rallies to defend our oceans, our forests, our salmon. But who shows up when we call on people to stand up with our loved ones, to stand up for our very lives?

    So what can be learned from this? It’s up to Indigenous people to revitalize our cultural practices. But I think everyone can take something from the principles of Indigenous law.

    Instead of expecting criminal law to stop violence, instead of looking for one big solution, we can look to each another. We can look to ourselves and our neighbors to change norms around violence.

    The next time we hear a news story about violence and find ourselves tuning out, we can question why that violence feels far off from our reality.

    Because it’s not. It’s happening just around the corner from us, to our neighbors. So we can think about how to close the gaps between us, strengthening our relationships.

    And second, if we take the time to look underneath and beyond the map of Canada, underneath the cities we now live in, Indigenous knowledge has much to teach us about where we live and how we might better live together in these lands.

    Sheila Hunt? I never did find out if she was my auntie. Because the point is she should have mattered whether she was my auntie or not. And she should have mattered before she was put on that list of “the missing women.” As neighbours, as people who create community together, the laws of this land tell me Sheila should have been treated as a valuable member of society. So should Dolan Badger. So should my cousin Malidi. I’ve learned over the past 15 years of talking about violence that it won’t be stopped by a poster campaign. Or a court case. Or a news story. It will only be stopped when those who enact violence, and those who experience it, and those who witness it, are understood as being part of a network of people who are responsible to one another.

    The people who live beside us — whether we know them or not — we need to “raise one another up.” Because if we don’t, who will?


  51. Missing, murdered aboriginal womens cases reviewed

    The Canadian Press January 23, 2014

    The RCMP says it has completed a "comprehensive file review" of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within Mountie jurisdiction — more than 400 in all — and will continue to pursue outstanding cases.

    The national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females, say RCMP briefing notes obtained under the Access to Information Act.

    The review represents the latest effort by the Mounties amid public concern about the perils faced by aboriginal women and allegations of police inaction.

    A special parliamentary committee is holding hearings on the issue, and calls persist for a full-fledged national inquiry.

    Native association working with RCMP

    The Native Women's Association of Canada said Thursday it will give the RCMP its list of aboriginal women who may have met with violence or simply disappeared — but only names gleaned from public sources such as newspapers and posters.

    The association is not prepared to provide the Mounties with private details of cases that may have come from family members and friends of the missing.

    "We want to be careful in how we do things," said Claudette Dumont-Smith, executive director of the association.

    Drawing on information scattered in often-forgotten public sources, the association spent years compiling a database of 582 cases through the Sisters in Spirit initiative.

    The association began working with the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing Services branch in 2009 and provided the Mounties with names from its database in cases where there was little information to go on.

    The list of 118 names included 60 murdered women or girls, three missing ones and 55 whose status was unknown. Of these, 64 turned up on a police database.

    That prompted the RCMP to ask the native women's association for all 582 names to see if any others could be found in police files, but confidentiality guarantees to family members have delayed further sharing.

    Dumont-Smith said the association recently agreed to give the RCMP names that have already been published elsewhere.

    "We haven't determined how we will do that. We've only decided that, yes, we would share the names," she said in an interview.

    "I imagine that we're not just going to release all our 500-and-some names at once. We'll do it in a progressive fashion, maybe region by region. But that hasn't been worked out yet."

    Comprehensive list being compiled

    The RCMP and the association are working "to reconcile all available data" pertaining to missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, said Sgt. Greg Cox, an RCMP spokesman. "We have not received all information from NWAC yet, but we expect it shortly."

    Last fall the Mounties shared their figures — 327 murders and 90 missing women — with the native women's association, Dumont-Smith said.

    "They showed us how they got to these numbers. They were very — I found— transparent."

    The RCMP has responsibility for day-to-day policing in only parts of the country, which may account for the discrepancy in the two organizations' numbers, she said.

    She is keen to know more about the RCMP's list of 90 missing women.

    "Are they the same as ours — are they the same names? I think that will be an interesting find, if we both work together on this. That's what I think will come out of that."

    Cox said Thursday the RCMP's file review was intended "to capture a statistical snapshot in time" — not uncover new leads or result in investigations.

    "Ongoing investigations continue to be carried out by our operational units across Canada."

    The RCMP briefing note, prepared last July, says the force "will remain vigilant in our efforts to resolve all outstanding cases."


  52. Missing, murdered aboriginal womens cases reviewed

    The Canadian Press January 23, 2014

    The RCMP says it has completed a "comprehensive file review" of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within Mountie jurisdiction — more than 400 in all — and will continue to pursue outstanding cases.

    The national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females, say RCMP briefing notes obtained under the Access to Information Act.

    The review represents the latest effort by the Mounties amid public concern about the perils faced by aboriginal women and allegations of police inaction.

    A special parliamentary committee is holding hearings on the issue, and calls persist for a full-fledged national inquiry.

    Native association working with RCMP

    The Native Women's Association of Canada said Thursday it will give the RCMP its list of aboriginal women who may have met with violence or simply disappeared — but only names gleaned from public sources such as newspapers and posters.

    The association is not prepared to provide the Mounties with private details of cases that may have come from family members and friends of the missing.

    "We want to be careful in how we do things," said Claudette Dumont-Smith, executive director of the association.

    Drawing on information scattered in often-forgotten public sources, the association spent years compiling a database of 582 cases through the Sisters in Spirit initiative.

    The association began working with the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing Services branch in 2009 and provided the Mounties with names from its database in cases where there was little information to go on.

    The list of 118 names included 60 murdered women or girls, three missing ones and 55 whose status was unknown. Of these, 64 turned up on a police database.

    That prompted the RCMP to ask the native women's association for all 582 names to see if any others could be found in police files, but confidentiality guarantees to family members have delayed further sharing.

    Dumont-Smith said the association recently agreed to give the RCMP names that have already been published elsewhere.

    "We haven't determined how we will do that. We've only decided that, yes, we would share the names," she said in an interview.

    "I imagine that we're not just going to release all our 500-and-some names at once. We'll do it in a progressive fashion, maybe region by region. But that hasn't been worked out yet."

    Comprehensive list being compiled

    The RCMP and the association are working "to reconcile all available data" pertaining to missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, said Sgt. Greg Cox, an RCMP spokesman. "We have not received all information from NWAC yet, but we expect it shortly."

    Last fall the Mounties shared their figures — 327 murders and 90 missing women — with the native women's association, Dumont-Smith said.

    "They showed us how they got to these numbers. They were very — I found— transparent."

    The RCMP has responsibility for day-to-day policing in only parts of the country, which may account for the discrepancy in the two organizations' numbers, she said.

    She is keen to know more about the RCMP's list of 90 missing women.

    "Are they the same as ours — are they the same names? I think that will be an interesting find, if we both work together on this. That's what I think will come out of that."

    Cox said Thursday the RCMP's file review was intended "to capture a statistical snapshot in time" — not uncover new leads or result in investigations.

    "Ongoing investigations continue to be carried out by our operational units across Canada."

    The RCMP briefing note, prepared last July, says the force "will remain vigilant in our efforts to resolve all outstanding cases."


  53. New list of missing, murdered aboriginal women gives families hope

    CBC News January 24, 2014

    The number of missing and murdered women in Canada may be much higher than previously believed, new research shows, giving hope to families seeking answers about their loved ones the new figures will spark fresh action from the RCMP.

    The PhD thesis research by Maryanne Pearce, a federal civil servant in Ottawa, has resulted in a database of missing or dead Canadian women, 824 of whom are identified as aboriginal.

    Pearce cross-referenced newspaper articles, police reports, court documents and other resources as part of her database.

    The latest figure is much higher than the 582 names the Native Women's Association of Canada compiled and handed over to the RCMP in 2009.

    Family members of those who have gone missing or have been killed say they hope the new list will push the RCMP to search harder.

    "Somebody out there knows where these people are," said Bernice Catcheway, whose daughter, Jennifer, went missing in Manitoba in June 2008.

    "Somebody stole my daughter, and that's the hardest thing a parent can go through … just not knowing where she is is a nightmare."

    Nahanni Fontaine, a special adviser on aboriginal women's issues for the Manitoba government, says she hopes the newest figures will bring some comfort to families.

    "It legitimizes the spirit of their loved one, and that their loved one existed, and that they're not forgotten," she said.

    The research presents "the opportunity again to galvanize non-aboriginal Canadians and get behind this issue," Fontaine added. "If they had been missed in previous reports, now they're here. And so I think that that really goes a long way with families."

    RCMP reviewed hundreds of cases

    It was revealed this week that the RCMP has completed a "comprehensive file review" of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within Mountie jurisdiction.

    The national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females, according to RCMP briefing notes obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

    "This is of great priority to the RCMP," Supt. Tyler Bates, director of national aboriginal policing and crime prevention services, told CBC News. "We continue to work diligently to resolve any of the outstanding cases that remain, whether it be historical homicides or contemporary ones."

    Bates noted that some of the cases in the new database will be outside RCMP jurisdiction.

    The RCMP review represents the latest effort by the police force amid public concern about the perils faced by aboriginal women, and allegations of police inaction.

    A special parliamentary committee is holding hearings on the issue.

    Aboriginal groups along with some provinces, such as Manitoba, have been pressing for a full-fledged national inquiry.

    "What is going to be the action that the RCMP are gonna take? Are they gonna look at these cases, meeting with these families and following through?" asked Bernadette Smith, whose sister, Claudette Osborne, vanished in Winnipeg in July 2008.

    Smith said she expects the RCMP to follow up on the new names that have come up in the latest database.

    "When my sister went missing, we were told, 'Oh, she's probably out partying somewhere, she'll turn up.' You know, so we were just kind of just brushed off, and I think that's still happening," she said.

    Smith and other family members are holding a vigil in Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon to remember Osborne, who was 21 when she went missing.


    List of Canada's missing and murdered women, from Maryanne Pearce's An Awkward Silence


  54. Mohawk community threatens blockades if Tories won't launch missing-women probe

    By Andy Radia, Yahoo! News February 7, 2014

    In a week during which the Harper government unveiled its historic education deal with First Nations, we have a reminder that not all is well between Aboriginals and the Conservatives.
    As first reported by APTN News, Shawn Brant, a member the Mohawk Community of Tyendinaga, is threatening "war" against Harper if the Tories don't launch an inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women.
    He made the threat of action in a very thoughtful letter to the Prime Minister dated February 4.

    "In a report, published in September 2013 by MaryAnne Pearce and recently obtained by the RCMP, some 824 First Nations women have now been identified as having been murdered or gone missing, with a majority of those cases documented as having occurred in the past 15 years.

    "Your unwillingness to consider this first step at reconciliation is well documented and understood.

    "It is our opinion that all diplomatic means to convince you of the need for an inquiry have failed. Further, the tears and sadness of the families left behind have not moved you to any position of compassion.

    "We have therefore resolved that we will take whatever and further actions that are deemed necessary, to compel you to call a National Inquiry into the crisis of Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women and Girls."

    Brant spoke to Yahoo Canada News on Friday afternoon and said that his community is considering blockades on thoroughfares between Canada's two largest cities — something they've done before.

    He suggests that the blockades could start in southern Ontario — with "400 men" — and quickly spread to other parts of the country with the help of 633 Mohawk communities.

    Ernie Crey, whose missing sister's DNA was found on serial killer Willie Pickton's pig farm in Port Coquitlam, says he disagrees with blockades as a form of protest but understands Brant's motivation.

    "I could see something like this occurring following Ottawa's high-handed and dismissive stance where a national inquiry into missing and murdered women is concerned," Crey said.

    "Shawn's approach is not one I agree with or even endorse, but frustration over this issue has past the boiling point and our communities from coast to coast are roiling over this issue."

    Last summer, all of Canada's premiers joined the Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty International and all the federal opposition parties asking the Harper government for an inquiry.

    For their part, the Tories continue to claim that an inquiry is not needed. In a statement to CBC News in September, Justice Minister Peter Mackay's office said it's not interested in more meetings but is taking action.

    "This includes creating a new National Centre for Missing Persons, improving law enforcement databases and developing community safety plans specifically designed for Aboriginal communities," the statement said.


  55. Inuk woman writing thesis on missing and murdered aboriginal women goes missing

    Loretta Saunders's boyfriend: 'She meant everything to me'

    CBC News February 21, 2014

    The boyfriend of a missing Halifax woman told CBC News he is suspicious about the last text message he received from his girlfriend's cellphone before she mysteriously disappeared.

    Yalcin Surkultay, 25, said he knew something was wrong a week ago when he got a text from Loretta Saunders, 26, a Saint Mary's University student, asking him what her mother's maiden name was.

    He said he received the strange text message Feb. 14 from girlfriend, who was last seen on Feb. 13. It read: “I’m so stressed that I can’t like even remember my own mother’s maiden name.”

    “It’s not possible,” Surkultay told CBC News.

    “She said she was stressed and locked herself out [of her] online banking — and she needed money, but it didn’t really make sense to me … I couldn’t make sense out of it, like why would she be stressed out all of a sudden?”

    Surkultay and Saunders, an Inuk woman from Newfoundland and Labrador, had been dating for 2½ years.

    He said when he saw Saunders on the morning of Feb. 13 she told him she was going to try and get rent money from her roommates, Victoria Henneberry, 28, and Blake Legette, 25.

    The couple had moved in the month before and had yet to pay rent.

    "She found them on Kijiji, and it has been a month or something and they didn’t pay the rent," said Surkultay.

    Earlier this week, Saunders's car was found in Harrow, Ont., south of Windsor.

    Police in Ontario have charged Leggette and Henneberry with possession of stolen goods and fraud.

    Police told CBC News a fraud charge against Leggette is connected to the use of Saunders's bank card.

    Thesis on missing women

    Surkultay said Saunders was writing her thesis, focusing on missing and murdered aboriginal women, and often worked into the early morning hours.

    “She was just so passionate about this topic and this whole school thing. She was so happy from the feedback she got from her professors — that was really, really important to her. She always wanted to go to law school. She was the most hardworking person I had ever seen, it was mind blowing,” he said.

    Surkultay said his relationship with Saunders was serious. The couple even visited his family in Turkey.

    “I thought we would be together for a long time,” he said.

    “She meant everything to me. She was pretty much the one I wanted to be with for the rest of my life.”

    Surkultay said Saunders was not three months pregnant, as has previously been reported, but said she took a pregnancy test a few weeks ago that was positive. He said she was going to have a blood test done to confirm it.

    “It doesn't seem real to me. This is the calmest I have been for a while, I just keep having breakdowns, I don’t know what to do," he said.

    'She wouldn't want us to waste time crying'

    Saunders's sister is asking anyone who has seen the missing woman or who may have seen her vehicle between Nova Scotia and Ontario to contact police.

    Working with the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, Delilah Saunders-Terriak, 21, spoke to reporters in Halifax on Friday morning.

    "Someone had to have seen her car or the people driving her car,” she said.

    Saunders-Terriak described her sister as strong.

    "She wouldn't want us wasting time crying," she said.

    A family friend started a fundraising campaign online to help bring Saunders's five brothers and parents from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia to help in the search. By Friday evening, it had raised about $7,500 of the $10,000 goal.

    “We need to be together when we find out what’s going on, when we hear some good news," said Saunders-Terriak. "It still hasn't set in."

    Halifax police said they have obtained arrest warrants to return Legette and Henneberry to Nova Scotia.


  56. Loretta Saunders homicide sparks call by native group for public inquiry

    Inuk student was studying missing and murdered aboriginal women

    CBC News February 26, 2014

    The slaying of Loretta Saunders should trigger a national inquiry into the hundreds of murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada, the president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association says.

    Cheryl Maloney spoke hours after police found the body of Saunders off a New Brunswick highway. Police are treating her death as a homicide.

    "I'm never going to let Stephen Harper or Canadians forget about Loretta and all the other missing or murdered aboriginal people," Maloney said.

    "There’s something wrong in Canada if aboriginal people have to live this fate."

    Saunders, an Inuk woman from Newfoundland and Labrador, was doing her thesis at Halifax's Saint Mary’s University on missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    Maloney said aboriginal Canadian women are five times more likely to be violently attacked than non-aboriginal women.

    Aboriginal men also face higher risks of violence than non-aboriginal men, she said.

    A researcher has found 800 cases of missing or murdered Canadian aboriginal women.

    Maloney said the “bright, smart” student didn’t fit stereotypes.

    "She wasn't what society expected for a missing aboriginal girl. Canadian society, and especially our prime minister, has been able to ignore the reality of the statistics that are against aboriginal girls,” Maloney said.

    "This is not what everyone expects, but she is at risk. Every aboriginal girl in this country is vulnerable. For Canada to be ignoring it for so long, it's disheartening. How many more families does this have to happen to before they take seriously the problem?”

    Saunders was studying the murders of three Nova Scotia aboriginal women:

    Nora Bernard http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/killer-of-mi-kmaq-activist-bernard-sentenced-to-15-years-1.791469

    Anna Mae Pictou Aquash http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/guilty-verdict-in-n-s-native-activist-s-death-1.893680

    Tanya Brooks http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/memorial-walk-held-for-tanya-brooks-1.1061596

    Maloney, surrounded by women who had volunteered to help search for Saunders, thanked Halifax for rallying to her side.

    People 'fell in love with this girl'

    "Loretta became something not just to us, the volunteers, but to the city, the province, the public. People really stepped up and they fell in love with this girl,” she said.

    Saunders was last seen in the Cowie Hill Road area in Halifax on the morning of Feb. 13. Five days later, her car was located in Harrow, Ont.

    Officers found her body Wednesday afternoon on the median of Route 2 of the Trans-Canada Highway, west of Salisbury, N.B. Forensic investigators from both Halifax police and RCMP in New Brunswick retrieved her remains.

    Murder charges expected

    Blake Leggette, 25, and Victoria Henneberry, 28, are currently incarcerated in Halifax. They were Saunders' roommates. Each is facing a charge of theft of a motor vehicle.

    "Investigators have identified suspects in this homicide and they are not looking for anyone else," said Const. Pierre Bourdages. "This homicide investigation is ongoing and charges are anticipated."

    Bourdages said more than one person will face murder charges and that they would be laid "as soon as possible."

    Henneberry is due in court Thursday and Leggette is due in court Friday. Both are facing charges relating to the theft of Saunders' car.

    "At this time, that's the only charge they're facing," Bourdages said.


  57. No call for national inquiry in MPs' report on aboriginal women

    16 recommendations include the creation of a public awareness and prevention campaign

    By Susana Mas, CBC News March 07, 2014

    A long-awaited report from MPs on the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women tabled Friday makes 16 recommendations, but does not call on the federal government to launch a public inquiry.

    The report, titled "Invisible Women: A Call To Action,"​ fell short of demands by aboriginal groups and opposition parties who have been relentless in their call for a national inquiry.

    The New Democrats and federal Liberals tabled dissenting opinions alongside the final report calling on the federal government to launch a national inquiry and implement a national action plan to address the violence against indigenous women and girls.

    The Assembly of First Nations said the report was "disappointing" to the victims and families of missing and murdered women and girls.

    "I have spoken to the leadership of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and we will be meeting Monday to discuss next steps and set out a plan to get action on this critical matter," said Shawn Atleo, the national chief for the AFN in a written statement on Friday.

    "This report fails to show the needed commitment and resources to adequately address this ongoing tragedy — a tragedy that is a reflection on Canada as a whole,” said NWAC president, Michèle Audette.

    After months of hearing 61 witnesses testify​, the report's 16 recommendations include:

    -The creation of a public awareness and prevention campaign created by the federal government in conjunction with the provinces, territories and municipalities​.

    -The implementation of a national DNA-based missing person's index.

    -The possibility of collecting police data on violence against aboriginal women and girls that includes an ethnicity variable.

    The final report proposes that the federal government implement all of the recommendations "in a co-ordinated action plan."​

    Partisan messaging?

    "I believe that this report will go further to take action," said​ Conservative MP Stella Ambler, the chair of the special committee, moments before the report was tabled.​​

    But opposition party MPs who served as vice-chairs on the special commons committee said the recommendations are either not new or would do nothing to prevent or stop violence against indigenous women and girls.

    "We heard very clearly from women and men, family members and friends of murdered and missing aboriginal women that the status quo is not good enough," said Jean Crowder, the aboriginal affairs critic ​for the NDP and vice-chair of the special committee.

    "What we saw today in the House of Commons was a report tabled by the Conservatives that basically said the status quo is OK."

    The special committee was first struck by way of a unanimous motion which was introduced by Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett last February.

    Bennett, who also served as a vice-chair on the committee, said the final report does not accurately reflect the recommendations made by the witnesses who appeared before the MPs.

    "Those were replaced by a disappointing list of what aren't even recommendations," Bennett said adding that "the number one thing they wanted to have happen was a national public inquiry."

    Bennett asked Ambler during question period earlier today whether she believed "the report actually reflects the testimony of witnesses" or whether "it was improperly influenced by the six Conservative parliamentary secretaries on the committee taking orders from the Prime Minister's Office."

    continued below

  58. Ambler did not answer the question saying only the report would outline "all of the actions that have been taken and all the actions that can be taken."

    Mounting pressure

    The government appears to be increasingly at odds with a growing number of groups that have been calling for a national public inquiry.

    The most recent calls have come from Nova Scotia's three main party leaders following the slaying of Loretta Saunders.

    The 26-year-old Inuk woman from Labrador was studying at Saint Mary's University in Halifax when she vanished last month.

    Her body was later found alongside a highway in New Brunswick, and a man and woman are facing murder charges in the death. Saunders was an honours student, who was writing her thesis on murdered and missing aboriginal women.​

    Her cousin, Holly Jarrett, has since garnered more than 60,000 signatures on a petition calling for a national inquiry.

    The special committee heard testimony from the government's own federally appointed victims ombudsman Sue O'Sullivan who said on Jan. 30 she supported the creation of a national commission of inquiry and a related action plan.

    James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, who visited Canada last October, called on the federal government to launch a "comprehensive and nationwide" inquiry into the case of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    Conservative MP Ryan Leef pledged to his constituents in Yukon last October to support a national public inquiry, but only if the provinces played a role.

    The premiers also backed a call to launch a national public inquiry when they met for a two-day summit of the Council of the Federation last July.

    Despite mounting pressure for an inquiry Conservative cabinet ministers — from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt to the Minister of Status for Women Kellie Leitch and Justice Minister Peter MacKay — have repeatedly pointed to several anti-crime initiatives passed into law since 2006 as evidence the government has and continues to take action to address the issue of violence against women.

    MacKay tabled dozens of documents earlier on Friday including studies on violence against aboriginal women and girls dating back to the 1990s. He also apologized for throwing papers on the House floor after an earlier attempt to table those documents on Thursday.

    Leitch issued a statement after the report was tabled saying that ending violence against all women and girls "remains a priority" for the government.

    "We remain concerned about the high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada and the devastating impact these tragedies have on families and communities across our country."

    The government has 120 days to respond to the report released Friday.

    read the numerous links embedded in this article at:


    Read the report of the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women​ (dissenting opinions included) at:


  59. Majority of missing and murdered women in North are aboriginal

    Database shows higher numbers than previously reported in Nunavut and N.W.T.

    By Angela Sterritt, CBC News March 12, 2014

    A recently released database shows that the already high numbers of missing and murdered aboriginal women in the North are higher than previously reported.

    "Horrifying" is how some describe the heartbreaking number of indigenous women who have vanished or have died at the helm of foul play.

    Kathy Meyer's daughter Angela went missing in 2010. The search continues to this day and Meyer says it is hard.

    "But we know we have to carry on … if you see anything happening to anyone, not just a woman or a girl, but anyone who needs help …especially [if] they are getting taken away or lost .. just talk to them..," Meyer said from her home in Yellowknife.

    The last time Kathy saw her daughter Angela was before she stepped outside of her home in Yellowknife to have a cigarette.

    Recent research points to higher numbers than previously reported

    Independent researcher Maryanne Pearce found almost 90 per cent of the cases of missing or murdered women in Nunavut are aboriginal. Her research points out five more cases then were previously reported for Nunavut.

    Meyer is originally from Taloyoak, Nunavut. She was surprised to learn that the number of women reported as missing or murdered in her home territory is 35 — 31 of them aboriginal.

    "I like to think that powers that be have some plan to keep the numbers down or find our loved ones and to bring them home," Meyer said.

    In the N.W.T. Pearce reported 17 cases — five more than previously listed — and 82 per cent are aboriginal women.

    She said four of the new cases she found are missing persons (including one person the police suspect to be a victim of foul play), and 13 are murders, including two unsolved murders.

    In Pearce's research, updated as of this week, she found 871 aboriginal women and girls, missing or murdered, in total, in Canada.

    Original statistics reported that the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada was roughly 600. In total she found 3,842 cases, approximately, 23 per cent of cases are aboriginal women.

    "I found myself just horrified and wondering what has been done, what could be done, so I decided to look into it a little deeper and did my doctorate in law on vulnerable missing and murdered women in Canada," Pearce said from her home in Ottawa.

    She spent seven years digging into public sites. She looked through RCMP and government websites, court documents and cross referenced the names and information of women she found.

    continued below

  60. In total she found 3330 names — with 824 of them aboriginal. But in continuing her research from September to this month, she found 47 more aboriginal women, either missing or murdered in Canada.

    Not just about the numbers

    For Pearce and those who have lost a loved one, it's less about the numbers, and more about the lives interrupted — the daughters, aunties, mothers and grandmothers.

    "I've met people that have had missing loved ones for 20 years, 25 years, and I just can't believe how they can go on that long … maybe if they just looked at each individual..like Angela," said Meyer, reflecting on possible solutions at bay.

    Meyer says more reports and even an inquiry may not the answer, but putting more emphasis on the importance of women's lives could be.

    She also said racism is a factor in what's been happening to women in this country.

    "Its very hard to deal with it, and I choose as a mother, as a person, not to dwell on racism, it seems to bring out the worst in anger," Meyer said.

    For Pearce, the new information is also troubling.

    "I am not sure how families survive quite honestly. Thinking about these cases its just heartbreaking, the victims and the families are in my head and my heart all the time," Pearce said.

    "When I am entering names, and the name is unusual … like Hope or Sunshine, you start to think of the mother naming this child. It can be very difficult work sometimes."

    Regardless of the pain, Pearce hopes others can build on the work she has done.

    "Whether its been the large groups like Native Women's Association of Canada or Amnesty International, or the small grassroots like Walk for Justice, Feb. 14 marches, that kind of work has created an atmosphere where everywhere in Canada if you say missing and murdered women, people know what you are talking about."

    Pearce finished her thesis research last September, and she continues to update her database, adding new cases, removing cases, updating cases and fixing any errors.


    Research points to 'exhaustive list' of missing and murdered aboriginal women

    Native rights lawyer backs inquiry into murdered aboriginal women

    1700 unfinished pairs of moccasins memorialize the missing and murdered

    New list of missing, murdered aboriginal women gives families hope

  61. Moccasin tops honour missing, slain women in new art exhibit

    Walking With Our Sisters exhibit in Winnipeg as part of 7-year North American tour

    CBC News March 21, 2014

    Hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in Canada and the United States are being remembered in a new travelling art exhibit featuring decorated moccasin tops.

    The Walking With Our Sisters exhibit opened Friday at the Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery in Winnipeg, as part of a seven-year tour across North America.

    The installation consists of more than 1,700 pairs of donated moccasin tops — also known as vamps, tongues or uppers — decorated with beads, moose hair tufts, porcupine quills, embroidery and more.

    Some were made by children, scrawled with words such as "love" and "hope," while others showed intricately beaded pictures of a victim.

    Métis artist Christi Belcourt came up with the idea to pay tribute to more than 800 indigenous women and girls who have been reported missing or murdered in Canada over the last 20 years.

    Among the more than 1,200 artists who donated moccasin tops was Sherry Farrell Racette, who crafted a vamp in honour of 31-year-old Tanya Nepinak, who went missing in Winnipeg in September 2011.

    Farrell Racette said she did not know Nepinak or her family personally, but she attended a vigil in the woman's honour and was moved by an image of a butterfly that appeared as people spoke.

    "Their words and the sight of that butterfly dancing around as they spoke really moved me and inspired me," she said.

    The moccasin tops are deliberately not sewn into moccasins to reflect the unfinished lives of so many women, according to organizers.

    Visitors are asked to take off their shoes before walking on paths of cloth that run alongside the tops.

    "In the whole way that we approach it, in the way that the space is cleansed and treated for a while, this space becomes like a lodge," said Farrell Racette.

    Family members of missing and murdered Manitoba women were given a private showing on Friday.

    "We really want the families to know that, you know, this is about them. This is their time to come and maybe have … a little bit closure or just a little bit of healing," said Daina Warren, the gallery's director.

    The exhibit will be at the Urban Shaman gallery until April 12.

    It is scheduled to make stops in more than 30 locations across Canada and the United States, with organizers currently booking dates into 2019.

    see photos at:


  62. Human trafficking: Why are aboriginal women vulnerable?

    By Jillian Taylor, CBC March 27, 2014

    CBC reporter Jillian Taylor covers the aboriginal beat in Manitoba. She began her reporting career at APTN, went on to CTV, and has been working here at CBC for just over a year now. She is from Fisher Cree First Nation. @JillianLTaylor

    Alia Parisien counts herself lucky that she found Honouring Gifts.

    The program, at Ka Ni Kanichihk in Winnipeg, gives aboriginal women a second chance and teaches them jobs skills. Most of these women are overcoming challenges such as addictions, brushes with the law, and sexual exploitation.

    “I was getting money as a kid, and it was so easy to get money from this guy just to do whatever he wanted to do to me,” said Parisien, now a 25-year-old mother.

    She says the sexual abuse went on for six years. Every time it happened, he paid her. As she got older she says she thought about selling herself.

    “I could have easily gone into the lifestyle, I was brainwashed, I was molested, I had my kids, I had a drinking problem, was going into drugs,” said Parisien.

    Aboriginal girls and women over-represented

    CBC News sat down with Parisien and five other of the women in the program.

    Every one of them knew at least one person who was involved in the sex trade. They say that’s how common it is in their community.

    The Canadian Women’s foundation is one of the first to conduct cross-country research on human trafficking. There is little known about how it works, where it exists, and who are the victims.

    “It's really underground and that's really the main reason why we still to this day cannot get at numbers [of victims],” says Diane Redsky, who is the project director for the Canadian Women's Foundation National Taskforce on Human Trafficking.

    The taskforce is made up of 23 experts. It held consultations in eight different Canadian cities and met with front line workers, police, crown attorneys and sex trafficking survivors.

    “What we were able to capture by going across the country is recognizing that there are some trends, depending on where you are in the country,” says Redsky.

    One of those trends is an over-representation of aboriginal women and girls.

    Redsky says the taskforce estimates that 50 per cent of the women being trafficked in Canada are aboriginal. The same goes for underage victims.

    In Manitoba, those who work with the exploited women estimate that at least 90 per cent are aboriginal.

    “It doesn’t surprise me,” says Dana Connelly, who runs the Honouring Gifts program. “But I am absolutely appalled, outraged and disgusted.”

    continued below

  63. Why aboriginal girls and women are at risk

    The women in Honouring Gifts didn’t have trouble agreeing on why aboriginal women are easy prey for traffickers and exploiters.

    “A lot of us grew up with poverty and not having all of those nice things,” says Kayla Hobson, a 26-year-old mother of two.

    “Not having that support system and role models encouraging us to do good,” she adds.

    Hobson says she sold drugs when she was younger. For her it glamorous, but she says it was also a necessity.

    She says the drug trade and sex trade go hand-in-hand. Many people she knows grew up thinking that is normal.

    “The one friend I have just sees it [sex-trade] as a natural thing,” says Hobson. “She can laugh about it; just being able to get that easy money.”

    Amber Fontaine, 22, also talked about a friend that may have be a victim of human trafficking.

    “I guess you could say she was lured,” said Fontaine.

    She says her friend was groomed by older women who were working the sex trade. Fontaine knows those women as well.

    “It’s like she doesn’t have her own mind. They just tell her how to do it, it’s like she doesn’t make her own decisions,” says Fontaine.

    Fontaine’s friend is addicted to drugs and sells her body to feed her addiction.Fontaine started drinking and doing drugs when she was 13, just like her friend.

    “I definitely could have started getting into the sex trade, doing the same things she did,” she said..

    Now she is coming up on her one-year anniversary of being sober.

    Moving forward

    Dana Connolly runs Honouring Gifts. She said that of all the exploited women she has worked with, not one chose to do it.

    "When you are hungry, you will do anything you have to to eat. If you have a child that you have to feed... you are going to do anything to get that child fed."

    Connolly said there needs to be more programs for vulnerable women. like Honouring Gifts.

    "It's just giving them options, showing them that there are resources, supports, bringing them together," said Connolly.

    "Now I am learning to be a survivor and advocate and tell people to speak up about it,” said Alia Parisien.

    She is now working to become role model for her own children.


  64. Family of Amber Tuccaro files complaint against RCMP

    Complaint alleges RCMP downplayed aboriginal woman's disappearance

    CBC News April 24, 2014

    The family of Amber Tuccaro, a woman originally from Fort Chipewyan found dead near Edmonton in 2012, has filed a complaint against the Leduc RCMP saying the investigation into the 20-year-old's disappearance was botched.

    The official complaint says investigators downplayed Amber Tuccaro's disappearance in 2010 and took her off the missing persons list after one month, even though no one had seen her.

    It says police also destroyed Amber's personal property that her family says could have been used as evidence.

    The complaint was filed with the Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP.

    Amber Tuccaro was last seen in Nisku, outside of Edmonton, on Aug. 18, 2010. Tuccaro, who lived in Fort McMurray at the time, was visiting Edmonton with her 14-month-old son Jacob and a female friend.

    Her remains were found by a group of horseback riders on a rural property near Leduc, Alta. in September 2012. The RCMP's Project KARE, which investigates cases of murdered or missing people in Alberta, took over the investigation.

    The Leduc RCMP says its policies and procedures have changed as a result of the Amber Tuccaro investigation.

    In 2012, police released a cellphone conversation recorded between Tuccaro and a third party on Aug. 18, 2010, in an attempt to identify a man's voice heard in the background. He was trying to convinceTuccaro that he was driving east from Nisku to travel into Edmonton via50th Street. Click here to listen to the man's voice.

    see court document at:


  65. RCMP not denying report of more than 1,000 missing and murdered native women

    CP MAY 1, 2014

    OTTAWA — The Mounties are not disputing a report that they have identified more than 1,000 cases of missing and murdered native women and girls — hundreds more than previously thought.

    The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, citing an anonymous source, reported that the RCMP arrived at their tally after contacting more than 200 other police forces across the country.

    APTN also reported the Public Safety Department is sitting on a copy of the RCMP report, which the network says was supposed to come out March 31.

    Supt. Tyler Bates, director of national aboriginal policing and crime prevention services, referred questions to the RCMP’s media relations office in Ottawa, which did not deny the APTN report.

    But Sgt. Julie Gagnon says the RCMP report is not finalized and it would be premature for her to comment further.

    “The RCMP is currently completing a national operational review to gain the most accurate account to date of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada,” she wrote in an email Thursday.

    “This initiative will help the RCMP and its partners identify the risk and vulnerability factors associated with missing and murdered aboriginal women to guide us in the development of future prevention, intervention and enforcement policies and initiatives with the intent of reducing violence against aboriginal women and girls.”

    Public Safety has yet to respond to questions.

    Earlier this year, the RCMP said it completed a “comprehensive file review” of more than 400 murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within its jurisdiction, and would keep looking into other outstanding cases.

    Briefing notes obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show the national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females.

    The Native Women’s Association of Canada has said it is aware of even more cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls than the RCMP tally.


  66. Report of 1000 murdered or missing aboriginal women spurs calls for inquiry

    APTN reports RCMP arrived at tally after contacting other police forces across Canada

    The Canadian Press May 01, 2014

    The Conservative government is resisting renewed calls for an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls despite a media report that suggests there may be hundreds more cases than previously thought.

    Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney was asked Thursday to finally call a inquiry in light of a report by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network that Canada may be home to close to 1,200 cases of murdered and missing women.

    His answer, in short: no.

    Instead, Blaney launched a partisan broadside against the NDP's refusal to support the government's budget bill, which includes a five-year, $25-million renewal of money aimed at stopping violence against aboriginal women and girls.

    "As a father, I'm very proud to have supported more than 30 measures to keep our streets safer, including tougher sentencing for murder, sexual assault and kidnapping," Blaney said during question period.

    "And Mr. Speaker, I will stand in this house and support the $25-million strategy for aboriginal and missing, murdered women."

    Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett questioned how the Conservatives can continue to resist an inquiry in the face of so many unresolved cases.

    "This media report says the government's own numbers show nearly a doubling of known victims of what was already a national tragedy," she said in a statement.

    "How can a government that refuses to call a national inquiry, in the face of these shocking statistics, claim that they are tough on crime or supportive of victims?"

    RCMP not denying numbers in media report

    The broadcaster cited an unnamed source Wednesday in a report that said the Mounties have now identified about 1,000 cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women and girls — significantly more than previous estimates, which had pegged the tally at more than 600. On Thursday, APTN reported that the number was even higher, citing 1,186 cases.

    The RCMP arrived at the new number after contacting more than 200 other police forces across the country, APTN reported.

    The Mounties initially refused to either confirm or deny the report but, according to the Toronto Star, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson later confirmed APTN's figure to reporters outside a meeting of the public safety committee in Ottawa.

    Paulson said the RCMP's review of police files had found more than 1,000 cases of murdered aboriginal women and girls dating back 30 years, along with another 186 cases of disappearances, the majority of which are suspected to involve foul play, the Star reported.

    continued below

  67. Supt. Tyler Bates, director of national aboriginal policing and crime prevention services, referred questions to the RCMP's media relations office in Ottawa.

    Spokeswoman Sgt. Julie Gagnon said the RCMP report is not finalized and it would be premature for her to comment further.

    "The RCMP is currently completing a national operational review to gain the most accurate account to date of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada," Gagnon wrote in an email.

    "This initiative will help the RCMP and its partners identify the risk and vulnerability factors associated with missing and murdered aboriginal women to guide us in the development of future prevention, intervention and enforcement policies and initiatives with the intent of reducing violence against aboriginal women and girls."

    The APTN report also said the Department of Public Safety is sitting on a copy of the RCMP report, which the network says was supposed to come out March 31. Public Safety has yet to respond to questions.

    'Comprehensive' review complete

    Earlier this year, the RCMP said it completed a "comprehensive file review" of more than 400 murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within its jurisdiction, and would keep looking into other outstanding cases.

    Briefing notes obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show the national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females.

    The Native Women's Association of Canada has said it is aware of even more cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls than the RCMP tally.

    President Michele Audette said her association is now looking into whether it would be feasible or possible to take the federal government to court to try to force a national inquiry.

    "There's little bees at the office trying to find out if it's possible. If it is, I think we should challenge," Audette said in an interview.

    "It's a human-rights issue. We do it for salmon. We do it for corruption ... how come we don't have the same thing for missing and murdered aboriginal women?"

    It has long been estimated that there are hundreds of cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women dating back to the 1960s.

    A United Nations human rights investigator called that statistic disturbing last year during a fact-finding visit to Canada in which he also urged the Conservative government to hold an inquiry.

    James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said a national inquiry would ensure a co-ordinated response to the problem and allow the families of victims to be heard.

    With files from CBC News


  68. Missing aboriginal women: Ottawa ignored draft report's inquiry recommendation

    Calls for inquiry grow after RCMP reveals 1,200 aboriginal women murdered or missing over 30 years

    By Rosemary Barton, CBC News May 02, 2014

    CBC News has obtained a confidential draft version of a special Commons committee report on violence against aboriginal women, which included a recommendation that the government hold a national commission of public inquiry into missing or murdered aboriginal women.

    That recommendation was not included in the committee's final report tabled in March.

    The Conservative government was again refusing calls to hold a public inquiry Thursday into the issue following a report by broadcaster APTN that said the RCMP's review of police files had uncovered more than 1,000 cases.

    The Mounties initially refused to either confirm or deny the report but, according to the Toronto Star, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson confirmed the figure to reporters outside a meeting of the public safety committee in Ottawa later in the day.

    Paulson said the RCMP's review of police files had found more than 1,000 cases of murdered aboriginal women and girls dating back 30 years, along with another 186 cases of disappearances, the majority of which are suspected to involve foul play, the Star reported.

    Asked about the APTN report at the committee, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the RCMP numbers would be released within the next month. But Blaney flat-out refused calls for a national inquiry, instead pointing to anti-crime measures the government has taken.

    The draft report obtained by CBC News was prepared by committee analysts who, along with the committee MPs, listened to dozens of witnesses about how to address the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    The draft report was based on testimony from those witnesses, but in the final report prepared by the MPs, the Conservative majority voted to remove the recommendation.

    The NDP's critic for the status of women again appealed to the government Thursday.

    "Families want closure, they want justice, they want to be heard and they want action from this government. When will this federal government call a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women?" Niki Ashton said during the public safety committee meeting.

    Blaney responded that one missing person was too many and pointed to the government’s move to change matrimonial rights for aboriginal women on reserves to make it easier for women in violent situations to leave.

    Final report omits higher estimates

    The draft version also suggested the federal government hold a national meeting led by the families of missing and murdered women and that it create a fund to help victims’ families.

    The final report pointed instead to the government's proposed Victims Bill of Rights.

    Both opposition parties were clearly displeased with the committee's recommendations and filed dissenting reports.

    The NDP said there seemed to be a lack of urgency in the recommendations.

    And the Liberals accused the Conservative committee members of partisanship and refusing to “honour the testimony of the witnesses.”

    The final report also removes speculative numbers that the instances of missing women and violence may be higher.

    The Native Women’s Association of Canada estimated in 2010 that there were 582 missing or murdered aboriginal women across the country. In the draft report, NWAC's director of safety of violence prevention, Irene Goodwin, also suggests the number may be “three to four times higher.”

    A suggestion by Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, that two or three Aboriginal women are still disappearing each week, was also removed from the final version of the report.


  69. Things would be different if we were talking about 1,186 murdered or missing white women

    by Stephen Maher, Post Media News May 2, 2014

    In February, when analysts from the Library of Parliament submitted a draft report to the parliamentary committee that had spent a year studying violence against aboriginal women, they included this recommendation: “That the federal government establish a national commission of public inquiry to analyse violence against Aboriginal women and girls, in particular those who are missing or have been murdered.”

    When the report was released on March 7, though, after closed-door meetings, the Conservative-dominated committee had removed that recommendation, in keeping with the government’s opposition to an inquiry.

    MPs decided not to call for an inquiry without knowing the scale of the problem. The Native Women’s Association of Canada had identified 582 missing or murdered aboriginal women, but because police don’t collect racial data of victims, NWAC told MPs the number was likely higher.

    The day the report was released, a source told Kenneth Jackson, a reporter for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, that the RCMP would release a report March 31 that would reveal that more than 1,000 aboriginal women had been murdered or gone missing.

    When the report was not released as expected, Jackson started digging. This week he reported that the Mounties had a number and hadn’t released it.

    When reporters cornered RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson on Parliament Hill, he revealed the number: 1,026 murdered and 160 missing aboriginal women over 30 years: 40 women a year.

    If the RCMP had those numbers before the committee did its report, it ought to have given them to the MPs. But a communications protocol this government brought in, in 2011, allows political staff in the office of the public safety minister to decide what information the RCMP releases.

    The government does not appear to like discussing missing and murdered aboriginal women, likely because doing anything about it would cost money, and there are no votes in it for them. Governments in general, and this one specifically, are machines for clumsily turning money into votes. Every dollar spent on aboriginal policing is a dollar less to spend on snowmobile trails or Economic Action Plan ads.

    That’s politics, but oh, this is a heartbreaking problem.

    continued below

  70. Consider that 87 per cent of the murdered and missing women and girls are mothers.

    As the parliamentary report says: “This finding is troubling, especially since NWAC’s research shows a cycle in which ‘a mother would go missing, and then the daughter would go missing years later. In some particular family lines, several individuals have gone missing.’ These cases also impact the many children who now have to live without a mother.”

    In question period on Thursday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair pointed out that there are about as many aboriginals in Canada as there are people in Ottawa. “If 1,000 women were killed or murdered in Ottawa would we need to beg for an inquiry?”

    Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney responded: “If the leader of the Opposition really wants to make change happen, then I urge him to support the Conservative government’s 2014 budget, which allocates $25 million for a strategy precisely to address the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.”

    But that section of the budget proposes the “renewal of $25 million over five years beginning in 2015-16 to continue efforts to reduce violence against Aboriginal women and girls.”

    That’s just $5 million a year, it’s not new money, and it’s not targeted. It includes, for example, $1.3 million a year for a national DNA database.

    On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said there should not be an inquiry. “There (have) been some 40 studies done over the years; now is the time to take action, not to continue to study the issue,” Harper said.

    I don’t believe he would talk like that that if we were talking about 1,026 dead white women, and I don’t think the government is taking action proportionate to the problem.

    When the RCMP releases its report in the coming weeks it may spur the government to act. That may be why its release is being delayed, to give the government time to prepare a plan. The RCMP report will point out that “aboriginal women make up four per cent of Canada’s population; however, they represent 16 per cent of all murdered females and 12 per cent of all missing females on record,” Sgt. Greg Cox said Friday.

    The RCMP have “identified key vulnerability factors for the victims as well as information on the perpetrators,” which will allow police to “refocus prevention initiatives in high-risk communities.”

    That sounds like a good start, but it’s hard to believe that an inquiry isn’t warranted. As Patrick Brazeau pointed out in 2012, back when he was still a senator, this government spent $26 million on a public inquiry into missing salmon.

    “If we can have a national inquiry on fish, I’m sure we can give the respect to aboriginal peoples and offer an inquiry.”


  71. Janet Merlo Could not Keep Quiet

    More than 330 women are now involved in sexual harassment claims against the RCMP. Here's one's experience.

    By Janet Merlo, 29 July 2014, TheTyee.ca

    Janet Merlo is the author of No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP. Excerpt published with permission from Breakwater Books.

    No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP
    Janet Merlo, Breakwater Books (2013)

    [Tyee Editor's note: With news this month that past and present female officers continue to join more than 300 others in widespread claims alleging sexual harassment against the RCMP, we present here an excerpt from Janet Merlo's No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP, published by Breakwater Books in 2013. Merlo was among the first female officers to make public allegations of harassment and discrimination in the force. In this excerpt, she discusses why she believes there are few women in the higher ranks. Merlo's case is ongoing.]

    There are very few women in the higher ranks of the RCMP, and when a woman does rise, her promotions are met with skepticism. If she's an attractive woman, it's generally assumed that she slept her way to the top. If she's seen as less appealing, hers is considered a token promotion. When I was in uniform, even women were guilty of making those assumptions about other women in the upper ranks. Maybe it's because we knew how women were perceived within the organization, how little respect we were afforded. It was hard for any of us to believe that a woman was promoted based on merit when we knew damn well that women's abilities and intellect were not highly valued or recognized -- and when we knew there were a lot of high ranking men who couldn't stand the idea that a woman might outperform them.

    In 2012, the RCMP published a gender-based assessment after a study was done to examine whether the promotion and recruitment policies were gender neutral. The report's executive summary emphatically declares that they are neutral, yet the findings also reveal that women are less likely to receive encouragement to enter the Officer Candidate Development Program, the pathway to being appointed a commissioned officer. In fact in 2012, when women accounted for about 20 per cent of RCMP members, they still held only about 10 per cent of the commissioned officers posts, and very, very few had ever cracked the senior management of the organization.

    There were over 4,000 study respondents, male and female, and they identified two significant concerns that impact the desire to seek promotion. The first is a perceived lack of fairness and transparency in promotional processes; the second is the desire to be promoted based on merit. While 51 per cent of male non-commissioned officers had applied for two or more positions, only 38 per cent of women had.

    Some of this may be explained by gender differences (whether nature or nurture). In my experience, most women are not as rank oriented and not as single-minded in their desire to get ahead. And that's not because women aren't leadership material.

    continued below

  72. Women are ambitious. They do have the desire to lead and to make changes. They just don't want to play by the rules the men have made or compromise their pride or integrity for a promotion. To climb the ladder, they have to battle both the rank structure and the male-dominated hierarchy of the RCMP. For a lot of women, the battle just isn't worth it. When taking a stand at the office gets you labelled a bitch, when refusing to shut up and go along leads your boss to publicly declare that you're obviously suffering from PMS, it gets damn hard to find the strength of conviction to continue.

    'You are expendable'

    In my first few years in the RCMP, I'd maintained my silence about a supervisor who had a naked blow-up doll next to his desk and a superior who'd yelled at me to keep my legs shut. But when I overheard female applicants for a newly formed bicycle patrol unit referred to as "ugly, fat-assed female members" in a conversation between another member and our boss, I couldn't keep quiet. Maybe it was easier to confront something that didn't have anything directly to do with me. I went to the superior and complained about the degrading way they'd spoken about women. He just scoffed at me and sent me on my way, though later the junior member he'd had that conversation with came and apologized to me.

    Other instances of discrimination were more insidious. Male officers were given permission to take hours-long hockey breaks while on shift. It was deemed important to their fitness. But when another female member and I asked if we could take a one-hour aerobics class on a Tuesday, which would impact two shifts a month, we were told no. Just flat out no.

    The RCMP talks about upping its recruitment of women. But no matter how close to equal the female to male ratio gets on the force, until they can acknowledge that a gender-based discrepancy exists, and until they change the fundamental philosophy and structure of the organization, they won't really begin to address gender equity.

    It's no surprise to me that the 2012 study also reveals women in the RCMP are more likely than their male counterparts to grow frustrated and leave the organization after 20 years rather than stick it out, hope for improvements, and shoot for a full pension.

    When the story of Robert Pickton and Vancouver's Downtown Eastside prostitutes began to emerge, I thought about the way some of my male co-workers treated female members, and I thought about my time on the street [in an undercover operation] as a hooker. I considered the connecting points. If police officers could feel such animosity toward the women who were their co-workers, trained by and committed to the same organization, then how did those men feel about women who were considered, globally, the lowest of the low? It is reasonable to think some of those women would still be alive if they'd been considered more valuable -- valuable enough for someone to pay attention and launch an investigation earlier.

    It's not about individual officers who are to blame, though. It's systemic. Budget constraints, operational plans, and local municipal priorities always take precedence over what any street cop might deem a priority while rushing from one call to the next.

    Still, for me there is an echo between the RCMP management's treatment of women within its ranks and the treatment of sex-trade workers. And the sound that reverberates says, "You are expendable." [Tyee]

    View full article and comments at:


  73. Indigenous women ask 'Am I next?' to raise awareness about missing and murdered.

    Online campaign by aboriginal women spreading on Facebook

    By Connie Walker, CBC News September 05, 2014

    A new online campaign is hoping to raise awareness and push Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

    Aboriginal women have begun posting photos of themselves holding signs asking "Am I next?" and — like the ice bucket challenge — asking others to do the same within 24 hours.

    For Julianna Piwas, it's an issue that hits close to home.

    Her cousin Bernice Rich was killed last year and in February, her friend Loretta Saunders went missing. Saunders', body was found nearly two weeks later and Victoria Henneberry and Blake Leggette are charged with first-degree murder in her death. Saunders, who was Inuit, had been researching the issue of violence against aboriginal women.

    In her photo, Piwas addresses Harper. She wants to see a national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women.

    "I just hope we're being heard. He needs to do something about it."

    Piwas said she's encouraged that the challenge seems to be taking off on social media.

    "A lot of my friends are doing it now and I've seen a lot of outsiders doing it too. I just hope every single aboriginal women does the challenge in honour of Loretta Saunders."

    The RCMP recently confirmed that there are almost 1,200 police-recorded incidents of aboriginal homicides and unresolved missing-women investigations across the country. Pressure for an inquiry has increased since the death of Tina Fontaine, 15, just a few weeks ago.

    The Harper government has repeatedly turned down calls for a national inquiry, but recently stated it's now open to a roundtable into Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal women.


  74. Aboriginal women, girls targets for human trafficking, says new report

    Trafficking report found a deep distrust of the police among many aboriginal women and girls

    By Steve Rennie, The Canadian Press September 19, 2014

    Aboriginal women and girls are easy prey for human traffickers because they are more likely to suffer from poverty, drug addictions and mental-health problems, says a newly disclosed report.

    The Public Safety Canada study sheds new light on how women and girls are forced into the sex trade by pimps acting as boyfriends, small, loosely defined gangs and even members of their own families.

    The previously unreleased research is bound to add fuel to the fire raging in Canada over the Conservative government's refusal to hold a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls.

    Many people who took part in the study said human trafficking and murdered and missing women and girls are just symptoms of a much larger problem.

    "A number of participants believed that the trafficking of aboriginal women and girls was part of a wider 'Canadian crisis," says the May 2014 report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

    "This crisis was a continuum of related phenomena involving the criminal victimization of aboriginal women and girls," it says, "evident by the large numbers of aboriginal women and girls who are subjected to physical and sexual violence, are trafficked, and who go missing or are murdered."

    The two issues are indeed connected, said one of the report's co-authors.

    "The whole concept of what's happened to aboriginal people in this country is reflected in the murdered and missing women, and the apathy that's gone along with that as well," said Yvonne Boyer, who holds the Canada Research Chair in aboriginal health and wellness at Manitoba's Brandon University.

    "Are they less human? I don't think so. So we have societal issues that put aboriginal women at the bottom of the heap."

    PM refuses to hold inquiry

    Calls for an inquiry intensified recently after RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson revealed that nearly 1,200 aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada in the last 30 years.

    Of that, Paulson says, there are 1,026 murder cases and 160 missing-persons cases, hundreds more than previously thought.

    continued below

  75. But the Conservatives have so far resisted calls for an inquiry, saying the issue has been studied enough and now is the time for action. The government's latest budget included a five-year, $25-million renewal of money aimed at stopping violence against aboriginal women and girls.

    Last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women was a crime problem, not a "sociological phenomenon."

    Earlier this week, however, a British Columbia judge used the sentencing of a serial killer to wade into the debate, saying it would be a "mistake" to treat the phenomenon simply as one for police to solve.

    "It is a sociological issue — one that arises from, among other things, a high-risk lifestyle," said B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett. "It is something that must be dealt with."

    "It is a mistake, in my view, to limit the seriousness of this issue and to pretend, as some do, that policing is an answer when the circumstances of this case raise questions about the effectiveness of that process at times."

    Distrust of police among aboriginal women

    Indeed, the trafficking report found a deep distrust of the police among many aboriginal women and girls.

    "The impact of the lack of trust issues with the police stems from the general mistrust of the justice system by aboriginal people, stories regarding the behaviour of individual officers who pay for sexual services or who coerce sex workers, and the inherent systemic racism perceived to be part of Canadian institutions."

    Boyer and co-author Peggy Kampouris interviewed 76 people between October 2013 and this past February. They spoke to front-line police officers, social workers, experts in the field and women and girls who were victims of sexual exploitation.

    Until now, they say, little was known about how family members and gangs lured or forced aboriginal women and girls into sex work.

    "It's a systemic issue. That's really important to bring out — that it's the root causes that are causing this," Boyer said.

    "The people themselves are not inferior in any way, shape, or form. It's the causes that have created this mess."



    Tories table plan to stop violence against aboriginal women and girls

    Assembly of First Nations says its proposals on missing women 'tossed aside' by Ottawa

  76. Stephen Harpers comments on missing, murdered aboriginal women show 'lack of respect'

    Prime minister says national inquiry not high on government's radar

    By Tanya Kappo, Opinion, CBC News December 19, 2014

    In a span of a week, the Conservative government confirmed their feelings of indifference, disregard and utter lack of respect for indigenous people.

    It seems that their contempt is solely aimed at First Nation men, First Nation women, and First Nation girls.

    This is the very attitude that underlies the government legislation and (non) actions that have resulted in tragic consequences suffered by First Nation people for generations.

    The Indian Act. The Indian Residential School. Child Welfare. Theft of land. Theft of children. Theft of identity. Theft of existence. Genocide by legislation.

    This, coupled with deeply entrenched stereotypes, bears life and death consequences of violence, self violence, community violence, societal violence, and systemic violence.

    And it's the indigenous women and girls who suffer the brunt of this – going missing and being murdered in epidemic proportions in neighbourhoods, streets and highways in every part of this country.

    This very heavy, dark and painful truth is a reality that affects every single person who calls Canada home.

    Yet, in the very words of the prime minister: "… it isn't really high on our radar, to be honest."

    And when he weakly tried to defend the efforts of his government, the Harper distinctly removed himself completely from the equation.

    "Our ministers will continue to dialogue with those who are concerned about this," he said.

    There are many who are concerned about this. Many who have lent their voices to call on the Conservative government for a national inquiry. Towns, cities, police forces, schools, unions, artists, musicians and families of those who've lost their mother, sister, daughter, auntie or grandma.

    More than 1,200 human lives inexplicably gone, stolen. Children left motherless. Mothers left daughterless. And grandmas and aunties, gone.

    Not just an issue on reserves

    The prime minister continually says his government is making new laws, taking action and wants to ensure everyone is afforded the same protections.

    Yet there is no evidence whatsoever that these new laws (applicable only to First Nations on reserve) have made any difference in the face of this crisis.

    continued below

  77. The Conservative government seems to be committed to making Canadians believe the violence is attributed only to First Nation men, on reserves. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt recently made a comment in this regard, but in doing so, put his finger squarely on the problem.

    "Obviously, there's a lack of respect for women and girls on reserves," he said. "So you know, if the guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that is how they are treated."

    It would seem that it's the Conservative government's attitude he is describing, not the attitude of First Nations men on reserves.

    Lack of respect? Absolutely.

    If someone grows up believing that others don't have rights, then they treat them as if they don't have rights? Yes, yes indeed.

    The Conservative government does not believe First Nation people have rights, and make their profound lack of respect painfully clear.

    Harper assault a travesty, not a 'situation'

    Recently, Rinelle Harper, who survived a brutal assault, challenged everyone to push for a national inquiry. And to that, Valcourt, gave a response that made me sick to my stomach.

    "Listen, Rinelle, I have a lot of sympathy for your situation. And I guess that victims … have different views and we respect them," he said.
    Rinelle is 16 years old. She is still a child. A child who survived a brutal physical and sexual assault meant to kill her and the aboriginal affairs minister refers to the assault as her "situation."

    It should never be OK to refer to such a brutal act as a situation, let alone one that was inflicted on a child.

    To allow the federal government to continue this approach is to accept the same results – more missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

    I do not believe that this is what Canadians want.

    A national inquiry must be part of the action taken. Together.

    Indigenous people will always take responsibility for what belongs to them, including fault when appropriate and will always work towards solutions for the benefit of all.

    It's time Canadians demand their government do the same.


  78. First Nations appalled by Ministry comments

    Eric Plummer / Alberni Valley Times December 22, 2014

    A tribal council representing First Nations in the region had strong words for the federal government Friday in response to recent statements by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs regarding the plight of indigenous women in Canada.

    In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen released on Dec. 12, Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, addressed the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. The RCMP has reported 1,181 such cases since 1980 - reflecting a murder and missing persons rate several times larger than the average for all Canadians.

    In the Citizen interview Valcourt emphasized the responsibility of individual First Nations to address underlying societal problems.

    "Obviously, there's a lack of respect for women and girls on reserves," he said. "If the guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that's how they are treated."

    In her response to Valcourt's comments, Debra Foxcroft, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, stated the federal minister was "disgusting and contemptuous" by attempting to minimize issues affecting aboriginal women in Canada.

    "The minister's disrespectful and judgmental comments have undermined any trust we might have in the federal government's ability and willingness to work together respectfully in our best interest," said Foxcroft in a statement released by the tribal council Friday. "Such blatant stereotyping cannot help but influence public opinion, creating a perception in the minds of Canadians that First Nations communities are lawless, violent, dangerous places to live."

    During the interview Valcourt discussed a push this year for a federal inquiry into the higher murder rate among aboriginal women. His comments came days after the Assembly of First Nations met in Winnipeg to insist that such attention to the issue is critical, with a speech from 16-year-old Rinelle Harper, who was found severely beaten on a riverbank in Winnipeg last month.

    Valcourt echoed previous statements from Prime Minister Stephen Harper that a federal inquiry isn't the most effective means to tackling the problem.

    "If you really have heart, and if you take this at heart, you will not ask the government of Canada to spin its wheels for years over an inquiry that will bring about what? Exactly what we know today," said Valcourt. "The solution is at the community level. Now, who are the chiefs and councils assembling [in their] communities to address this issue?" Vigils have been held annually at the Port Alberni Friendship Centre to honor aboriginal women lost to violent crime. Local victims include Margaret Delaine Cloutier, a 39-year-old who was stabbed in a Fourth Avenue apartment in 2001.

    The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council have joined the push for a federal inquiry into why so many indigenous women have been violently targeted in Canada. Foxcroft demanded that Valcourt apologize for his statements or resign.

    "The social issues faced by First Nations communities today are internationally recognized as the direct result of an aggressive and systematic colonial campaign of oppression, cultural assimilation, physical and emotional abuse," she said. "We call for an immediate public apology and retraction of these insensitive, disrespectful, prejudiced and absolutely unacceptable comments."


  79. Mountie takes aboriginal woman home from jail cell to pursue relationship

    'It’s a gross abuse of power,' Manitoba’s grand chief says of officer, who was docked 7 days of pay

    By Holly Moore, CBC News January 08, 2015

    RCMP Const. Kevin Theriault took an intoxicated woman he had arrested out of a cell and drove her to his northern Manitoba home to pursue a personal relationship, according to RCMP adjudication documents obtained by CBC News.

    Fellow officers teased and goaded him by text message to see “how far he would go,” and another constable observed flirting between Theriault and the indigenous woman, saying he “jokingly made a comment about having a threesome” with her.

    The senior officer in the detachment first said “it wasn’t right” for Theriault to take the woman out of custody but finally said: “You arrested her, you can do whatever the f--k you want to do.”

    The incident occurred on Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, near Thompson, Man., in 2011. A written decision was not delivered until 2014.

    The constable admitted to the allegations, got a reprimand and lost pay for seven days.

    'Horrendous breach of trust'

    “It’s a gross abuse of power,” said Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, who called the incident “appalling.”

    Theriault and another constable had arrested the woman at a party and placed her in a cell until she sobered up. Six hours after she was brought in, Theriault returned to the detachment out of uniform and asked for her to be released into his care.

    He and the woman left the detachment in his personal car.

    Two of Theriault’s co-workers followed in an RCMP cruiser and later alerted the corporal of the detachment. That officer called Theriault and ordered him to take the woman home, which he did.

    “It’s a horrendous breach of trust,” Nepinak said, adding the officer who allowed the release should face discipline.

    The report doesn't indicate if he did or not.

    “They have to hold one another to standards of conduct,” Nepinak added. “We expect to be protected, just as every Canadian expects to be protected by a policing agency."

    Nepinak called Theriault’s punishment “a slap on the wrist” and said it sends the wrong message to the aboriginal community.

    Theriault worked in a small aboriginal community where “maintaining public support and trust is always a delicate balance,” according to the adjudication committee’s decision.

    “I certainly think it’s a piece of a larger equation,” Nepinak said.

    Call for independent investigations

    RCMP investigate their own members for allegations of misconduct. An inspector and two superintendents served on Theriault’s disciplinary adjudication board.

    “It seems to me that the standard is that there should be independent civilian investigation of these kinds of allegations,” said Meghan Rhoad, a women’s rights researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch.

    Her group’s report, "Those Who Take Us," documents serious misconduct involving Northern British Columbia RCMP officers and indigenous women in custody, many of whom were intoxicated.

    She said that police misconduct compounds the historic tension and distrust between police and aboriginal communities.

    Her report attempts to link the way RCMP treat aboriginal women and girls in custody to the larger problem of missing and murdered women.

    “If communities can’t trust police to behave properly how can indigenous women and girls feel that these are people they can go to for protection?” she said.

    Theriault didn’t return calls for an interview and the RCMP will not comment on specific cases.


  80. Murdered and missing aboriginal women deserve inquiry, rights group says

    Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been studying issue in B.C. for 2 years

    CBC News January 12, 2015

    A new report into missing and murdered indigenous women in B.C. is breathing new life into an acrimonious debate between advocates of a public inquiry and the Canadian government, which says it is taking action to address the problem but refuses to call an inquiry.

    The report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which is affiliated with the Organization of American States, said it "strongly supports the creation of a national-level action plan or a nationwide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls."

    The report came to several conclusions, including:

    -The high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in B.C. are concentrated in Prince George and the Downtown Eastside.

    -The police have "failed to adequately prevent and protect indigenous women and girls from killings and disappearances."

    -Multiple policing jurisdictions in B.C. have resulted in "confusion" between the RCMP and Vancouver police.

    The report acknowledged the steps already taken by Canadian governments at both the federal and provincial levels to address some of the problems and challenges that indigenous women face.

    Last fall, the federal government committed to a five-year plan to address violence against aboriginal women and girls.

    Today, the office for the Kellie Leitch, the minister for the status of women, said the government was reviewing the report.

    "Our government has received the IACHR’s report and is reviewing the report’s findings, comments and recommendations."

    The report's recommendations include calls for:

    -Providing a safe public transport option along Highway 16 in Prince George.

    -Mandatory and ongoing training for police officers, prosecutors, judges and court personnel "in the causes and consequences of gender-based violence."

    -A national action plan or public inquiry in consultation with indigenous peoples.

    continued below

  81. Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett urged the government to heed the report's recommendations.

    "The prime minister’s shocking indifference to this ongoing tragedy is not only a national disgrace, but an international embarrassment" Bennett said.

    The IACHR has been studying the issue for more than two years.

    Its investigation was requested by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) and Feminist Alliance for International Action in March 2012.

    At a press conference in Ottawa to respond to the report, Dr. Dawn Harvard of the NWAC called it "truly groundbreaking."

    "This report is the first in-depth examination of the murders and disappearances by an expert human rights body. These women and girls are being stolen from our families, from our communities, and it is time that somebody is taking it seriously," Harvard said.

    Holly Johnson, of the Feminist Alliance for International Action, said the commission has spoken "loudly and clearly."

    "Canadian governments have a lot of work to do," she said. "Contrary to our prime minister's assertion, this is not a sociological phenomenon ... [It] goes way beyond policing. Social and economic factors must also be addressed."

    The report includes recommendations on how governments at both the federal and provincial/territorial level can address the situation.

    The Conservative government has so far refused calls for a national public inquiry on the issue, saying it is more interested in taking action. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in reaction to the recent murder case of Tina Fontaine that it was not part of a "sociological phenomenon," but rather a crime and should be treated as such.

    The federal government agreed to attend a roundtable meeting after Canada's premiers emerged from their annual meeting in August calling for a national forum. It's expected to be held in February.

    Read the report at:



  82. Inside the RCMPs biggest crisis

    Hundreds of women are complaining about sexual harassment inside the RCMP.

    A special report by Nancy Macdonald and Charlie Gillis

    MACLEAN'S February 27, 2015

    The role of RCMP spokesperson in B.C. is a big one. Mounties confident and clever enough to land the job become the effective voice of policing in a province where one third of the national force’s officers serve. So when two officers who held that position became embroiled in separate sexual harassment cases in recent years—one as a female complainant; one as a male accused—the symbolism was hard to ignore. These were, after all, people who personified the organization.

    One was Insp. Tim Shields, the face of the force at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, who held the post for 10 years until 2011. Coal-eyed and square-jawed, Shields has been accused in separate civil suits of serial harassment against two female RCMP members, and the specific allegations are ugly. He is alleged, among other things, to have exposed his genitals to one woman while riding in a police cruiser; another woman claims he tried to undress her and, at one point, confined her in a washroom, where he forced her to touch him.

    Yet Shields has held his place within the RCMP hierarchy as he deals with the suspicion hanging over him. His current position of district duty officer comes with a desk at the force’s posh new Green Timbers headquarters in Surrey, B.C., and sends him to major incidents across the Lower Mainland. Only after the second woman’s lawsuit landed did he go off on what the RCMP described as “administrative leave” and, even then, a laudatory biography of him remained on the force’s B.C. website.

    Not so Catherine Galliford. The 48-year-old went public in 2011 with her story of chronic sexual harassment and bullying by male colleagues that ultimately cost her her career, her home, multiple friendships and her health. (Shields is not implicated in her case.) Once a familiar face from media interviews and RCMP news conferences, she is now a recluse, trapped inside her mother’s suburban Vancouver home by agoraphobia and crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Doctors fear she will never regain her health. Nor will she ever work again.

    What drives her is a hope that in telling her story, she’ll help make the RCMP more accountable and welcoming to the women coming up behind her. In 2012, she filed a lawsuit against the attorney general of Canada, the minister of justice for British Columbia, and four fellow officers, alleging “persistent and ongoing” sexual harassment and workplace intimidation. She tells Maclean’s that much of her 16 years on the force were spent “either fending off my bosses who were trying to have sex with me, or trying to fend off the senior officers who were trying to destroy my credibility behind my back—individuals who wanted the high-profile jobs I was getting.” By 2004, “going into work was actually making me physically ill,” she says. “I would have to wait outside in the parking lot for 15 minutes to stop myself from shaking. I was terrified of going inside.”

    There is much yet to be told of these two officers’ stories: The allegations against Shields have not been proven. His lawyer, David Butcher, refused to comment. A civil trial of Galliford’s case was postponed two weeks ago for lack of sufficient court time.

    But the peverse logic of their respective fates in many ways exemplifies the challenge before the RCMP. Four years after Galliford shone a light on a crisis of sexual harassment and retribution within the force, female Mounties tell Maclean’s that the same old syndrome persists: Faced with a revelations of harassment, they say, the RCMP too often manages to protect the accused harasser while punishing the victim.

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  83. The Mounties insist they’ve recognized the problem and, armed with new tools, are poised to act. Laws that came into force two months ago have beefed up Commissioner Bob Paulson’s powers to fire perpetrators, while long-awaited processes for resolving harassment complaints are on the books. “I think, if you step back from it, you can see that the organization has taken this seriously,” says Assistant Commissioner Craig MacMillan, the RCMP’s officer in charge of professional responsibilities. “It’s taken some fairly dramatic steps in a relatively short period of time.”

    Yet the accusations have kept coming. Five women have followed Galliford’s example by filing sexual harassment lawsuits. And, later this spring, an Ontario lawyer will seek to certify a class action lawsuit against the RCMP on behalf of 380 female claimants, representing all 10 provinces. Former RCMP constable Janet Merlo is the lead plaintiff. She says she endured near-daily harassment on the job— everything from sexualized banter and sex toys left in her desk, to a dressing-down for getting pregnant. She quit the force in 2010, taking a medical discharge. Sandy Zeitzeff, the lawyer on the class action, expects the number of plaintiffs to grow to 1,500.

    In short, Canada’s police force is on the brink of a massive credibility test, with no shortage of women saying its fixes are too little, and that they come too late.

    Atoya Montague believes two factors can curse a female Mountie’s career: confidence and intelligence. “The more beautiful you are, the more feminine you are, the more willing you are to speak up, the worse you’ll be treated,” she says.

    Montague was 27 when she became a civilian member of the RCMP in 2002. The outspoken former senior communications strategist for Canadian Tire was thrilled to land the job, and thrived in the endless crises that made up her 10- to 13-hour days as second-in-command of communications for the RCMP’s B.C. operations, known as “E Division.” Early in her career, she was identified as articulate, intelligent and level-headed. She was “the strongest woman I’d ever met,” says her friend Mary Roka, co-founder of the tech start-up GoTo.

    Montague, now 39, is a shell of her former self. “She’s unrecognizable,” says Roka. She won’t answer her phone and has difficulty leaving her small rented condo. She has crippling osteoarthritis and high blood pressure, both related to stress. “They broke her,” says her friend Siobhain Andreasen, a Toronto actuary. “She was an unbreakable person.”

    In her 13 years with the RCMP, Montague claims she was the repeated target of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. Her former co-worker Sherry Wright says she witnessed Montague being pushed out of meetings and ignored by their all-male senior management staff. When Montague was named to the RCMP’s integrated security unit for the 2010 Olympic Games, Wright says Montague’s desk was placed in a storage closet, where she was stationed for months, isolated from the team’s male leadership, despite having a senior leadership position as director of communications.

    By then, Roka was begging her to quit the force. When Montague first started with the Mounties, the pair would grab lunch together in the E Division cafeteria. But, over time, Roka says she grew so uncomfortable with the sexual comments and innuendo directed at her by Montague’s boss at the time (not Shields) that she stopped visiting. Still, Montague refused to complain.

    But by 2011, the near-daily indignities had pushed Montague to the edge. She was plagued by migraines and anxiety. She distanced herself from her family and friends. Eventually, her partner left, too. The former gym rat could no longer find the energy to ride her bike. Eventually, after seeing her family doctor, she took a medical leave.

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  84. Then, one day in 2013, a young, female Mountie told Montague she was being sexually harassed by her male superiors. Montague became enraged: “I realized if I didn’t say something, this was going to keep happening.” In August 2013, she filed a lawsuit against Tim Shields, the attorney general of Canada and the minister of justice of B.C., alleging sexual harassment and discrimination.

    In her statement of claim, Montague alleges she was sexually harassed and discriminated against by several male superiors, including Shields. She alleges that while driving to the B.C. Interior in 2003, Shields showed her “his erection through his jean shorts and made sexual advances.” She alleges Shields asked her to “have sex with him and advising her that he could easily pull over the car so that he could perform oral sex on her.” Montague alleges Shields exposed himself to her in a similar incident in a police car in 2008 and “again made similar unwanted and unprompted sexual advances.” None of the allegations against Shields has been proven in court.

    In her lawsuit, Montague alleges Shields was not alone in harassing her. In one incident, she alleges she was surrounded by the male members of the police canine unit “making sexually suggestive comments, taunting . . . pushing and rubbing up against her,” leaving Montague, who ran away, “terrified.”

    Last July, 10 months after Montague filed suit, Anitra Singh, an E Division senior communications adviser, filed a sexual harassment suit against Shields and the attorney general of Canada. Singh, a civilian member of the force, alleges in her statement of claim that over a two-year period ending in 2011, Shields exposed himself to her, told Singh he’d like to perform oral sex on her, made regular comments about her breasts and, on several occasions, requested to “meet her at home to have sex.” On one occasion, the statement of claim alleges, he confined her in a washroom and forced her to “touch him in an inappropriate manner.” (Montague says she was unaware of Singh’s lawsuit and has not spoken to her since 2011.)

    In his statement of defence in the Montague lawsuit, Shields denies all allegations made against him. In it, he specifically denies that he made “sexual advances or exposed his genitals” to Montague. He says that “at one point during the trip” to the B.C. Interior, he and Montague shared “intimate personal information,” adding that “the conversation was mutual” and Montague was a “willing participant.” He further states that in the workplace, Montague “openly engaged in conversations with her colleagues about personal and sexual aspects of her life” and “participated in sexual banter and frequently made sexual remarks and jokes, including comments and jokes about her own breasts.”

    In a statement of defence in the Singh lawsuit, filed this week in Vancouver, Shields denies he sexually harrassed or assaulted Singh. He says Singh “initiated and pursued” an intimate relationship with him, invited him to her residence, and repeatedly dropped into his office “with arms outstretched, commanding a hug with her body language.” Shields claims she engaged in “consensual personal conversations and physical contact” with him while he “attempted to avoid frequent personal contact with the plaintiff.” He goes on to say in the statement that the publicity surrounding the suit has harmed his career, though he does not specify how.

    The attorney general of Canada and the minister of justice for B.C. echoed Sheilds’ denials and added in their responses to both suits that Montague and Singh should have used the RCMP grievance process and, given they did not, have no claim against either the provincial or federal governments.

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  85. Montague has not shared her story with media until now. “If I thought there was any other way, I would,” she says. “But there’s no safe, fair and objective way for women to complain internally and emerge unscathed. The only way to do that is through the courts.” Montague recently sold her Vancouver condo and left Canada on the advice of her lawyer and doctor. “There’s no hope for me,” she says. “I’m doing this for the next generation of women.”

    A few years ago, Ainsley Brand, a young female Mountie, was invited out, believing she was meeting a group of fellow officers from her detachment; she was new, and keen to get to know them. (Because she fears for her job, Maclean’s has agreed to change her name. RCMP regulations prohibit members from publicly criticizing the force. She has provided the magazine with documentation to illustrate her claims.)

    When she arrived, the only Mountie there was the supervising officer who’d invited her out. Brand says that when she announced she wanted to go home, the officer began pushing hard alcohol on her, to “celebrate” her new posting. She is a non-drinker and repeatedly told him this, she says, adding: “I couldn’t turn it down. In the RCMP,  you can’t be seen not to be a team player.” She was relatively new to the force, still in her twenties. “From the time you’re at Depot, you’re taught to treat corporals like gods.”

    When Brand said she needed to leave, she says they went elsewhere and he began making sexual advances. She says she told him she needed to go home. She had never drunk this much before, she says. She claims she was incapacitated and that the sex was coerced: “I’m a police officer. This was sexual assault,” she says. “He brought me out on a pretext—to meet people that were never there. He used alcohol to lessen my resistance. And he has a history of doing this. Another woman at the detachment later warned me to steer clear of him. He’d done the same thing to her.”

    Brand believes the officer was guilty of criminal behaviour, but she settled instead on filing a harassment complaint. When Brand eventually complained, the RCMP responding officer ruled that her complaints were “unsubstantiated” and that the relationship was “consensual,” noting that Brand and the officer had engaged in a relationship after the incident. Brand, who claims she was depressed and having trouble coping, says she engaged in a friendship with the officer for one month in an attempt to lessen her anxiety when seeing him at the detachment. The RCMP further concluded that no “workplace conflict” had occurred. Therefore, no formal harassment investigation was ever ordered.

    Brand says she spoke out about the harassment, knowing it could tarnish her reputation and harm her professionally, because she felt this officer needed to be prevented from hurting other women. “I still love my job,” she says. “I love the adrenalin. I love the law. I like to help people. It’s the internal stuff I can’t deal with.”

    The revelations—especially Galliford’s—reverberated widely outside the RCMP, as critics asked how Canada could allow such behaviour to persist in its most recognized institution. If the Mounties couldn’t protect their own, they reasoned, why trust them to protect civilian Canadians?

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  86. In November 2012, the Senate directed its standing committee on national security to tackle the problem and, seven months later, the committee issued a searing report that called for a “cultural transformation” within the force. Among its recommendations: a zero-tolerance policy that would hold senior management to account in harassment cases; the addition of harassment to the RCMP’s code of conduct as a specific offence; and an end to the practice of simply transferring accused harassers—or, in some cases, victims—to other places in the force. “Immediate, meaningful steps must be taken to enhance the public’s trust in the force,” the report said, “and bolster members’ trust in the disciplinary systems designed to protect them.”

    A report by the Office for Public Complaints against the RCMP reached similar conclusions. But by then, Paulson had produced his long-awaited “action plan,” and the Harper government was anxious to get key changes enshrined in law. In the spring of 2013, it introduced to the Commons a package of amendments called the Enhancing RCMP Accountability Act, which empowered the commissioner to establish a new harassment-complaints process and streamline dispute-resolution mechanisms. Both Conservatives and Liberals welcomed the changes and, on Dec. 1, 2014, the day they came into force, Paulson appeared at a celebratory news conference alongside Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney.

    MacMillan touts new features he says make the process more transparent, fair and efficient. Complainants and accused harassers will both be granted access to the investigative report before a decision is made, he says, and invited to respond. Each case will be received by a special office at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa and, while investigations may be carried out at the divisional level, the national office will monitor the progress of each file. “Most of our members are conducting themselves well,” says MacMillan. “But when you do have conflicts or complaints of harassment, you have to be organizationally responsive. People have to have the confidence you’re going to do something about it.”

    The changes have left some underwhelmed. The controversial measure of transferring troublemakers remains an option for RCMP brass, critics note, while timelines within which cases must be heard remain vague. Some wonder whether a new power granted to the commissioner to fire officers for the “promotion of economy or efficiency” within the force might be used to get rid of officers who take medical leave while they fight back against harassers. “It reads to me like a get-rid-of-the-victim clause,” says Rob Creasser, spokesman for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, an organization seeking to unionize the RCMP’s officers. “It enhances the power inequity that already existed in the RCMP.”

    As for gaining officers’ confidence, the force’s history of reprisal and recrimination against complainants will make that hard. “When people come forward, they are re-victimized,” says Krista Carle, a former RCMP constable who sued the force in 2003 after she and three other women came forward, claiming they were sexually assaulted by a fellow officer. An RCMP harassment investigation in her case concluded her harassment allegations were “unfounded.” The RCMP settled the suit with the four women out of court. Coming forward “destroyed my life,” says Carle, who was in the same RCMP graduating class as Galliford in 1991. She says she was shunned by her colleagues for speaking out, and her marriage couldn’t withstand the strain. She moved to Alberta and changed her last name.

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  87. Then there’s the recent case of Stephanie Johnson, who began working for the RCMP as a public servant after immigrating to Canada several years ago. (Because she, too, fears for her job, Maclean’s has agreed to change her name.) Johnson says she was bullied and shunned by fellow employees in her detachment for filing a sexual harassment complaint, which was deemed unfounded by the RCMP. Relations with her co-workers deteriorated to the point that she was barred from the workplace and made to work from home. To gather her assignments, she says she had to knock on the door of her detachment every day for a year and a half: “I felt like a criminal.”

    Johnson refused the RCMP’s offer of a buyout. “I’ve done nothing wrong,” she told the force. But, in so doing, she was seen as adversarial: “I just wanted to work. I wanted to contribute and be good at what I did. I was driven and ambitious despite the setbacks.” She says she was eventually allowed to return to her detachment, where her superiors began auditing her performance. Her once-exemplary performance evaluations now listed her work as “unsatisfactory” and a disciplinary process was initiated. The stress began affecting her health. She couldn’t sleep, suffered from severe migraines and was diagnosed with PTSD. An independent psychiatric evaluation has described her work environment as “profoundly toxic.”

    The day Johnson was served with disciplinary paperwork for poor performance, she says she had a nervous breakdown. Last year, she was transferred. Her mental health diagnosis was divulged to her new detachment. Often, she wishes she’d never immigrated to Canada. “I dream of going home,” she says ruefully, “of escaping the RCMP.”

    Would the RCMP’s new harassment regime have spared what Johnson views as obvious retaliation? Possibly. Along with the new investigation and resolution protocol, the force has introduced a policy forbidding reprisals against harassment complainants and anyone else involved in the process—with punishments up to, and including, dismissal. If an employee doesn’t trust her commanding officer to stop the recriminations, she can complain directly to the national officer for the coordination of harassment complaints.

    The question is whether that’s enough to change behaviour at the detachment level, where, victims say, shunning and retribution are part of a code meant to discourage people from complaining. The force’s “protect-your-own” philosophy “makes it almost a mortal sin to speak out against fellow members,” says Jennifer Berdahl, a professor of organizational behaviour at Simon Fraser University. “And it can be very dangerous for colleagues not to distance themselves from the so-called troublemaker. They don’t want to be tarred by the same brush.”

    Greg Passey, a psychiatrist with the Operational Stress Injury Clinic of British Columbia, has seen stories like Johnson’s again and again; Passey treats RCMP officers and military staff in both B.C. and Saskatchewan. “The RCMP is a totally dysfunctional organization,” says the 63-year-old, pointing to the cause of the psychological disorders afflicting the “vast majority” of his RCMP patients: harassment and abuse from fellow officers inside detachments. “It boggles the mind,” says Passey. “If you come forward, they label you a troublemaker. They do everything they can to make you go away, and the supervising officers doing the harassing get promoted. Are you kidding me? What kind of organization does that?”

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  88. Passey who spent 22 years in the military and served in Rwanda, has never publicly criticized the RCMP before. But he’s lost his patience, saying he cannot stay quiet any longer. “I’m very frustrated. It’s like I’m walking up to my nose in s–t,” he says. “I’m trying my best to help my patients. My colleagues and I shake our heads at the things we are told, at the breaches in medical confidentiality, the delays.” Passey is from an RCMP family: Both his uncle and father-in-law were Mounties. “I used to be very proud of our force,” he says, but now, “there is no way I would ever allow my daughters to serve in the RCMP.

    “These guys are supposed to enforce laws and seek justice,” Passey goes on. “They’re totally flaunting rules and regulations, at times, even laws. How do you trust an organization like this? The RCMP is accountable only to itself—and run by an old-boys’ network. Old boys don’t punish themselves; they go after the victim.”

    Like Creasser, Passey is deeply suspicious of the provision in the newly amended RCMP Act allowing the commissioner to medically discharge officers for the promotion of economy and efficiency. “It’s the equivalent of giving the schoolyard bully the power to get rid of his victims.” Passey says he knows several members in the process of being discharged under the new system; most are on medical leave due to harassment. There is one reason for this amendment, he says: “So they [the victims] won’t have the financial resources to continue their legal fight.”

    He speaks out at considerable risk, since the last medical professional to publicly criticize the force, police psychologist Mike Webster, was blacklisted by the RCMP for declaring the organization “sick” and needing reform. Webster, a former B.C. Mountie, now works for the Canadian military. But Passey is unafraid: “I don’t care what they do to me. It’s an organization I don’t trust at all.”

    The fates of officers like Johnson and Montague are key to the RCMP’s attempts to fix its harassment problem, because they raise a basic question of fairness: Why does the force’s handling of these cases seem to destroy complainants, while hardly denting the careers of the men accused of mistreating them?

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  89. Until recently Shields was a case in point. For 10 months after Montague filed her lawsuit, he continued to speak for the force in media interviews. By then, he’d been promoted to the rank of inspector and served as assistant of operations at the RCMP’s Burnaby detachment, where he oversaw 150 uniformed officers. In 2013—as Montague struggled with anxiety and feelings of hopelessness—Shields landed the position of regional duty officer, one of just four in B.C. Only after Singh filed her lawsuit against him last July did he disappear from public view, though he still holds his high-flying post.

    Another troubling instance: Staff Sgt. Tim Korman was named commanding officer of the RCMP’s Meadow Lake detachment in Saskatchewan, even though sexual-harassment allegations against him remained unresolved. Korman received his promotion to staff sergeant on March 19, 2009, six weeks after the complaint, filed by an officer named Laura Lehne, was dismissed because it had taken too long to be heard. “I don’t blame anyone for not coming forward,” Lehne, who left the force in disgust, told reporters at the time, “because it only makes your life hell and nothing’s done.” Only last June, after new, unspecified allegations of “inappropriate workplace conduct” were levelled against Korman, did his bosses suspend him with pay.

    At least some women in positions of influence share Lehne’s concern. B.C. Premier Christy Clark voiced dismay after the RCMP transferred an Edmonton-based officer, Sgt. Don Ray, to her province following his reprimand for having sex with subordinates, drinking at work, sexually harassing female colleagues and exposing himself. “I hope that they find a way to do something about it, because I just don’t think it contributes to public confidence,” Clark told a Vancouver radio station in May 2012. “A lot of women are watching and saying, ‘This isn’t right.’ ”

    All of which may explain why so few officers have bothered to use the internal process. According to the force’s own count, published in early 2013, only 26 filed formal sexual harassment complaints between 2005 and 2012, a number dwarfed by the hundreds who have signed on to the class action suit. “If you talk to people who tried to go through whatever system was available in the past,” says Creasser, “they’ll say, ‘Why would I put myself through that again? I just felt revictimized.’ ”

    As for Galliford, by her admission, it is too late for the RCMP to fix this. For the past two years, she’s been readying herself for her trial, which she considers her only opportunity to hold her “abusers to account.” It was slated to begin last week, on Feb. 16. But, earlier this month, it was suddenly adjourned: The witness list was deemed too long for the trial’s scheduled six weeks. It could take another two years for Galliford to get another court date. Her lawyer tells her the opposition legal team is trying to bleed her dry. Galliford says the process has cost her her life savings—“the price you pay for complaining about sexual abuse, harassment and exploitation, I guess.”


  90. Most murdered and missing aboriginal women victims of indigenous perpetrators: RCMP

    BY DOUGLAS QUAN, National Post APRIL 10, 2015

    Seventy per cent of the perpetrators in Canada’s cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women are indigenous, the RCMP commissioner has confirmed.

    The suggestion was first made last month by Bernard Valcourt, the aboriginal affairs minister, in a private meeting with First Nations chiefs in Alberta. Aboriginal leaders questioned the veracity of the number because a report last year from the RCMP about those cases did not specify perpetrators’ ethnicity.

    But in a letter made public Thursday, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said data obtained from 300 police agencies “has confirmed that 70 per cent of the offenders were of aboriginal origin.”

    However, the letter, addressed to Bernice Martial, grand chief of the Treaty No. 6 First Nations, stressed that it is not the ethnicity of offenders that is relevant to investigators, “but rather the relationship between victim and offender that guides our focus with respect to prevention.”

    Paulson said that the force previously chose not to disclose this data “in the spirit of bias-free policing” and because such disclosure had the potential to “stigmatize and marginalize vulnerable populations.”

    The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network first reported last month that Valcourt had shared the unpublished information during a March 20 private meeting in Calgary with First Nations chiefs.

    “I will tell you, because there is no media in the room, that the RCMP report states that up to 70 per cent of the murdered and missing indigenous women issue stems from their own communities,” Valcourt reportedly said, according to a news release issued later by the Treaty No. 6 First Nations.

    Aboriginal leaders accused the minister of being disrespectful and called on the RCMP and Valcourt to share what more information they had.

    A report released last May by the RCMP stated that 1,181 aboriginal women and girls were murdered or went missing between 1980 and 2012. The report said that 62 per cent of homicide victims were killed by a spouse, family member or someone they were intimate with. However, it did not delve into the ethnicity of offenders.

    “We had never intended to publicly discuss the ethnicity of the offenders. Rather our focus has been on the relationship between the victim and offender, which has pointed our prevention efforts to familial and spousal violence,” Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong said in an email to the National Post earlier this month.

    The RCMP is scheduled to release a follow-up report at the end of May, which will include updated statistics and a review of actions taken since the first report, Armstrong said.

    Following the release of the first report, all RCMP divisions were asked to look at outstanding cases to ensure all investigative avenues had been explored. The RCMP said it would also use the data to identify communities most at risk of violence against women and develop prevention strategies.

    The release of the report renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.


  91. Study shows link between continued abuse of aboriginal women, residential schools

    by ALLAN MAKI, The Globe and Mail April, 10 2015

    Young aboriginal women in B.C. are more likely to be victims of violence if they were sexually abused as children or had a parent who attended a residential school, a landmark study has found.

    Researchers for a survey called the Cedar Project say their study to be released on Friday is the first in Canada to show a statistical connection between continued abuse and the residential schools. (B.C. had 22 of them, the most of any Canadian province.)

    The Cedar Project interviewed 259 women, ages 14 to 30, several times over seven years. The report says they were “nearly 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted later in life if they had a history of childhood sexual abuse.” It said the women were also at a high risk if at least one of their parents had spent time at a residential school.

    Until the late 20th century, native children were taken from their families and placed in residential schools, where many were beaten and sexually abused. At least 3,000 children died at the schools. Some survivors suffering from the effects of the abuse became abusers themselves.

    Of the 259 women recruited from Vancouver and Prince George, B.C., all used drugs, 28 per cent reported that they were sexually assaulted during the seven-year period, and 41 per cent of that group were assaulted more than once.

    Researchers from the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health and the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences tabulated the information.

    “Our mothers, wives, sisters, nieces – they have been demeaned and dehumanized,” said Chief Wayne Christian, a Splatsin First Nation leader and project investigator. “The importance of the data is that people may see the numbers, but these are human beings.”

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  92. The women in the study were recruited through health-care providers and street contacts and were interviewed every six months. Christina Tom was one of the participants, who was an alcoholic when she began the survey. During the seven year, she fought for her sobriety and to find a stable relationship and has become a spokesperson for other aboriginal women. Despite being HIV positive, Ms. Tom considers herself “one of the lucky ones.”

    “My peers are still continuing to self-medicate because of all the traumas they’ve been through,” she said. “Because of me being able to clean up and be sober, I’m a lot stronger than other women are. I’m able to speak on their behalf.”

    Aboriginal chiefs in B.C. have already begun attempts to find solutions to some of the issues that arose in the survey. Last year, 54 northern B.C. chiefs passed a resolution to build a child advocacy centre (CAC) for aboriginal young people in Prince George. CAC’s are places that provide all the services abused children need at one location.

    The chiefs visited former NHL hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, a survivor of sexual abuse who founded a CAC in Calgary.

    Mr. Kennedy said he is confident a centre structured around aboriginal culture and spiritual beliefs would help keep abused kids from following in their parents’ footsteps.

    “We have a clear picture now of the cycle of abuse and the violence that it leads to,” Mr. Kennedy said. “Now we’re learning how to deal with it.”

    Chief Christian said he supports the idea of a CAC. He said that as a 10-year-old, he knew what it was like to be sexually, physically and emotionally abused. At 12, he said, he and his 10 brothers and sisters were apprehended by Child Welfare officials and put in foster homes. At 13, he was suicidal, as was his younger brother, who used Chief Christian’s gun to end his life.

    He said an advocacy centre could be the salvation of those with nowhere else to turn. The next step is applying for government funding.

    Two months ago, Federal Minister of Health Rona Ambrose announced a 10-year, $100-million investment to “prevent, detect and combat family violence and child abuse.”

    With a report from Matthew McClearn


  93. Families of missing and murdered indigenous women give police a failing grade

    CBC probes 230 unsolved cases, interviews 110 families

    CBC News April 08, 2015

    Police departments across Canada get a failing grade for their efforts at solving cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, according to CBC interviews with more than 110 family members.

    CBC News has embarked on an exhaustive search for families who have lost a relative either to an unsolved killing or whose loved one still remains missing.

    So far, more than 110 families have responded to questions ranging from the efficacy of police investigations to the need for a national inquiry.

    Families were asked to rate the quality of the police investigation in each case, on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being excellent. The average rating was 2.8.

    "I think all the murder cases of high-risk people, whether you're white or whether you're an Indian or whether you're Spanish ... you're treated like scum," says Victoria Merasty, mother of 40-year-old Katie Ballantyne who was killed in Edmonton in 2003. Her case remains unsolved.

    "I feel like the police are not taking interest in anything that has anything to do with the aboriginal people," said Maria Pia Benuen, whose best friend Henrietta Millek disappeared from St. John's in 1982. The case has also never been solved.

    CBC News has identified about 230 examples of unsolved murders and missing person cases among indigenous women and girls, stretching back to 1951.

    British Columbia has the highest number of unsolved incidents, at 65. Alberta is second with 51 cases, followed by Manitoba with 44 and Saskatchewan with 29.

    First time anyone called

    Many family members and friends of missing and murdered women said the call from CBC News was the first time they had been contacted about their relative.

    Community leaders had a similar response.
    "This is the first time anyone has ever called me in regards to what's happened to aboriginal people in the town of Lynn Lake," said Chief Andrew Colomb, leader of the Marcel Colomb First Nation, near Lynn Lake, Man.

    Nancy Dumas disappeared in Lynn Lake in 1987 and her case remains unsolved.

    "Somewhat, you've given me some confidence and some spirits up here," Colomb said.

    About 70 per cent of family members expressed the desire for a national inquiry into the issue, a call that has so far been rejected by the federal government.

    continued below

  94. Of the cases where the age of the women is known, about one-quarter of those that are still unsolved involve individuals under the age of 20, according to the CBC data.

    The cases identified by CBC span 63 years, with the oldest incident being the 1951 disappearance of Margaret Blackbird in Saskatchewan. Blackbird was 21 when she went missing from Loon Lake, never to be seen again.

    Of the cases where CBC was able to locate and interview family members, and where the family members or police knew the lifestyle of their relative, 60 per cent say their relatives were involved in high-risk activities like sex-trade work, hitchhiking or serious drug and alcohol use.

    Praise and dismay

    While some family members praised the efforts of police, many others expressed dismay that officers dismissed their concerns because of the lifestyle of their relatives.

    In many cases, police couldn't be initially convinced to initiate a missing person's investigation.

    Crystal Bruyere is a cousin of Fonessa Bruyere, who was 17 when she was killed in Winnipeg in 2007. She said her grandmother was rebuffed when she first went to police.
    "Oh, she's just a prostitute, she's probably just on a binge, she'll come home," was the police response, according to Bruyere.

    Of the families CBC News interviewed, nearly 70 per cent said their relative went missing or was found dead in an urban area (an area with a population greater than 10,000).

    While a number of police task forces have been at work for years trying to solve cold cases, there has been little progress.

    An integrated police task force in Manitoba, which eventually became Project Devote, has solved one case in the last five years.

    Project Kare in Alberta has been able to secure three convictions since it began its work of looking into sex trade worker homicides in the Edmonton area in 2003.

    'Not given the resources necessary'

    In British Columbia, the Highway of Tears task force has been able to solve one case and make an additional arrest in one other incident since 2005, when it began looking into unsolved murders with links to Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

    Ray Michalko, an RCMP officer turned private investigator in Vancouver, said police could have done more on many cases.

    "I know as far as Highway of Tears cases, police officers themselves have said, had they had the resources and manpower, that they could have solved some of these cases at the time," Michalko said.

    "It seems to me in a number of cases ... the officers on the road wanted to solve the cases. It's not like they didn't do anything because they were prejudiced, they wanted to do something, but were not given the resources necessary to accomplish the job by someone up the chain of command."

    RCMP Staff Sgt. Wayne Clary, head of the Highway of Tears task force, said he understands the frustrations of families.

    "We get rapped on the chin for all different things. And a lot of them — some are justified, but a lot aren't, and we can't come back to clear it up because that's kind of the way we are."

    Clary said the burden of proof means suspicions and suspects aren't enough.

    "I have worked on files in the past, I am not going to say which ones, where we know exactly who did it," he said. "And we just can't freakin' prove it. And it's frustrating."

    To read the related articles go to:


  95. RCMP Report on Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women is Statistically Skewed

    by Pam Palmater, Indigenous Nationhood April 10, 2015 12:43 PM PDT


    In 2014, the RCMP released a report on their "National Operational Review" on the issue of "Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women" which amounted to 1181 women total - 164 missing and 1017 murdered. The core conclusion of the report was that "Aboriginal women"* were over-represented in the numbers of murdered and missing. They cautioned readers that their report contained a certain amount of "error and imprecision" given the thirty year period of review, the human error of investigators, inconsistency of collection, and definitional issues.

    Let's look at that caveat a little closer. The RCMP had to "limit" their file review to missing women who had been identified by RCMP on CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) as "non-white" female or "blank". The category of "Aboriginal origin" was only recently added to CPIC and so could not possibly capture all Aboriginal persons. Similarly, the numbers do not include Aboriginal women who were mistakenly recorded as "white" or Aboriginal women who were reported missing but were never recorded. Given the high level of overt and systemic racism in policing as confirmed in the Donald Marshall Jr., Manitoba Justice, Ipperwash, and Pickton inquiries, the numbers of those missing never recorded could be extremely high.

    Now, let's look at how the RCMP or other jurisdictions determine who is "Aboriginal". The RCMP report notes that they used "perception-based assessment". In other words, "how a police officer defines how an individual looks in terms of complexion and/or ancestry". However, even this determination is not consistent across jurisdictions. Any number of jurisdictions use the following to identify persons:

    (1) official Aboriginal "status";

    (2) officer discretion; and

    (3) self-identification.

    Based on the above, it would seem logical that the RCMP would miss identifying a large portion or even majority of Aboriginal persons. In the first methodology, I presume they meant to say "Indian status" or "Indian registration" because there is no formal or official "Aboriginal status". I hope the RCMP know at least this much about the legislated identity of Indigenous peoples in Canada (hint: it's in the Indian Act). For those that only use "Indian status", that would exclude all the non-status Indians, Métis, and Inuit individuals in Canada. The most recent National Household Survey indicated that there were 1,400,685 Aboriginal people in Canada and only 637,660 of them were registered Indians. That leaves 763,025 individuals (more than half the Aboriginal population) excluded from possible identification as Aboriginal by RCMP standards.

    Even those who are identified based on their official Indian status, the RCMP fails to take into consideration the fact that there are well over 20,000 people with Indian status who do not descend from nor identify as "Indian" or "Aboriginal". This is thanks again to the Indian Act which made non-Indian women and their non-Indian male and female children registered as Indians, despite their lack of Aboriginal ancestry or cultural connection. This equates to thousands of men with Indian status that are not in fact Aboriginal.

    continued below

  96. With regards to the second methodology, the RCMP are identifying Aboriginal peoples based on a racist set of biological and/or physical characteristics which they unilaterally assign to Aboriginal people. In other words, "Aboriginal people" are treated as one race of people with certain pre-determined physical characteristics - like hair, eye or skin colour. They ignore the fact that Indigeneity is social, cultural, political, legal, territorial, and nation-based - not an identity based on race. This racist methodology would be as useless as trying to identify a Canadian citizen gone missing in the USA based on skin colour. Clearly, the RCMP would miss the vast majority of "Aboriginal people" using this kind of methodology.

    With regard to the third methodology of self-identification, the RCMP failed to indicate what percentage of jurisdictions actually rely on self-identification. This of course would not work in the context of a murdered or missing Aboriginal woman as she cannot self-identify. It might only work in the context of the woman's family or friends choosing to identify her as Aboriginal. It is impossible to know how many people would voluntarily self-identify given the extent to which every level of the justice system is infected with overt and systemic racism as per the numerous justice inquiries. Many Aboriginal people have a justified fear of the RCMP stemming from residential school days, Starlight tours, and deaths in police custody - as well as provincial police forces for similar reasons.

    So, it is logical to conclude that the RCMP grossly under-counted the actual numbers of murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada. This conclusion is confirmed by the RCMP's own admission that due to these methodological problems "a high number of Homicide survey reports where the identity of the victim (and/or accused) remained unknown". This admission on their part is extremely important in understanding the racist dialogue which has recently unfolded at the Ministerial level.

    Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt has been very vocal in his refusal to conduct a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and little girls. He has publicly stated that part of the problem is that First Nation men "have a lack of respect for women and girls on reserve". Aside from the fact that he forgot Métis and Inuit people who don't live on reserves, Valcourt went on to tell Treaty 6 Chiefs that 70% of the cases, Aboriginal women were killed by Aboriginal men. The RCMP refused to release the statistics on the alleged perpetrators as they claimed a commitment to "bias-free" policing. That commitment did not last long as they issued a letter several days later to Treaty 6 Grand Chief seeming to back up Minister Valcourt.

    The RCMP's exact words to Treaty 6 Grand Chief Martial were as follows:

    "In considering the offender characteristics, a commonality unrelated to the ethnicity of the victim was the strong nexus to familial and spousal violence. Aboriginal females were killed by a spouse, family member or intimate relation in 62% of the cases; similarly, non-aboriginal females were killed by a spouse, family member or intimate relation in 74% of occurrences."

    This statistic confirms that Canadian women are more often killed by their spouse or families than Aboriginal women. Yet, in the second paragraph of this letter, the RCMP explain that despite their bias-free policing policy and despite their confidentiality agreement with Statistics Canada, they would release the sensitive information relating to offenders anyway in order to back up Minister Valcourt's claims that "70% of offenders were of Aboriginal origin".

    continued below

  97. Some commentators rushed to conclude that the RCMP statement does in fact support the Minister's claims and (a) that this somehow reduces Canada's culpability for both creating and refusing to deal with this crisis; and (b) that, in fact, 70% of offenders were Aboriginal. Neither of these conclusions are correct. The RCMP's statistics, as noted above, are extremely skewed and unreliable when it comes to the identification of Aboriginal people - victims or offenders. It bears repeating that the RCMP's own assessment of problems in its methodology led them to conclude:

    "a high number of Homicide survey reports where the identity of the victim (and/or accused) remained unknown".

    This means that a high number of the accused in murder cases have an unknown identity. Therefore, the RCMP's claim that 70% of the accused are Aboriginal is highly suspect at best and completely inaccurate at worst.

    There is also a problem with the assumption that because 64% of Aboriginal women are killed by their spouses or families, that those offenders were in fact "Aboriginal". Aside from having to make the racist assumption that Aboriginal people only have relationships with other Aboriginal people, the statistics do not bear this out. If you look only at the case of First Nations people, the vast majority of First Nations have out-parenting rates (children with non-Aboriginal people) that are moderate to high. Specifically, 246 First Nations have an out-parenting rate of 40-60%; 162 First Nations have an out-parenting rate of 60-80%; and 49 First Nations have an out-parenting rate of 80-100%. It is safe to say that no less than half of First Nations are in spousal or familial relationships with non-Aboriginal people. So, even if 64% of Aboriginal women are murdered by their spouses, it does not follow that those spouses are "Aboriginal". Statistically, they are just as likely to be non-Aboriginal.

    One must also keep in mind that the RCMP did not include statistics on the number of RCMP and provincial police officers who have been accused of physically and sexually assaulting, murdering and/or causing to go missing, Aboriginal women in Canada. Despite a Human Rights Watch report which details accounts by young Aboriginal women and girls at the hands of the RCMP - the RCMP has refused to investigate its own members. We know at least one RCMP officer who lost 7 days pay for violating an Aboriginal women and one provincial court judge who plead guilty to physically and sexually assaulted Aboriginal girls as young as 12 years old.

    This shell game of numbers and statistics is meant to blame the victim and deflect attention away from Canada's continued inaction to address this crisis which the United Nations has called a "grave violation" of our basic human rights. The crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women and little girls continues while Canada (through Valcourt) blames the victim and the RCMP fail to live up to their duty to serve and protect everyone in Canada.

    Shame on them both. Nothing in the RCMP numbers changes anything. Canada has a crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women and little girls regardless of who is doing the killing - and we need to address it.

    Don't be fooled or distracted by Canada's games.

    We should all stay focused on pushing for both a national inquiry and for an emergency action plan to protect our women and girls and address the underlying root causes and inequities which make them vulnerable to begin with.

    * I use the term "Aboriginal" in this blog to reflect the terminology of the RCMP report only.


  98. Missing and murdered aboriginal women crisis demands a look at root causes

    New CBC database highlights some patterns behind violence

    By Connie Walker, CBC News April 10, 2015

    Roxanne Isadore was already a survivor by the time she reached her sixth birthday.

    "She used to scream at night … 'That guy is after me.'" Her grandmother Angeline recalls how the sexual abuse Roxanne experienced as a child haunted her for years.

    As she got older, she continued to struggle. There were suicide attempts, addictions. And when she was 24, she disappeared.

    Roxanne is one of hundreds of missing or murdered indigenous women in Canada. Women who were born into lives that forced them to fight for survival in communities rife with poverty, trauma, abuse and, inevitably, violence.

    Individually, their stories are tragic and heartbreaking. Collectively, they are horrifying.

    A CBC News database launched earlier this week found more than 230 indigenous women across Canada whose deaths or disappearances are unsolved.

    We interviewed 111 of their families and told their stories. Not just about the death or disappearance of a loved one, but who she was and how she lived.

    Each one of those women is unique, each story is gut-wrenching. Yet reading these profiles together, you begin to see patterns emerging. The underlying causes associated with missing or murdered indigenous women become hard to ignore.

    "We grew up in a home where emotions were masked with alcohol," Candice L'hommecourt said when asked about her missing sister Shelly Dene. "I don't want to make excuses, but I want to say we were like from the forgotten-children era because of residential schools."

    About a week before Rhonda Runningbird went missing in March 1995, she showed up to her mom's house and could barely climb the stairs. The 25-­year-­old mother of three had been beaten so badly she was given a colostomy bag and scheduled for surgery at the end of the month, said her mother Mavis Crowchild.

    Bernadette Ahenakew had a difficult life before she was killed, according to her sister Nancy Masuskapoe. Not only was she in government care for 10 years, she also experienced physical and sexual abuse. Life before foster care wasn't any easier. Masuskapoe says their life at home was often filled with violence, neglect and alcohol.

    Although their stories are different, the similarities arise again and again. Abuse, trauma, child welfare, addictions. And almost always, poverty.

    continued below

  99. The harsh reality is that the murdered or missing indigenous women are not the only victims. Look to Canada's jails, homeless shelters and hospitals to see others.

    Aboriginal women make up nearly 34 per cent of all female prisoners in Canada. And there are more indigenous children in care now than during the height of residential schools.

    That can be traced back to colonization and policies rooted in assimilation, says advocate and lawyer Christa Big Canoe.

    "We have to contextualize everything. We have to look at the history and roots of institutionalization of aboriginal people in this country, including things like residential schools, the '60s Scoop and, most importantly, the criminalization which has incarcerated a lot of people in our communities," Big Canoe said.

    A study released today supports the idea that the violence currently faced by indigenous women has roots in the past.

    The Cedar Project followed 259 aboriginal women for seven years. Researchers found that survivors of childhood sexual abuse are 10 times more likely than the average person to be sexually assaulted. Children of residential school survivors are 2.35 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.

    These issues are not limited to aboriginal women. Indigenous men are equally affected and over-represented in the Canadian justice system. And according to the RCMP, they are also the main perpetrators of violence against aboriginal women. RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says 70 per cent of the murders of aboriginal women that have been solved were committed by aboriginal men.

    But does it really matter who is committing the violence? Are indigenous women less worthy of sympathy or support if the perpetrators are of their own race?

    The RCMP's statistics on violence against indigenous women reinforce the fact that there are systemic issues that continue to affect all aboriginal people.

    We must continue to tell the stories of every missing or murdered indigenous woman or girl. Each leaves behind a family who loved them and communities struggling to deal with their loss.

    But if you look beyond the individual stories, it becomes painfully obvious that dealing with these issues is not just a matter of violence prevention, it's crisis intervention.

    We can't ignore the patterns that are being repeated again and again in the lives of these women.

    Until the root causes are addressed, the violence will continue.





  100. More women alleging harassment want to join lawsuit against RCMP

    Female officers and civilian employees join former Const. Janet Merlo in sexual harassment suit

    By Natalie Clancy, CBC News May 31, 2015

    Nearly 400 female RCMP officers and civilian employees from across Canada are asking a B.C judge to certify a class action lawsuit filed by Const. Janet Merlo over sexual harassment and gender discrimination at a hearing Monday.

    "My name is on there, but there's 400 ladies standing behind … from nine provinces and all the territories," said Merlo, who is so far the only named plaintiff in a case that has been making its way through the courts for three years.

    "It speaks to a problem that's systemic and that's nationwide," Merlo said.

    ​She filed the lawsuit after a CBC News investigation into sexual harassment of female Mounties, including former spokesperson Cpl. Catherine Galliford, prompted dozens more to speak publicly.

    "It is absolutely a group effort that did start way back when Catherine first spoke to [CBC]," said Merlo, who helped start a support group on Facebook after hearing Galliford and others share allegations of sexual assault and abuse on the job.

    One of the Facebook group members in Ontario contacted a lawyer and the class action case slowly grew, with hundreds now hoping the court will decide their allegations are similar enough to proceed as one case.

    Sexual, physical, verbal assaults alleged

    "They're gonna hear from people who had one or two incidents that really upset them, to women who were physically assaulted and sexually assaulted during the course of their career," Merlo said.

    David Klein, the lawyer representing the women, said some clients have been left unable to work, with serious psychological injuries. A third of the women are still on the job.

    So far, 363 women have officially joined the case with several more waiting for the outcome of this week's hearing, Klein said.

    "If you were to focus on these isolated incidents, of practical jokes, inappropriate comments, of sexualized gestures, you might not see the entire picture, but what we have here is a broad, serious, systemic problem," he said.​

    The allegations

    Unwanted sexual touching.
    Physical assault.
    Sexist comments.
    Gender discrimination.

    Merlo said she had a bad experience when she told her supervisor in Nanaimo, B.C., that she required a maternity leave.

    "He just started yelling and screaming at me," she recalled.

    "If I wanted a career in the RCMP, I'd have to decide on that or I could pop out kids my whole life ... he told me that next time I should keep my f---ing legs closed."

    Merlo said she waited until her supervisor retired to have another child.

    continued below

  101. Sex toys in detachment

    In an affidavit, Merlo alleges another boss made "overtly sexual comments to me, offering to rub my breast ... offering to give me his 'big Italian salami' and asking if 'I liked it on top?'"

    She said a sergeant kept a naked blow-up doll in his office, and at one point a dildo was left on her files, followed by a vacuum attachment.

    "My boss told me he'd left me a present that was long and black and thick and I could take it home on days off and have fun with it," she said.

    Merlo wrote a book titled No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMPsharing her frustration that her complaints at the time went nowhere.

    'It's a misogynistic organization'

    CBC News has spoken to dozens of female RCMP officers and civilians who allege they were punished for complaining.

    "They just had no use for women. It's a misogynistic organization that found it inconvenient to have women and mothers," said Yvonne Walsh, a retired corporal who lives in St. John's.

    Walsh said grievances and even letters to the RCMP commissioner at the time were ignored.

    She claims her boss retaliated by refusing to promote her or accommodate her request to be with her child during a medical crisis.

    'Threatened and bullied'

    Nancy Arias, a former publice servant in Ottawa, alleges some RCMP managers were abusive bullies.

    "The inspector would yell and scream at me and leave me in tears" said the woman who was involved in a prolonged dispute with a co-worker.

    Arias said RCMP management failed to deal with a difficult employee who targeted her.

    "I was threatened, I was bullied," said Arias, who now works as a dishwasher.

    She said she was too late to take her complaint to the Human Rights tribunal, but hopes the class action will proceed.

    RCMP says force has changed

    Last year, the RCMP revamped its complaint process and says bad behavior is now dealt with swiftly under its action plan to curb harassment.

    The RCMP wouldn't comment on the class action case, but said there are far fewer harassment complaints now thanks to the women who came forward.

    "Those experiences that have been shared by those women and other individuals have been a significant component of how we've understood what we need to do differently in the organization to change," said Chief Supt. Angela Workman-Stark, who is overseeing the RCMP's gender and respect initiative.

    Commissioner Bob Paulson has committed to changing what he has called a "culture of harassment."

    While none of the allegations have been proven in court, Klein is asking the federal government, the defendant in the case, to compensate his clients.

    "It can have a debilitating effect on these women. We've seen depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse, broken relationships and shattered careers," he said.

    Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney wouldn't comment on the case, but his spokesman Jeremy Laurin said in a statement, "All RCMP members and employees should feel safe and respected."

    Several potential plaintiffs are expected to attend Monday's hearing, scheduled to run for five days.


  102. Female Mounties alleging discrimination seek class-action suit against RCMP


    VANCOUVER — At age 22, Quebec native Joanne Mayer was greeted at her first RCMP posting in Gibsons, B.C., with a handshake and a blunt statement from the sergeant: “We don’t think women should be in the force, and especially not French-speaking ones.”

    Mayer said that along with her regular duties, she spent over two years doing “sexist” chores including making coffee, ensuring there was an ample supply of cream and sugar, and cleaning police cruisers.

    A quarter-century later, Mayer has joined hundreds of other former and current RCMP members hoping for justice over alleged gender discrimination, bullying and harassment with a potential class-action lawsuit.

    A five-day hearing to determine certification of a class-action proceeding involving 362 women is set to begin Monday in B.C. Supreme Court.

    “I didn’t tell my parents or anybody what had happened to me. I went through this all on my own,” said Mayer, who plans to fly to Vancouver from Ottawa along with several other women expected to attend from across Canada.

    Mayer was emboldened to come forward after Janet Merlo, a 19-year RCMP veteran from Nanaimo, B.C., went public with her own experience of ongoing discrimination before launching the suit in March 2012.

    “I was like, ‘Well, I went through that, too. Maybe it wasn’t my fault,”’ Mayer said. “I had blocked it out, to be honest. I didn’t realize what was happening to me at the time and I was too scared to speak out.”

    In the three years it has taken to wind through the legal system, a law firm championing the case has canvassed more than 100 women with a detailed questionnaire, said lawyer David Klein.

    “They share an unfortunate common bond,” he said. “They were subjected to systemic harassment, bullying and discrimination over a long period of time. The bond they share is the consequence of that treatment.”

    Klein said he will introduce the case and present key evidence from Merlo’s affidavit and an expert he calls the leading authority on gender harassment and discrimination.

    He will also explain why it’s crucial to tackle the allegations en mass with a class action rather than require individual women to file hundreds of lawsuits on their own.

    “Reality is, some of the claims are too small to warrant individual litigation,” he said.

    “The only way many of these women will have access to the civil justice system is if it is done through a class action.”

    None of the claims have been tested in court.

    Klein said that while he believes the RCMP has begun taking steps to reduce harassment against women, people who have made allegations are still being challenged on every statement they make.

    “It’s time for the government of Canada to step in and direct the RCMP to take these claims seriously.”

    Jeremy Laurin, a spokesman for the federal Public Safety Department, said he couldn’t comment while the case is before the courts but that the government takes issues of discrimination and sexual harassment “very seriously.

    “All RCMP members and employees should feel safe and respected amongst their colleagues and superiors,” he said in a statement. “Canadians have the right to expect professional and exemplary conduct from their national police service.”

    For Mayer, who had dreamed of being a police officer since she was a little girl, settlement is the only way to bring closure because she felt forced to switch careers.

    “My hope is that the force will recognize that it has affected a lot of female members,” she said. “I wouldn’t want this to happen to new members going in, new females. If this is truly what they want to do they should be able to do the same job as anyone else.”


  103. RCMP harassment and bullying case offers disturbing insights

    Sgt. Pete Merrifield's 10-year battle for justice pulls back curtains on RCMP behaviour

    By John Nicol, CBC News June 11, 2015

    Christine Merrifield is sitting outside a courtroom in Newmarket, Ont., explaining to a seat mate that she has two sons. One is quiet and laid back like his father. Then there's Peter, whom she describes as "very proud to be a member of the RCMP."

    He takes after his mother, says the septuagenarian: "He speaks up."

    Many of the Mountie white-shirts wish Sgt. Peter Merrifield had kept quiet. For the last 10 years, Merrifield has said he was harassed and bullied by his superiors, all because, he claims, he irked them by running for a federal Conservative nomination in Barrie in May 2005.

    His civil suit against the RCMP that alleges bullying and harassing him finally commenced at trial last November. There was some media coverage when RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson was called to testify in December, but it waned after Department of Justice lawyers successfully put a clamp on controversial affidavits, submitted for the case, which — among other things — purportedly revealed personal information about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's family.

    Although it is not a typical harassment case like those filed by several female RCMPs officers across the country, the revelations of the Merrifield case are still troubling.

    By all accounts, Merrifield was an exemplary officer who joined the force in 1997. He stood out in each department where he worked: he resolved a case involving a threat to the life of Prime Minister Paul Martin and U.S. President George W. Bush; completed a large-scale cross-border gun smuggling investigation; and obtained the first conviction under the United Nations act dealing with nuclear counter-proliferation by stopping an Iranian man from shipping devices to Iran to aid in uranium enrichment.

    Merrifield ran in the 2004 federal election for the Conservatives, but it was his campaign literature while seeking a nomination for the upcoming 2006 election that would turn his life upside down. He was called on the carpet and asked to defend the Conservative campaign tenets. Recent testimony at his hearing confirmed that he was asked if he was being fair to his constituents in advocating the abolishment of the gun registry,supporting the traditional interpretation of marriage and calling the then Liberal government corrupt.

    Multiple code of conduct investigations

    Unbeknownst to Merrifield, and against RCMP policy, a secret code of conduct investigation was opened because he had stood for the nomination (which he lost) without being on leave, and because in a subsequent radio interview he gave — as a private citizen — the RCMP claimed he was discussing national security and terrorism without prior authorization.

    He was told all the issues were resolved, but he had lost three plum assignments and was transferred out of his area of expertise, national security. He began seeking answers through requests under the Access to Information Act, but those requests came back with little information.

    Then on Jan. 5, 2006, court heard, he told his superior officer, Insp. Marc Proulx, that he was going to take his treatment to another level and seek legal help. The next day, Proulx initiated a code of conduct investigation into his use of his force-issued American Express card.

    Later that month, when it was learned that Merrifield had handed over his performance reviews to his lawyer, another code of conduct investigation against him was commenced for "his release of protected and classified information."

    continued below

  104. A fourth code of conduct investigation was opened against Merrifield when he received London Police Service documents that revealed that Proulx, his superior officer, had been talking to an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute.

    (Proulx testified last week that the contents of the leaked London police document were true, and he tearfully apologized to the Merrifield hearing adjudicator, Judge Mary Vallee.)

    All four investigations into Merrifield were closed with no discipline meted out. But Merrifield only learned of the first investigation — the so-called "secret file"— through an ATIP request, just before his trial was to begin in 2014.

    Getting evidence from the Mounties in his case has been a Herculean task, says his lawyer John Phillips.

    "When we get stymied from the beginning, on key things like the secret file that wasn't disclosed, the various notes that were not disclosed from the cops, not only does it jeopardize the civil process that we're engaged in, but it makes it difficult to run a fair hearing for Merrifield," said Phillips. "If the RCMP can't make proper disclosure in a civil case, what does it tell you about what they're doing in criminal law?"

    'We have to admit our own flaws'

    Some officer's notes, that were sought in the 2005 ATIP, were only submitted to the hearing two weeks ago. But what irks Phillips the most is the "secret file" against Merrifield that Department of Justice lawyers have had since 2010, but didn't produce in disclosure.

    "That is horrifying," said Phillips.

    Phillips also said the entire investigation into Merrifield's political activities was a breach of a ministerial directive that the RCMP not venture into sensitive sector investigations without an okay from an assistant commissioner. Politics, the media and trade unions are some of the areas the RCMP is forbidden to venture into without proper approvals. One officer who testified at the hearing admitted that they should have restricted their questions to whether Merrifield was on a leave of absence or not.

    On top of that the testimony of Commissioner Paulson clashed with the testimony of Assistant Commissioner Stephen White, which left observers wondering how well his subordinates had informed Paulson about the issues raised by Merrifield, and how badly his sergeant's reputation continued to be maligned years after he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

    After six weeks of testimony the hearing paused Friday and will continue in November.

    Merrifield, despite all his successes in national security work, has long been removed from operations, and is now an RCMP staff relations labour representative. Asked whether speaking up, and enduring a decade-long fight was worth it, Merrifield said outside court: "If we're going to get better—if we're going to be better—we have to admit our own flaws and mistakes first. You can't judge others if our house isn't clean.

    "The RCMP motto is maintiens le droit—maintain the right," he continued. "Police are to be held to a higher standard. I always accepted that."


  105. Highway of Tears: 'There's a cover-up going on,' says First Nations tribal councillor

    Premier claims documents weren't ultimately deleted as councillor calls for inquiry for missing women

    By The Early Edition, CBC News May 29, 2015

    The B.C. Ministry of Transportation is alleged to have deleted more than adozen e-mails about meetings with 80 First Nations leaders along the Highway of Tears, and Carrier Sekani Tribal Councillor Mavis Erickson thinks she knows why.

    "I haven't heard of those meetings at all, in any matter, shape or form," she told The Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

    "I was involved when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights came, I was also involved when the Human Rights Watch came, I was also involved when the United Nations came," she said.

    "Community leaders inevitably phone me to be involved and to participate, and I didn't get any phone calls regarding any meetings."

    The BC Liberal government is facing questions over the allegations of deleted records related to the Highway of Tears after former Transportation Ministry executive assistant Tim Duncan alleged yesterday that he was told to delete e-mails requested under the Freedom of Information Act in November of 2014.

    NDP MLA Jennifer Rice had filed an FOI for records regarding the infamous Highway 16 at that time.

    Erickson says she finds the latest allegations troubling and will continue to push for a national inquiry into the issue.

    "There's a cover-up going on and I think this just shows more of that fear that we have that things are going on and [government] wants this whole story to go away," she said.

    "It's been going on for years and so the destruction of these alleged e-mails is just more of the same."

    Premier responds to controversy

    Speaking in Dawson Creek, Premier Christy Clark said the allegations should be investigated.

    "If anyone broke the rules then they need to be held responsible," she said.

    But Clark also said she believes almost all the documents in question were ultimately released.

    "That information is publicly available and as I understand it, none of it was permanently deleted," she said.

    At least 18 women have gone missing or been murdered along Highway 16, the route that connects Prince George and Prince Rupert in Northern B.C.

    To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled: Highway of Tears: "there's a cover-up going on", says First Nations advocate.


  106. Wake up. The threat to our Indigenous women is Canada’s problem

    What emerges from the stories of 13 Indigenous women who told Maclean’s about the violence they endured is a capacity for resilience and forgiveness

    Editorial, Maclean's June 2, 2015

    What happened in residential schools was nothing short of “cultural genocide,” said Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as he released the commission’s 94 recommendations in Ottawa this week: “Survivors were stripped of the love of their families. They were stripped of their self-respect and they were stripped of their identity.” Generations on, this practice continues to directly affect Indigenous Canadians, Sinclair said.

    That much became clear to Maclean’s in the months that reporter Nancy Macdonald spent researching this week’s cover package: stories of 13 extraordinary Indigenous women. Each has survived horrific violence. Each came within a breath of joining the missing and murdered. Almost all can trace the abuse and sexual violence that have overwhelmed their families to those federally funded schools through whose doors 150,000 Indigenous children passed for more than a century.

    More than one of these women told of four generations of women in their families who were raped. Yet what emerges most clearly from their stories is a tremendous capacity for resilience and forgiveness. Make no mistake: While the subject matter may be dark, these remarkable stories are not. They are triumphant, without exception. They are profiles in courage.

    “In speaking out, I am saying: No more,” Kim Jonathan, interim chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, told Maclean’s. Jonathan is the country’s most senior female Indigenous leader, and the inspiration for this project. She is speaking publicly, for the first time, of her childhood sexual assault, the abuse she endured as a young girl, and the sexual harassment she continues to face as a national leader.

    “Having lived through all that I have, I am choosing to say: I am not going to be next,” Jonathan says. “And I am speaking up for our sisters, the missing and murdered, whose voices have been stolen.”

    Now is the time to listen to these voices. The full six-volume report from Sinclair’s commission won’t be released until later this year, but already the report contains a sweeping agenda for change, including: removal of the Criminal Code provision permitting corporal punishment; enhanced teaching of Aboriginal languages in colleges and universities; clear goals and strategies for reducing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal health outcomes; and a public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women. If the scars left behind by the residential school system are almost unimaginable, the agenda Sinclair sketched includes a series of concrete steps to achieve measurable outcomes. All that remains is for governments, beginning with the one in Ottawa, to respond.

    continued below

  107. Indigenous women make up just two per cent of the country’s population, but more than one in four female homicide victims in the last five years, a share that continues to rise. The United Nations and Amnesty International have called repeatedly on Ottawa to take real action. Instead, this spring, the federal government chose to release data on the perpetrators of these crimes, to point the finger back at the community. “Obviously, there’s a lack of respect for women and girls on reserves,” Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt told the Ottawa Citizen. The minister is looking in the wrong place. This is overwhelmingly an urban phenomenon: Just seven per cent of missing cases and 13 per cent of murder cases among Indigenous women occur on-reserve.

    Let us be clear: This is not an Indigenous problem. This is a Canadian problem. Canada did not suddenly wake up to 1,181 murdered and missing Indigenous women.

    But, robbed of context, we tend to blame the missing and murdered themselves. We see them as drug addicts, lost—party, even—to their own victimization. That is why it is so important to hear from survivors; they help us understand how we got here. They humanize the fallen. And they lend their formidable strength to the women who continue to suffer.

    “I have been there, too. I walk with you,” said Jonathan, addressing those women directly. Jonathan, who faces an election in four months, knows she could be harmed politically by doing so. She did it anyway.

    The courage these women have shown in speaking out, and their resilience, are extraordinary. From the ashes of those horrific schools, somehow, women like this have emerged. Their example should serve as a call for a national soul-searching. That Indigenous women in one of the world’s richest, most developed countries continue to be subjected to sexual violence to a degree not seen outside the most violent corners of the developing world cannot be allowed to endure.


  108. Aboriginal women still overrepresented among Canada's missing and murdered women

    32 aboriginal women have been slain and 11 more have disappeared since 2013, RCMP says

    CBC News June 19, 2015

    Aboriginal women continue to be overrepresented among Canada's missing and murdered women, says the RCMP in a new report to update Canadians on the force's efforts to address unresolved cases of missing and murdered native women.

    Between May 2014 when last year's report was published and April 2015, 11 more aboriginal women disappeared in regions over which the RCMP has jurisdiction.

    Unlike in the previous report, this update did not take into account missing or murdered aboriginal woman from cities and municipalities with their own police forces, meaning the total number would be higher than the figure in the report.

    It also found that within RCMP jurisdictions, 32 aboriginal women were killed in 2013 and 2014. The Mounties said this was "consistent with levels of the past decade."

    The RCMP said the new report confirms what was found in 2014, mainly that aboriginal women are most frequently killed by someone they know, be it their spouse or a member of their community.

    "Our 2015 update confirms the unmistakable connection between homicide and family violence, and that aboriginal women continue to be over-represented among Canada's missing and murdered women," said RCMP Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong.

    Other key findings include:

    *As of April 2015, 174 aboriginal women across all police jurisdictions remain missing, 111 of these under suspicious circumstances.

    *A reduction of 9.3 per cent in unsolved cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women reported in the 2014 overview, from 225 to 204 across all police jurisdictions.

    *In 2013 and 2014, 81 per cent of murders of aboriginal women have been solved in RCMP jurisdictions.

    *Within RCMP jurisdictions, offenders were known to their victims in 100 per cent of solved homicide cases of aboriginal women since 2013.

    *Offenders were known to their victims in 93 per cent of solved homicide cases of non-aboriginal women in RCMP jurisdictions in 2013 and 2014.

    Urgent call to action

    The Assembly of First Nations said today's findings demand an "urgent call" for action.

    "The numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women cannot remain a mere statistic," said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde in a written statement.

    "There is a significant and tragic overrepresentation of indigenous women among the missing and murdered in this country."

    Reacting to the RCMP update on CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett called for an inquiry into the issue, saying that "crime prevention alone cannot stop the problem."

    NDP aboriginal affairs critic Niki Ashton also called for an inquiry, saying "this is a Canadian issue, not an indigenous issue."

    In a statement posted on her website, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women Kellie Leitch wrote that "we don't need another study on top of the same 40 studies that have already been done; we need police to catch those responsible and ensure they're punished."

    Today's release follows a report last year that found more than 1,000 cases of murdered and missing indigenous women between 1980 and 2012.

    see the numerous links in this article at:


  109. Missing and murdered women's advocate finds strength in dance troupe

    Lorelei Williams founded Butterflies in Spirit to help families of missing and murdered women

    By The Early Edition, CBC News June 15, 2015

    It seems like violence has always been part of Lorelei Williams' life.

    The DNA of her cousin Tanya Holyk was found on serial killer Robert Pickton's farm, Williams' aunt Belinda Williams has been missing for years, and Williams herself grew up in a household where she suffered sexual and physical abuse.

    Williams says it wasn't until she was older that she understood the root of the violence she suffered at the hands of her mother.

    "I found out she was in residential school, and that's what she grew up with, and being a child, taken away from her mom when she was six-years-old," Williams told CBC's The Early Edition.

    "When she was taken, [she was] counting the mountains to find her way home, and then having to go through the sexual abuse, child abuse, physical abuse in residential school..."

    Even though she had a traumatic childhood, Williams says her experience has made her stronger, and it drives her to give her two children a better childhood than her own.

    Williams is also an advocate for missing and murdered aboriginal women, and has even founded a dance troupe called Butterflies in Spirit to raise awareness.

    "Just thinking of having other women with me to do the dance was the original idea — to get my missing aunt's picture out there.

    "But also to remember and honour my cousin Tanya Holyk, not … thinking that other family members of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls would join me.

    "And that made it so much more strong, and we healed together doing this, and we're still doing it."



  110. UN human rights committee slams Canada's record on women

    UN also cites failure to set up effective procedures for responding to its criticisms

    CBC News July 23, 2015

    The UN human rights committee is accusing the Canadian government of failing to act on missing and murdered aboriginal women, violence against women generally, and numerous other matters, ranging from refugees to Bill C-51, the new anti-terror law.

    The UN's first report card on Canada in 10 years was released Thursday, and measures whether the country has met its human rights obligations.

    At least 26 human rights organizations, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Amnesty International Canada and Human Rights Watch, submitted their own separate reports to the 18-member independent committee on the various issues.

    Overall, the report took exception to Canada's failure to set up a way to implement some of the committee's recommendations.

    "It should take all necessary measures to establish mechanisms and appropriate procedures to give full effect to the committee's views so as to guarantee an effective remedy when there has been a violation of the covenant," the report said.

    Here's a list of some of the UN committee's criticisms and recommendations:

    Business: "Human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating abroad, in particular mining corporations," should be addressed by an independent authority and a framework that give victims the possibility of legal remedies.

    Gender equality: The committee notes "persisting inequalities between women and men" in Canada and wants better equal pay legislation across the country," with a special focus on minority and indigenous women."

    Violence against women: Continued violence against women in Canada, and the "the lack of statistical data on domestic violence," led the committee to call for better legal protections for victims, and for more shelters and services.

    Missing and murdered aboriginal women: In the wake of reports on murdered and missing women, the committee said "indigenous women and girls are disproportionately affected by life-threatening forms of violence, homicides and disappearances." It said there should be a national inquiry.

    Bill C-51: Canada's new anti-terror law allows mass surveillance, too much information-sharing, and a no-fly list that lacks proper governance and appeal, the committee says. It suggests Canada should review the act and allow for better legal safeguards.

    Police use of force: The committee notes excessive force during protests such as those at the G20 in 2010 and recommends prompt, impartial investigations, along with prosecutions of those responsible where warranted

    Refugees and immigration: The committee worries "that individuals who are nationals of designated 'safe' countries are denied an appeal hearing against a rejected refugee claim before the Refugee Appeal Division and are only allowed judicial review before the Federal Court" — increasing the risk they may be sent back.

    Other recommendations cover prison conditions in Canada, freedom of expression, native land titles, the Indian Act and the condition of indigenous people generally.

    It asks for a response from Canada five years from now on what improvements and implementations have been made as a result of its recommendations.


    The UN report and recommendations are here:


  111. UNs calls for inquiry into missing, murdered aboriginal women welcomed by First Nations poet and activist

    Lee Maracle says Canada has to uphold all of the TRC’s recommendations

    By The Early Edition, CBC News July 23, 2015

    First Nations poet, professor and activist Lee Maracle said Canada must heed the United Nations Human Rights Committee call Thursday to launch an inquiry into the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

    "There just isn't enough investigation, and there isn't enough concern," Maracle told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

    ​"It should be considered a national crisis really, it's not just our community that's affected...Canada's reputation globally is really being damaged by its failure [to hold an inquiry]."

    Maracle, who was one of the first First Nations students in the public school system, was a vocal critic of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated the Indian Residential Schools system.

    She said it is imperative that the government follows through on the commission's 94 recommendations, which include the creation and funding for new aboriginal education legislation that protects languages and cultures, and the creation of a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

    "People have to understand that this is in lieu of court, this is in lieu of us suing Canada's ass," Maracle said. "Unless we get all those recommendations, there isn't going to be equality in this country."

    Keynote message at new Coast Salish festival

    Maracle, who is a member of the Sto:lo Nation, will be giving the keynote message at a new festival celebrating Coast Salish peoples.

    The All Nations Festival in Coquitlam runs from Thursday to Saturday (July 23 to 25), and features performances, panel discussions, art exhibitions and traditional food.

    Maracle, who also teaches at the University of Toronto, said her keynote message on Friday evening will discuss the environmental issues facing the world.

    "We're facing a mass extinction event and Coast Salish people have experience with this -- all our flood stories talk about it. We have something to offer the world in terms of, 'Look, we didn't learn the last time, let's get it right this time and use art to speak about it."

    Maracle also told Cluff that with a federal election slated for October it is important for aboriginal people to participate.

    "Join a party and get involved, get talking to people," she said. "Right now they can say only ten percent of native people vote. But if you've got someone in your constituency that's making noise you're going to get somewhere."

    Maracle, whose grandfather was Salish actor and Chief Dan George, recently released her latest book, Celia's Song. It has been nominated for a Governor General's award.

    To hear the full interview click on the audio labelled: First Nations poet Lee Maracle


  112. United Nations Human Rights Committee Critiques Canada's Human Rights Violations of Indigenous Peoples

    by Pam Palmater, Indigenous Nationhood July 23, 2015

    Today, the United Nations Human Rights Committee released its Concluding Observations on Canada's sixth report in relation to Canada's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (advanced unedited version). While it commended recent legislation adopted by individual provinces in relation to human rights, there was no overall commendation for Canada. In fact, the majority of the report expressed numerous concerns about Canada's failures in relation to the basic human rights of Indigenous peoples.

    The United Nations Human Rights Committee directed Canada to "widely disseminate" this report among judicial, legislative and administrative authorities, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the general public. It is not likely that Canada will do so, therefore, here is a summary of some of their concerns and key recommendations specific to Indigenous peoples:


    Concern: "persisting inequalities between women and men" including "high level of the pay gap" which is more pronounced for Indigenous women and the "underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in the public and private sectors";

    (a) guarantee equal pay for equal work, with special focus on Indigenous women;
    (b) promote better representation of women in leadership;


    Concern: "continued high prevalence of domestic violence in the State party, in particular violence against women and girls, that mostly affects indigenous and minority women" as well as insufficiency of shelters and failure of police to investigate and prosecute;

    (a) make efforts to "firmly combat" domestic violence against women in all forms, especially Indigenous women;
    (b) investigate all reported cases and follow through with prosecutions;
    (c) increase shelters and support services;


    Concern: "indigenous women and girls are disproportionately affected by life-threatening forms of violence, homicides and disappearances" and Canada's "failure to provide adequate and effective responses" and failure to provide information about their investigations, prosecutions and punishments of those responsible;

    (a) conduct a national inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in consultation with Indigenous women's organizations and families;
    (b) review its legislation to prevent further murders and disappearances;
    (c) investigate & prosecute offenders & provide reparations to victims;
    (d) address the root causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls;


    Concern: "excessive use of force by law enforcement officers during mass arrests in the context of protests at federal and provincial levels, with particular reference to indigenous land-related protests" as well as concerns about "complaints not always promptly investigated and the lenient nature of sanctions imposed";

    (a) ensure all allegations of ill-treatment and excessive use of force by police investigated;
    (b) need strong independent oversight bodies with adequate resources;
    (c) those responsible are prosecuted and punished with appropriate penalties;

    continued below


    Concern: "potential extinguishment of indigenous land rights and titles" and the number of years of unresolved land disputes places financial burden on Indigenous peoples and "Indigenous peoples are not always consulted" on legislation that impacts our lands and rights;

    (a) seek free informed and prior consent for legislation and actions that impacts our lands and rights;
    (b) resolve land and resource disputes.


    Concern: "slow" pace at which Canada is removing gender discrimination in the Indian Act thereby preventing Indigenous women and their descendants from transmitting Indian status equally with men

    (a) remove all remaining discriminatory effects of Indian Act for Indigenous women and children so they enjoy rights of Indian status on equal footing with men;


    Concern: "disproportionately high rate of incarceration of indigenous people, including women, in federal and provincial prisons across Canada"

    (a) prevent excessive use of incarceration of Indigenous peoples;
    (b) wherever possible use alternatives to detention (including serving sentences in communities);


    Concern: "risk of disappearances of indigenous languages", "lack of access to basic needs", lack of funding for child welfare, and not all students of residential schools have been given redress;

    (a) implement and reinforce programs to provide basic needs;
    (b) programs to preserve Indigenous languages; and
    (c) provide child and family services on reserve with sufficient funding;
    (d) implement TRC recommendations;

    Canada should be ashamed that it has such a poor record on protecting the basic human rights of Indigenous peoples - especially in relation to Indigenous women and children. It is a disgrace that Canada sits with other countries, like Mexico, for the continued murders and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls. Even after decades of litigation, Canada has still has not addressed Indian Act gender discrimination which excludes thousands of children of Indigenous women. Canada has no defense for its discriminatory under-funding of First Nations children in care which causes hardship for our most vulnerable. The extreme poverty, over-representation of our people in prison, dying languages, and Canada's continued failure to respect our Indigenous rights and title have all been noticed by the United Nations as violations of our basic human rights.

    It is long past the time for Canada to address these long-standing human rights violations of Indigenous peoples - this is not the Canada anyone envisioned - including our mutual ancestors who signed peace and friendship treaties.


  114. Robert Pickton case torments former detective Lori Shenher

    Book gives inside look at botched investigation into convicted serial killer Robert "Willie" Pickton

    By The Current, CBC News September 10, 2015

    They finally had him.

    In February 2002, a search warrant carried out on Robert Pickton's Port Coquitlam farm would lead to evidence that the pig farmer had been luring women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to his property, where he killed them and disposed of their remains.

    But as Pickton was arrested and charged for murder, Lori Shenher, the former Vancouver Police Department detective assigned to the missing persons' file, felt nothing but "grief."

    That's because she had known about Pickton for years — but couldn't get her superiors to listen.

    Shenher has written about the investigation in a recent book called That Lonely Section of Hell: The Botched Investigation of a Serial Killer Who almost Got Away.

    "I had people coming up to me in the couple of days, weeks after his arrest, saying 'Oh, wasn't that your guy? That's your guy!' and every time I heard that I just about threw up," Shenher told The Current host Anna Maria Tremonti.

    From day one

    Shenher said that it was on her second day on the job in July 1998 when she received a CrimeStoppers tip that gave the name "Willie Pickton" — the name Pickton went by.

    "It said you should look at the guy, and he's probably responsible for the missing women from Vancouver, and that he had a grinder of some type and there was bloody clothing in bags seen around his property," she said.

    Shenher said she was excited by this news — and met with the tipster in person.

    Because Port Coquitlam is in RCMP jurisdiction, she searched in RCMP databases and came up with a file for Pickton that showed charges for attempted murder and forcible confinement.

    Shenher worked with the investigator on the file, but couldn't get the RCMP to act on the information they had.

    "It was difficult, we had third-hand information from a woman who my source knew, and she was a very difficult person for us to get close to, and I had some ideas around undercover operations and those sorts of things to use as tools to get some information from her," Shenher said.

    She said those ideas were "never acted upon", and she still doesn't know why.

    continued below

  115. The RCMP declined an interview on CBC's The Current.

    Indifference and apathy

    In her book Shenher describes the Vancouver Police Department as appearing indifferent to the plight of these missing women — many of whom had been prostitutes — and writes that the RCMP also mishandled many steps in the investigation.

    "There was a mindset that these were disposable women, that these victims chose this life...so we're not going to put ourselves out in quite the same way that we might if it's somebody's daughter from UBC."

    The VPD declined an interview request for The Current, but a spokesperson said: "The VPD did "an extensive self-autopsy after the Pickton investigation. There were mistakes made and we could have caught Pickton earlier. We made a number of changes as a result of looking at how we could do things better and prevent such tragedies from happening again."

    Shenher's trauma

    Shenher said she was not given the appropriate resources or staff for her investigation — and despite her efforts, could not bring attention to the information she had.

    She said all of these factors began to affect her mental health — "it was a slow kind of unraveling," she said — and led her to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Her reaction to Pickton's arrest in 2002 was feeling physically sick.

    "My mind went immediately to how many women died in that period of time, basically from 1999 when we got a second tip from Pickton," she said.

    "That period of time, when we had what we needed, we could've got him and we didn't."

    Despite a number of reports that have been done looking at the issue of missing and murdered women across Canada, Shenher is adamant that there could be another Pickton — and another flawed investigation — unless changes are made.

    "These are not easy investigations...and I don't think these are easy people. Whether it's the Downtown Eastside or anywhere in the country where you're working with people who are drug-addicted, who are suffering from horrible neglect, who have mental health issues. These are not easy people. They're not easy witnesses. They're not easy clients."

    "Just because they're not easy doesn't mean they don't deserve...a full investigation and the full weight of our ability to do the best we can by them."

    To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Robert Pickton case haunts former detective Lori Shenher at:


  116. Aboriginal women's claims of police sex abuse under investigation

    8 provincial police officers in Val-d'Or, Que., questioned

    CBC News October 22, 2015

    Allegations of abuse of power and assault by Quebec provincial police officers in Val-d'Or, Que., have led to an internal investigation, a spokeswoman for the Sûreté du Québec has confirmed.

    It comes after Radio-Canada's investigative program, Enquête, uncovered stories of sexual violence toward aboriginal women in the Quebec town of 32,000. Val d'Or, about 500 kilometres northwest of Montreal, is located close to several Algonquin communities.

    Speaking publicly for the first time, alleged victims told Enquête about a pattern involving the provincial police over a period of at least two decades.

    They say officers routinely picked up women who appeared to be intoxicated, drove them out of town and left them to walk home in the cold. Some allege they were physically assaulted or made to perform sex acts.

    Allegation of drugs for sex

    Bianca Moushoun recounted how male officers would give her beer they kept stored in the trunk of their vehicles. She said the men would later take her to a remote area.

    "We went to a road in the woods, and that's where they would ask me to perform fellatio," said Moushoun. They would pay her "$100 for the service" and "$100 to keep quiet," she added.

    "Sometimes they paid me in coke. Sometimes they paid me in cash, sometimes both."

    She said the incidents occurred about two years ago.

    Another woman, who spoke on condition her name not be used, said she was assaulted by an officer in his car on the road between Val-d'Or and Waswanipi, a Cree community about 275 kilometres northeast of the town.

    "He wanted a blow job. I said no," she wrote. "He threw me out and grabbed my hair. He left me alone on the highway."

    Photos of the woman, which she says were taken after that incident, show a cut above her right eye and a wound on the top of her head. Both were sustained in the altercation with the police officer, she said.

    Not all 'bad apples'

    Carole Marcil, a bartender at Le Manoir in Val-d'Or, has heard such stories from aboriginal women countless times. She estimates as many as 30 women in the area have had similar encounters.

    "If they don't perform fellatio … they get massacred," Marcil said. The women "show up with bumps, bruises, punches and burns."

    Marcil stresses "not all" provincial police officers in Val-d'Or act that way.

    "There are two or three or four bad apples [among them]," Marcil said.

    Officers questioned, but still on the job

    Since the women spoke to Enquête, some have filed formal complaints, and an internal police investigation has begun.

    "Fourteen files have been opened for allegations related to the behaviour of our officers," said police spokeswoman Martine Asselin. "These are allegations, not charges for now," she added.

    "All the files will be transferred to [the Crown prosecutor's office], and we'll see what happens after that," Asselin said.

    About 50 officers are based at the Val-d'Or Sûreté du Québec detachment. Eight among them have been questioned by investigators, Asselin said. They remain on the job.

    The investigation is being led by the force's professional standards directorate.

    The investigators involved are not based in Val-d'Or, Asselin said.


  117. Meet the Ex-RCMP Detective Investigating BC's 'Highway of Tears'

    Searchers: Highway of Tears

    VICE Video Oct 15, 2015

    You can’t help but shudder at the sinister nickname for British Columbia’s Provincial AutoRoute 16, known as “The Highway of Tears,” which is both a trucking passage and the winding graveyard of up to 42 aboriginal women—most of which assumed murdered by a series of active serial killers. In fact, the RCMP, Canada’s famous Mounties and the chief police force investigating the murders—believes there are active serial killers currently operating along the highway. The RCMP puts the official number of women who have been murdered along the highway at 18.

    Running west to east through some of the most remote terrain in North America, passing by desolate First Nations reserves and logging towns, the highway has become synonymous with the endemic violence towards Native women in Canada: They’re five times more likely than any other ethnicity in the country to be raped or murdered. It really wasn’t until a white tree planter was murdered and discovered on the highway in 2002, that the RCMP finally launched a full-scale investigation. The taskforce, called EPANA, has had its funding cut several times in the last few years and no one is sure what they are doing now.

    Ray Michalko, a former RCMP detective who quit the force, is now one of the only men on the job as a private investigator. He works directly with the families of missing or murdered indigenous women on his own dime. He takes VICE on a tour of, basically, Canada’s Valley of Death and connects us with the families who have turned to him after sometimes decades of stalled police investigations.


  118. Ralph Goodale to review harassment cases of B.C. women suing RCMP

    Liberal government will 'strive' to ensure federal workplaces free from harassment, sexual violence

    CBC News November 07, 2015

    Liberal Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale says his government is committed to federal workplaces free of harassment or sexual violence and will review cases of women with claims against the RCMP.

    The announcement comes as four female RCMP employees have asked the new prime minister to stop the force from firing them before their lawsuits alleging harassment are heard in court.

    Cpl. Catherine Galliford, Cpl. Susan Gastaldo, Const. Alice Fox and Atoya Montague, a civilian employee, are all off-duty, suffering from post-traumatic stress.

    In a letter sent to all Liberal MPs and senators, they outline their struggles in the RCMP and ask the Liberal government to step in.

    "We're asking your government to be the one that ends the abuse once and for all," they wrote.


    The RCMP have served notice of dismissal to Montague and Galliford, and the other two women fear they're next, even though their lawsuits have not been heard in court.

    Fox worries she will face repercussions for speaking out about her case without permission from the force and that others may be deterred from coming forward with their stories.

    Now though, it appears as if the Liberal government wants those like Fox to know things will change.

    "In Opposition and during the election, we made it clear that a new Liberal government would strive to ensure that Parliament and federal institutions — including the public service, the RCMP, and the Canadian Armed Forces — are workplaces free from harassment and sexual violence," Goodale said in a statement sent to CBC News.

    Review of training policies

    "We will review current gender and culturally sensitive training policies for federal front-line law enforcement officers to ensure that they are strong and effective," he added.

    The statement continues:

    "As the minister responsible for Canada's national police force, harassment is an issue that I take very seriously."

    "All RCMP members and employees should feel safe and respected among their colleagues and superiors, and Canadians have the right to expect professional and exemplary conduct from the force."

    Will review cases

    The statement ends by saying, "with respect to specific cases, I will begin by reviewing them as quickly as possible with the commissioner."

    In their letter to Justin Trudeau, all four women ask him to stop RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson from firing alleged victims of harassment before their lawsuits are settled in court and to provide equal funding to the alleged victims of harassment who have had to sue the RCMP.


  119. Prime target: How serial killers prey on indigenous women


    The Globe and Mail November 22, 2015

    This story is part of an ongoing Globe and Mail investigation into the hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada

    Indigenous women in Canada are roughly seven times more likely than non-indigenous women to die at the hands of serial killers, according to a Globe and Mail analysis that found at least 18 aboriginal females were victims of convicted serial killers since 1980.

    The majority of those women were slain in or near cities, and most were killed by non-indigenous men. The cases were prosecuted in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, with the cities of Vancouver, Prince George, Saskatoon and Winnipeg most commonly listed as the woman’s last place of residence. Eight serial killers, who were convicted in a total of 25 homicides, were responsible for the women’s deaths.

    Aboriginal women are being killed and disappearing across the country at an alarming rate. The RCMP have said 70 per cent of the indigenous women slain in Canada meet their fate at the hands of an indigenous person. In a report earlier this year, the federal force stated that indigenous women knew the offender in all solved homicides over the previous two years. It also emphasized the “strong nexus to family violence.”

    But that is not the whole story.

    About one-fifth of Canada’s known female serial-homicide victims since 1980 were indigenous, according to a Globe analysis of convictions in an American researcher’s international database; just 4 per cent of the overall Canadian female population is indigenous. The newspaper is also compiling and vetting its own database of homicide and long-term missing-person cases that involve indigenous women, building on data collected by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and Ottawa-based researcher Maryanne Pearce. Through this ongoing work, The Globe has determined that at least 18 indigenous women were slain by convicted serial killers since 1980.

    If the scope is broadened to include cases with a probable suspect (those tied to Robert Pickton through stayed charges or DNA found on his farm, for example), then the number rises to about 35. And if the scope is further expanded to include speculative cases, for which court proceedings are pending or police have said a serial killer may be at work (along stretches of certain B.C. highways and in the Edmonton area, for instance), the number rises dramatically, to about 77.

    Dawn Lavell-Harvard, the president of NWAC, said that while family violence is part of the problem, vulnerable indigenous women are being “targeted” in urban centres by killers confident they will get away with it. “We need to expose the truth, so we can be effective in dealing with reality,” she said. “We can’t be basing our responses on urban myths or stereotypes.” She said she would like to see the federal government create national legislation that mandates certain basic police standards relating to missing-person investigations.

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  120. In August, Canada’s latest known serial killer, a non-indigenous man named Traigo Andretti, was convicted of murder for the second time. Both of his victims – Myrna Letandre in Manitoba and Jennifer McPherson in B.C. – were indigenous. He found Ms. Letandre through her sister, Lorna Sinclair, whom he met in an unusual way. Ms. Sinclair had signed up for a free voicemail service that allows people who do not have a phone, and are seeking work, to receive messages from prospective employers. Mr. Andretti exploited the service by dialling random extensions and, if a woman “sounded cute,” he would leave a message, according to police transcripts obtained by The Globe. Ms. Sinclair introduced him to Ms. Letandre, who disappeared weeks later. She was considered missing for nearly seven years, until Mr. Andretti struck again and confessed to both murders.

    Indigenous leaders have long called for a national inquiry into violence against aboriginal women and girls, citing the need to examine historic and modern issues such as colonization, residential schools, the child-welfare system, poverty, drug abuse, street sex work, inadequate housing and racism. Proponents also want to shine a light on the way police handle unsolved homicide and missing-person cases involving indigenous women. The former Conservative government dismissed calls for a national inquiry, with one then-cabinet minister attributing the violence to a lack of respect among indigenous men for indigenous women on reserves. The new Liberal government, meanwhile, has committed to launching an inquiry by the summer.

    An unprecedented 2014 RCMP report found 1,181 aboriginal females were killed or went missing across the country between 1980 and 2012. In an update last year, the Mounties said there were 32 additional homicides of indigenous women in 2013 and 2014 in RCMP jurisdictions. RCMP spokesman Sergeant Harold Pfleiderer said in an e-mail that the force did not conduct an analysis of serial homicide data for the reports, neither of which mention serial killing.

    Victims’ stories

    The serial killings of Ms. Letandre, Ms. McPherson and the 16 other indigenous women provide a window into the broader tragedy of violence against indigenous women in Canada. On Tuesday, The Globe is launching The Taken, a multimedia project that traces the lives of five of the women – Ms. Letandre, Cynthia Maas, Sereena Abotsway, Shelley Napope and Carolyn Sinclair – and explores the factors contributing to their vulnerability. These include difficulty transitioning to life in the city, the child-welfare system and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Their stories also examine the families’ interactions with police and the justice system.

    The RCMP do not have their own definition of serial homicide, but rather use a definition of “serial murder” crafted by experts convened by the FBI in 2005: “The unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events.” The Globe used the FBI’s definition to define serial homicide, and included manslaughter because it is a form of unlawful killing.

    Sgt. Pfleiderer said the RCMP were focusing their “prevention and intervention efforts on family violence and youth empowerment in order to reduce and eliminate violence against indigenous women.” He added that federal funding has been dedicated to programs aimed at addressing family violence in “vulnerable indigenous communities.” Last year, the RCMP told The Globe they had homed in on 10 communities, six of which are in Saskatchewan, two in Manitoba, and one each in B.C. and the Northwest Territories.

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  121. In April, The Globe filed an access-to-information request for the RCMP’s list of 10 communities. The force at first said it could not locate the list, which The Globe did not accept. The request was reopened and, in July, the Mounties responded that the “records located” qualified for an Access to Information Act exemption pertaining to law enforcement. The Globe has filed an appeal. Also in April, the newspaper requested the RCMP’s list of indigenous female homicide victims, but the force required an extension and has yet to provide the names.

    Given the lack of comprehensive Canadian data related to serial homicide, The Globe looked to the work of American researcher Mike Aamodt, who has compiled an international dataset of serial killings. An analysis of the Canadian convictions he has listed showed that indigenous women are roughly seven times more likely than non-indigenous women to be victims of serial homicide. “Aboriginal women are certainly overrepresented among the victims of Canadian serial killers,” said Enzo Yaksic, who collaborates with Dr. Aamodt and has studied serial homicide for more than a decade.

    The extent of that overrepresentation shocked the sister of Cynthia Maas, who was slain in 2010 by B.C. serial killer Cody Legebokoff (he filed an appeal earlier this year of four first-degree murder convictions). “It’s very scary,” Judy Maas said. “It’s especially scary for my daughters, my granddaughters and all the young people coming down the road. … I’m just thinking about the implications of that – the impact.”

    Vulnerable targets

    When it comes to the 18 serial-homicide cases compiled and confirmed by The Globe, many of the women, ranging in age from 13 to 41, were killed in or near cities. The majority were First Nations, while at least two were Métis. Many of the women were either known or believed to have been engaged in sex work, though it is unclear, in several instances, whether that was true around the time of the killing. “It’s a low-risk way to select a victim,” said Mark Safarik, a retired special agent who worked in the FBI’s behavioural analysis unit as a criminal profiler. He added that serial killers tend to select targets who meet two primary criteria: availability and vulnerability.

    In further analyzing the 18 cases, there were also findings related to the eight killers, five of whom are non-indigenous. In the cases of Mr. Andretti, Winnipeg’s Shawn Lamb and Saskatoon’s John Crawford, every one of their known victims – a total of eight – was indigenous. The relationship between the victim and her killer was not always known or clear. While the death of Ms. McPherson might well be classified by some as “family violence,” since she was Mr. Andretti’s wife at the time of her death, he was already a killer by the time they wed. There were also instances in which the perpetrator was believed to be a stranger.

    “By stating that the problem is rooted in family violence, the police are deflecting attention away from the broader problem of stranger victimizations because they cannot get a handle on it,” Mr. Yaksic said.

    Police forces and communities across Canada have long faced the reality – or the widespread, haunting speculation – of serial predation. In the 1980s, B.C.’s Clifford Olson confessed to murdering 11 children. That case helped spur the creation of a central database to find links between violent crimes across the country. Robert Pickton’s serial killings triggered an inquiry that deemed police investigations into disappearances from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside between 1997 and 2002 to be “blatant failures.”

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  122. Commissioner of Inquiry Wally Oppal made dozens of recommendations in 2012, but some have yet to be fully implemented, including the development of a safe-travel option for people living along the so-called Highway of Tears in Northern B.C., where women have been dying or disappearing at an alarming rate in recent decades. He said he believes police communication across jurisdictions has improved, and he commends the province for introducing new legislation that gives law enforcement greater powers to obtain personal information, including health and telephone records, related to a vulnerable missing person.

    The former B.C. attorney-general believes much more needs to be done to address the social factors that lead to increased vulnerability, such as poverty, unstable housing, drug addiction and sex work. “The conditions [in the Downtown Eastside] need to be addressed in a major way because that could be a breeding ground for another serial killer [to find victims],” Mr. Oppal said.

    Success breeds arrogance

    Over the past several years, the RCMP have struck task forces across the country to review unsolved homicides and missing-person cases. The E-PANA task force was created a decade ago to determine if one or more serial killers was responsible for the deaths and disappearances of young women travelling along certain major highways in B.C. Two of the task force’s 18 cases, dating from 1969 to 2006, are considered solved, though the RCMP have said a now-deceased American felon is suspected in two more homicides and is a person of interest in several other cases.

    Mr. Andretti’s conviction was the first one stemming from Manitoba’s Project Devote, a joint RCMP and Winnipeg Police Service task force launched in 2012. It is investigating more than two dozen homicide and long-term missing-person cases, many of which involve indigenous women. Mr. Andretti confessed his crimes to the RCMP in B.C. and, after he pleaded guilty there in relation to Ms. McPherson’s murder, he was transferred as a sentenced prisoner to Winnipeg and pleaded guilty to killing Ms. Letandre. Both families said they credit the B.C. RCMP with bringing Mr. Andretti to justice.

    The Crown attorney who prosecuted two Manitoba serial-killer cases – those of Mr. Andretti and Mr. Lamb, who pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter – said police need to devote significant resources to missing-person files because killers “trade” on the reality that priorities will inevitably shift as cases grow colder. “Just because we don’t have a body does not mean that there hasn’t been a [homicide],” Sheilla Leinburd said. “Success breeds arrogance in many ways. If they’ve gotten away with it once or twice, they’ll do it a third and fourth time.”

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  123. In some of the cases featured in The Taken multimedia project, the victims’ loved ones told The Globe that police were initially dismissive of their concerns and did not appear to take the missing-person report seriously. In the case of Ms. McPherson, the RCMP’s missing-person bulletin misstated her ethnicity as Caucasian; the family made the painful decision not to correct the record for fear that the truth would lead to public apathy – or, worse yet, a biased police response, said the woman’s sister, Kim McPherson.

    RCMP Superintendent Ward Lymburner, who oversees the E-PANA task force, noted that in response to the Oppal inquiry, the B.C. government recently rolled out provincial policing standards. The section on missing-person investigations says that when officers are determining the appropriate response, they must take into consideration the reality that indigenous women are more likely than non-indigenous women to be killed or go missing. It says risk may “flow from the profile of the missing person, in particular their inclusion in groups that are at an increased risk of harm, such as Aboriginal women and girls.”

    According to a 2013 best practices manual created by the RCMP’s National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains, police forces should treat each missing-person report as legitimate, serious and urgent at the outset, stating “poor outcomes can often be traced back to not taking a report seriously at the start, and making a risk judgment too early.” The manual, which The Globe obtained through an access-to-information request, says agencies “should not treat certain types of missing persons differently at the very beginning (e.g. repeat runaway, persons of particular lifestyles, youth home elopee).” The manual was provided to police agencies and is not binding.

    Last year, the RCMP sent a revamped national missing-persons policy to their commanding officers. It introduced two standardized documents: a 13-question risk assessment and a 10-page missing-person intake report to help ensure certain information is obtained at the outset of an investigation. The risk assessment asks “yes” or “no” questions about the person’s life and potential vulnerabilities, but it does not specifically ask if the missing individual is indigenous. When it comes to homicides, the RCMP have updated their paperwork to require that investigators indicate if a victim is aboriginal – a move lauded by the federal Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

    Ms. Lavell-Harvard, the head of NWAC, said The Globe’s investigation into serial killing speaks to the need for a national inquiry, adding the conversation is too often framed through the lens of on-reserve violence perpetrated by indigenous men. “If you’re aware that a particular group is being targeted because of vulnerabilities,” she said, “then you have to do that much more to protect that vulnerable group.”

    With reports from Rick Cash and Renata D'Aliesio in Toronto and Kat Sieniuc in Vancouver


  124. The Taken: The story behind our investigation into the serial homicides of indigenous women


    The Globe and Mail November 22, 2015

    This story is part of an ongoing Globe and Mail investigation into the hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada

    While examining our database of homicide and missing-person cases involving indigenous women about six months ago, a Globe team noticed a pattern: Several names were listed in connection with more than one killing. By the summer, the prospect of a serial killer operating in the Edmonton-area was thrust to the fore after a woman’s remains were discovered in the same area as those of three indigenous women.

    A 2014 RCMP report found that 1,181 aboriginal women were killed or went missing between 1980 and 2012. The Globe set out to determine the extent to which these tragedies were the result of serial homicide. We also embarked on the creation of a multimedia project that traces the lives of five indigenous women slain by different serial killers.

    The Taken, which explores the women’s vulnerabilities and examines their families’ interactions with police and the justice system, launches Tuesday. This immersive project features a written narrative, but it is distinct for its use of mapping, audio, photos and video. On the former, the team obtained the latitudes and longitudes for the places considered key to the woman’s life – a major undertaking, given that we traced each woman’s path from her birth to her death.

    Over the past year, The Globe has been compiling its own database, building on data collected by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and Ottawa-based researcher Maryanne Pearce. We filed an access-to-information request in April asking for the RCMP’s dataset, but that request is pending.

    For this investigation, we focused on vetting our serial-killer subset to confirm the women were, in fact, indigenous and had been slain by a convicted serial killer. These are our “confirmed” cases. But because relying on criminal convictions alone likely understates – perhaps significantly – the true extent of the serial predation, we also researched unsolved cases potentially involving a serial killer and categorized these as “probable” and “speculative.”

    In terms of confirming the woman’s ethnicity, we discovered early on that we could not rely on police missing-person bulletins. In some cases, these did not exist or had been archived and were no longer available online. In some bulletins, we learned, the victims’ ethnicity had been misstated.

    To overcome this and obtain the fullest dataset of serial-homicide victims, The Globe conducted many dozens of interviews with victims’ families, lawyers, law-enforcement officials, authors, researchers and indigenous organizations. We obtained court transcripts and secured access to case exhibits. We pored over news stories and inquiry reports. We conducted reporting on the ground in Manitoba and British Columbia.

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  125. Yet our database work would not suffice. What if a killer took the life of one indigenous woman and one non-indigenous woman, for example? Our dataset would not reveal this. As such, we took lists of known Canadian serial killers and ran the names against the offenders in our database. We also scoured books and news archives for cases we may have missed (inevitably, there are some).

    We were able to determine that at least 18 indigenous women were slain by convicted serial killers in Canada since 1980. We felt it was important to not only name these women, but also feature their photos to help our readers connect in a deeper way. This was no simple task.

    In many cases, it involved finding victims’ families to obtain pictures of loved ones who died as many as three decades ago. This meant cold calling people with the victim’s last name, as well as individuals noted in news or inquiry reports as having been related to the woman. We also had some success connecting with relatives on Facebook. There were also instances where we had to rely on photos culled from true crime books or missing-person bulletins. In the end, we managed to obtain photos of 17 of the 18 women.

    To contextualize this, we needed to understand the vulnerability of the overall female population in this country. Given the lack of comprehensive Canadian data on serial homicide, we looked to U.S. researcher Mike Aamodt, who has compiled an international dataset of serial killings.

    By analyzing his female Canadian subset and factoring in historic population figures, we found that indigenous women are roughly seven times more likely to be victims of serial homicide than non-indigenous women.


  126. THE TAKEN

    How five indigenous women became the targets of serial killers: A Globe investigation


    Indigenous women in Canada are roughly seven times more likely than non-indigenous women to be slain by serial killers, a Globe analysis has found. The newspaper is compiling a database of homicide and long-term missing-person cases involving indigenous women. That ongoing work has revealed that at least 18 aboriginal women have died at the hands of convicted serial killers since 1980. Their cases provide a window into the broader tragedy of violence against indigenous women.

    Given the lack of Canadian data on serial homicide, The Globe looked to American researcher Dr. Mike Aamodt, who has compiled an international dataset of serial killings. It was through an analysis of the Canadian convictions on his list that The Globe confirmed the trend involving indigenous women.

    In this feature, we trace the paths of five women slain by different serial killers to explore the factors contributing to their vulnerability. These include difficulty transitioning to city life, the child-welfare system, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, chronic disappearances and childhood trauma. WARNING: Contains graphic content.



  127. Missing and murdered indigenous women: 1st phase of public inquiry outlined today

    Ministers to spend next 2 months consulting with families of missing, murdered indigenous women

    By Susana Mas, CBC News December 08, 2015

    Ministers will meet with the families of missing and murdered indigenous women in Ottawa this week, as the federal government launches the first of two phases in the creation of a much-awaited national public inquiry.

    "I am pleased to announce that the government of Canada is launching its first phase of the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls," Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said at a news conference Tuesday on Parliament Hill.

    "As a first step, we will meet with the families in the National Capital Region with the goal of hearing their views on the design of the inquiry and what it needs to achieve. And over the next two months, we will hear from more families, other indigenous peoples, national aboriginal organizations and a range of front-line services workers and others."

    Wilson-Raybould, who is the first indigenous person to serve as a justice minister, worked as a regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations prior to being elected to Parliament.

    She said that early calls for an inquiry had been met "by silence," but that victims' families "deserve better."

    "Doing better requires openness and the ability to listen. We have heard this loudly and clearly, and we have heard that this cannot be just another report," Wilson-Raybould said.

    The Harper government had rebuffed growing calls for a national inquiry, saying the government action on crime precluded the need for further studies.

    AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde welcomed the announcement, which he said "has been a long time coming."

    "After years of denial and deflection, it is my hope we can make real strides in achieving justice for families and achieving safety and security for all our people," Bellegarde said in a written statement.

    Phase 2 coming in the spring

    Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said today's announcement will set a new tone for "a collaborative, inclusive" process.

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  128. Bennett said the first phase of the inquiry would determine its objectives, focus and parameters.

    "It will also help identify potential terms of reference for the inquiry, outline possible activities and participants, and potentially help identify the commissioners."

    Bennett said the first phase will take as long as needed "to get it right."

    "Phase 2 will be the actual inquiry itself, and we hope to be able to announce that next year, in the spring," Bennett said.

    Interim Conservative Party Leader Rona Ambrose kept her remarks brief, telling reporters on Tuesday afternoon that the Liberals were "off to a great start."

    NDP Leader Tom Mulcair gave the government a nod for moving ahead with a process to launch an inquiry, but expressed concern over the lack of a fixed launch date.

    "Given the urgency of this national crisis," said Mulcair during question period, "can we expect a report by the end of 2016?"

    Trudeau did not answer the question directly, saying only that the government was committed to doing "this right."

    The Liberal Party platform pegged the cost of a full national public inquiry at $40 million over two years starting in 2016.

    Speaking to a group of First Nations leaders earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the launch of an inquiry was "a priority" for his government.

    "The victims deserve justice, their families an opportunity to be heard and to heal. We must work together to put an end to this ongoing tragedy."

    The RCMP found in 2014 nearly 1,200 documented cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls between 1980 and 2012, a number the Mounties said exceeded previous public estimates.

    A 2015 United Nations report found that young First Nations, Métis and Inuit women were five times more likely to die under violent circumstances than their non-aboriginal counterparts.

    MMIW: CBC investigation

    CBC News will tweet the name and stories of over 250 missing and murdered indigenous women profiled in our online database after today's announcement.

    Follow @CBCNews on Twitter or by searching #MMIW. Access our database and read more at CBCNews.ca Aboriginal.

    CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls by exploring the stories of these women, their families and their communities.

    If you know anything about any unsolved MMIW case, email us at MMIW@cbc.ca.


  129. Launching Inquiry, Indigenous Affairs Minister Says 'Racism and Sexism in This Country Kill'

    Families of missing and murdered women to be consulted, but insist on being more involved.

    By David P. Ball, The Tyee December 8, 2015

    Lorelei Williams will always remember Dec. 8 because it would have been her cousin Tanya Holyk's 40th birthday. Holyk's DNA was found on serial killer Robert Pickton's farm, but he was never tried for her murder; her aunt Belinda Williams remains missing.

    Now, Williams will also remember Dec. 8 because today the federal government officially launched its national inquiry into at least 1,200 disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women across the country.

    Williams was one of many advocates and family members who praised the start of an inquiry they've demanded for many years.

    "I'm overwhelmed with emotions because of this," said the founder and director of Butterflies in Spirit, a dance troupe of missing and murdered women's family members. "I'm grateful, excited, but sad at the same time. I still find it hard to believe this is actually happening -- we've been fighting so hard for a national inquiry."

    Speaking on Parliament Hill at the announcement of the inquiry's first "design" phase, Canada's Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said it's time for Canadians to understand that the issue is of life-or-death urgency.

    "Racism and sexism are a huge part of this," she told reporters. "We need to hear those stories so Canadians understand that really, racism and sexism in this country kill."

    Lawyer Robyn Gervais knows what can go awry if a missing and murdered women's inquiry isn't "done right" from the get-go, as the Liberal government has vowed.

    The Gervais Law Corp. barrister advocated for Aboriginal interests at the B.C. commission of inquiry into the issue three years ago, headed by former provincial Attorney General Wally Oppal.

    But in 2012, she tearfully resigned in court, telling Oppal she was being prevented from performing her duties: "Given that these hearings are largely about missing and murdered aboriginal women, I didn’t think I should fight to have their voices heard."

    Asked for her recommendations for the design of the federal public inquiry, Gervais said it's essential to ensure a "proper consultation" with victims' families -- "to listen to the people who have lost the most" -- as well as Indigenous and community organizations. That doesn't simply mean asking them for input, but designing the terms of reference around what questions they need answered.

    "The consultations should form the basis for the terms of reference to ensure that the people who have been most affected finally receive the answers they are looking for," she said. "I believe that can only happen if they are involved in designing the questions."

    And should the ultimate format of the inquiry include the direct cross-examination of witnesses, as it did in B.C., Gervais said "participants should be granted standing and provided funding for legal counsel so they may effectively participate." -- David P. Ball

    The words signal what could be a broad scope to the as-yet-unnamed inquiry commissioners' mandate, but Bennett and other ministers would not speculate on what areas would be examined, saying terms of reference would be determined after extensive consultations with families and organizations.

    "We will listen clearly to their voices," promised Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. "No inquiry, as we know, can undo what has happened, nor can it restore what we have lost. But it can help us design ways forward… Early calls to action have been met by silence; they deserve better."

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  130. Families need funds to participate, says father

    But some families questioned Wilson-Raybould's reluctance to answer questions about whether families and advocacy organizations would be granted legal standing in the inquiry, or receive funding to participate. That was a particularly controversial issue in an earlier provincial inquiry into missing and murdered women in British Columbia that saw organizations and a lawyer resign in protest over limited funding and a narrow mandate.

    Rick Frey and his wife Lynn lost their daughter Marnie who was last seen in late 1997, age 24. He said it took the RCMP three months to pass their missing person report on to Vancouver police.

    It will take a lot more than an inquiry to regain his family's trust in authorities, Frey said.

    "To see all the people we laid all our trust in -- the police and the system -- and what they did wrong, how do you get people like us who have lost our daughters to trust them again?" he asked. "I know there's good people in there, but it's really hard to trust them. Hopefully, they've learned a little bit … but I'm suspicious."

    Frey said that the inquiry should place special scrutiny on Canada's national police force, the RCMP. He also said that it would be unconscionable not to provide funding and legal standing to family members and organizations.

    "The family members cannot afford to go wherever they have to go to sit in on this," he said. "Without a question, you have to provide funding for the people who participate in it."

    'Do it right'

    Status of Women Minister Patricia Hajdu said that despite forming only four per cent of the Canadian population, Indigenous women make up over 16 per cent of the country's homicide victims. The RCMP initially questioned data from the Native Women's Association of Canada suggesting there were nearly 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women, but last year the force scanned its records and found nearly 1,200 such cases.

    The government announced that the inquiry would take place in two phases, the first a "design phase" beginning yesterday that will involve immediately reaching out to families of the missing this week, Aboriginal organizations next week, and cross-country consultations in the coming months.

    The second phase, Bennett said, would be the inquiry process itself. "We hope to be able to announce that next year in the spring," she said.

    Williams hopes the government will speak with her, as well as with the Vancouver-based Missing and Murdered Women's Coalition, of which her group is a member.

    If asked for advice, she'll tell commissioners: "If you're going to do this inquiry, do it right. Don't let it be like the Oppal inquiry where they started off wrong, they had stuff set in stone already."

    Nevertheless, Williams said that the national inquiry won't necessarily bring a sense of closure or justice for her missing aunt and murdered cousin.

    "It's hard to say how this will bring justice for her," she said, "but hopefully it will prevent this from happening to other families."


  131. Bob Paulson says he doesn't want racists inside RCMP ranks

    Tackling racism key to inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, First Nations say

    By Susana Mas, CBC News December 09, 2015

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson conceded before a group of First Nations leaders on Wednesday that there are racists inside his police force, a surprising admission welcomed by indigenous people, who say it is key to addressing the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women.

    "I understand that there are racists in my police force. I don't want them to be in my police force," Paulson said to chiefs and other First Nations delegates gathered in Gatineau, Que., for an annual three-day meeting organized by the Assembly of First Nations.

    Paulson's candid response came after a First Nations chief confronted the top Mountie publicly, urging him to address racism within the force.

    "We encounter racism every single day," said Grand Chief Doug Kelly, leader of the Sto:lo Tribal Council in British Columbia. "Some of the worst racists carry a gun and they carry a badge authorized by you, Commissioner Paulson, to do the work."

    "We need you to confront racism in the ranks," Kelly said.

    The exchange between the two men came a day after the federal government announced the first phase in a process that would see a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women launched by next spring.

    Paulson said the RCMP Act, which was updated for the first time in 30 years during the last Parliament, gives him and other commanding officers the authority to handle matters of discipline in a "very decisive" manner.

    Canada's top Mountie said First Nations communities, many of which are policed by the RCMP, could even call him directly to report racist officers.

    "I would encourage you all, though, to have confidence in the processes that exist, up to and including calling me if you are having a problem with a racist in your jurisdiction or any other problem.

    "We have elaborate systems to bring accountability to those people that are trusted, and in some cases not trusted but who are in power to deliver policing services," Paulson said.

    Tackling racism key to a public inquiry

    Dawn Lavell-Harvard, the president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said Paulson's admission is key to addressing the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women.

    "I think it's about time. This is a problem that we, at the grassroots level, have known this for a very long time," Lavell-Harvard said in an interview.

    Lavell-Harvard said while stories of indigenous women being the targets of abuse at the hands of police have recently come to light in Val-d'Or, Que., indigenous women have been reporting incidents of abuse inside police ranks for years, only to be "brushed off."

    "If they are going to stand at the top brass and say that they are committed to addressing the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women, then they need to make sure that they're owning that.

    "If we're going to be able to implement real change … to make our women and girls safe, then it has to be a significant part of the inquiry because it is right now a significant part of the problem," Harvard said.

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  132. AFN Special Chiefs Assembly

    AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said it was the first time Paulson had attended the assembly of chiefs and gave him credit not just for showing up but also for staying to address some of the concerns expressed by First Nations leaders such as Kelly.

    "The mere fact that he was there is a positive, positive statement — that he wants to rebuild and repair any kind of damaged relationship that's there between the RCMP and First Nations people," said Bellegarde on CBC New Network's Power & Politics.

    Bellegarde told CBC host Rosemary Barton that Paulson's admission was a first step in confronting racism head-on.

    "It takes a very big man to do that," said the national chief.

    Indigenous women 'shockingly' over-represented

    Earlier, in his speech to the group, Paulson updated First Nations on the RCMP's efforts to address the crisis of murdered and missing indigenous women.

    "Of course this is nothing short of a national tragedy. The problem is clear and it's settled," Paulson said. "Indigenous women and girls in this country are shockingly over-represented in those classes of Canadians who experience violence, go missing or are murdered."

    Paulson said the RCMP would listen to the families of missing and murdered indigenous women as the process to launch an inquiry officially gets underway.

    "As we enter this first phase of the inquiry, we will listen to what you say and to what family members say and to what communities say need to be done."

    "Until you can — as an investigator, as a police officer responding to a case — until you can understand the humanity and the hurt and the emotions that are tied up in these cases, you will not be able to bring justice."

    "We can do better... and we will do better," Paulson said.

    Paulson said since the RCMP's last report into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, the RCMP has undertaken a number of new initiatives, including:

    --Developing a "comprehensive strategy" around missing persons investigations, including providing "supervisory oversight" along the way.

    --Ensuring greater compliance with a policy that requires investigators to treat every complaint of missing persons as though foul play was involved "until it can be objectively demonstrated that there is not."

    --Requiring that investigators engage with the victims' families.

    --Reviewing and revamping all RCMP policies to ensure greater accountability.

    That same RCMP report found that indigenous women are most frequently killed by someone they know, be it their spouse or a member of their community.

    The chief from British Columbia disagreed with those findings and reserved some of his strongest criticism for Paulson, who had acknowledged earlier in his remarks that not everyone agreed with the data or the RCMP's interpretation of it.

    "I don't like the fact that aboriginal men were blamed. We were blamed for all the violence against our women.

    "We knew that wasn't the case, but somebody informed the government of the day that we were responsible. That was you or somebody in your employ that did that," said Kelly.

    "Shame on you Mr. Paulson."


  133. Manitoba graphic novel to raise profile of missing, murdered indigenous women

    Writing one woman's story in a graphic novel is a way to bring the issue to a broader audience

    By Chinta Puxley, The Canadian Press November 11, 2015

    More than four decades before 15-year-old Tina Fontaine's body was pulled from Winnipeg's Red River wrapped in a bag, the country was shocked by the death of another aboriginal teenager in Manitoba.

    Her name was Helen Betty Osborne.

    The 19-year-old was abducted as she walked down the streets of The Pas, Man., in November 1971. Later that night, she was stabbed to death with a screwdriver dozens of times.

    It would take 15 years before murder charges were laid. An inquiry determined that racism, sexism and indifference in the community marred the police investigation from the beginning.

    Her brutal murder 44 years ago, and the long road to justice, are the subject of a recent graphic novel aimed at educating the next generation about missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    "Her story is one of the first times that, as a country and as a province of Manitoba, we became aware of things that were happening with our indigenous women," said Winnipeg author David Alexander Robertson.

    "That being said, even today not a lot of people are aware or appreciate the impact of that epidemic."

    Osborne is not one of Canada's 1,182 missing and murdered indigenous women. RCMP statistics on the file begin in 1980.

    Although indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, RCMP say they account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.

    Writing one woman's story in a graphic novel was a way to bring the issue to a broader — and younger — audience, Robertson said.

    "Through her story, we can learn about the residential school system," said Robertson, whose father was from Osborne's reserve. "We can learn about missing and murdered indigenous women. We can learn about racism, segregation, the justice system's treatment of aboriginal people."

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  134. Osborne was from Norway House First Nation but had to leave her community to attend school if she wanted to continue her education. She struggled with school in The Pas, but was determined to become a teacher so other children would not have to leave the reserve, Robertson said.

    Osborne spent the night of Nov. 13, 1971, with friends and was walking home alone when she was accosted by four white men who had been drinking.

    "There was a practice around that time where young men would cruise around looking for indigenous women, because of the preconception of them being easy and that they liked to drink and party," Robertson said.

    When Osborne said no, she was forced into a car. She was driven to a cabin where her screams were heard by neighbours. The men took her to a remote pumphouse where she was stripped, beaten and stabbed.

    Her body was found the next day by a boy following rabbit tracks in the snow.

    Police were unable to gather sufficient evidence against the four men and the case stalled. It was picked up again in 1983 by a constable and one of the four men, Dwayne Archie Johnston, was eventually convicted of murder.

    The book has drawn praise from Canadian author Joseph Boyden, who writes about First Nations heritage and culture. He called it "one of the most powerful graphic novels I've ever read."

    Justice Murray Sinclair, who co-led an aboriginal justice inquiry in Manitoba after Osborne's death, is also impressed.

    "It's a story of racism and it's a story of community coverup," Sinclair said. "It's also a story about how the community in the north has come to terms with its own history around this."

    Writing the novel, which is plotted out much like a screenplay, was emotional but vital to help raise awareness, Robertson said.

    "I hope that people who read it are as affected, as I was, writing it.

    "In the indigenous culture, women are so important and revered. When we lose one, we lose generations. The loss is profound. The movement for change needs to be equally profound."


  135. COLOUR BLIND The Truth you still don't know about Reconciliation

    By Sandy Garossino, National Observer in Opinion | December 15th 2015

    Once upon a time, when I was still a pup junior Crown prosecutor in the 1980s, a brief sentencing hearing in a routine plea deal forever crystallized the fortress and labyrinth of the Canadian justice system. It revealed more than I wanted to know, about the system and about myself.

    In sentencing hearings, defence counsel relate mitigating or personal details the court should take into account. In this case the lawyer for an Aboriginal habitual offender (who financed his addiction through property crime) told the court he was in mourning as his common-law wife had been murdered, her body stuffed in a dumpster.

    The thing is, all of us in the courtroom knew her. She'd been an Aboriginal sex-worker, also financing her own addiction. The sheriff, court staff, trial judge and I had all seen her come through the revolving door of DTES soliciting charges.

    There was an awkward pause as the recognition and the tragedy and the horror sunk in, but nobody acknowledged it, or uttered a word for of condolence to this beaten man. We knew this woman—her face is before me still—tiny, fragile, and short-haired.

    Reality careened into the courtroom like a car crash, but we all ignored it and followed our script to the letter. The judge passed a short prison sentence, the sheriff took the convicted offender into custody, and the system never skipped a beat. God forgive me, but I followed suit and never said a thing.

    The man was escorted out through the door for prisoners without a word of acknowledgement from us and was gone. Disappeared. I called the next case.

    Whatever natural expression of sympathy or empathy, or just common human decency that the moment called for, it's still stuck in my throat and will stay there forever.

    It was suddenly clear how completely that man and his lost wife were "the other." They were outsiders who passed through our system and our daily lives, but they weren't us. Yet whatever took them from childhood to their doomed and devastated lives as adults, we in that courtroom were part of it.

    As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issues its final report, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry gets under way, it’s Canada's solemn duty to learn things it’s unbearable to know.

    And then to change. The Reconciliation is for us to do.

    In The Fire Next Time, his searing exploration of race in America, James Baldwin wrote:

    [T]his is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it...

    But it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent.

    It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.

    The stone cold truth is that we are not innocent and never were.

    Safeguards meant to protect the innocent shield the powerful

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified fewer than 50 criminal convictions arising from allegations of abuse at residential schools, yet some 38,000 reports of sexual and serious physical abuse were submitted to the formal review process (at p. 213). That’s a 0.13 per cent conviction rate—so vanishingly low it’s a wonder anyone was ever convicted at all.

    As the TRC noted, the Crown refused to prosecute these cases out of "a belief that the denial of any accused person who occupied a position of authority at the schools would be sufficient to create a reasonable doubt about guilt.” Lack of independent corroboration—something virtually impossible to secure after the passage of time—finished any chance of success in the legal system.

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  136. For Indigenous people our justice system is an abysmal fraud, where safeguards intended to protect the innocent more often shield the powerful, including the police, from scrutiny and justice.

    In the Oppal inquiry into the botched Pickton serial killer investigation, taxpayers paid as many as 24 lawyers to represent police interests, while the government funded only one to represent Aboriginal interests. By the time that lawyer quit in frustration, outgunned and overwhelmed by work, thirty-eight full days of police evidence had been heard, and not one Indigenous witness.

    When the government wouldn’t fund lawyers for better community representation, Commissioner Oppal expressed the hope that some lawyers could be found who would work for free.

    Of course, with 24 lawyers for the police, the public never did get an answer as to how police blew the case so badly that Pickton killed at least 13 women right under RCMP noses after he'd been identified as the prime suspect.

    And a book could be written on the recent controversy and trial over allegations of abuse made by Aboriginal former students against John Furlong, the CEO of Canada’s Olympic Games. Furlong had taught phys-ed at Immaculata Catholic School in Burns Lake in 1969-70, a period which 45 years later mushroomed into six lawsuits, five of which were dismissed or withdrawn before trial. The last one finally concluded decisively in Furlong's favour last September.

    While most of the allegations claimed harsh physical and emotional abuse, three individuals alleged sexual abuse.

    Consider what happened to Daniel Morice. One of three who launched lawsuits that were later dismissed, Morice was subjected to humiliating national ridicule and contempt when Furlong's lawyers announced the revelation that he’d never attended the Immaculata school.

    That information was one of several factors (many of them egregious, it must be said) contributing to the dismissal of Morice's lawsuit. Furlong's lawyers had verified that Morice attended Lejac Elementary School in a nearby community. He had reported abuse by a priest there, for which he received payment as part of the TRC-related compensation.

    Justice Catherine Wedge, the trial judge in the Furlong case, accepted in her ruling that Morice had not attended Immaculata, rebuking the reporter Robinson for poor fact-checking.

    Open and shut?

    Yet look below at the Immaculata school records entered as an exhibit at the Furlong trial, at the page for Miss P. Manning’s Grade 3 class list for 1969-70. There, at number 10, is one Daniel (Danny) Morice. According to Immaculata records, he attended 172.5 days that year, from September to June. The records also show he was there the year earlier for Grade 2, when he attended 159 days.

    Perhaps Morice changed schools sometime after the 1969-70 school year, and there was a clerical error about when he started at Lejac.

    Morice’s attendance at Immaculata is further corroborated in an affidavit sworn by Ronnie West in May, 2012, and published at CANADALAND. West said he witnessed Furlong’s rough treatment of "Danny Morris" at Immaculata (which appears to be a mis-spelling of Morice). He said:

    "I was a good athlete and he [Furlong] did not make any problems for me. I witnessed, however, the abuse of Danny Morris, the late Verna Joseph being kicked in the ass for not running quickly enough. He threw [a] basketball so hard at kids that it was enough to knock them down."

    Check that class list again. Listed at Numbers 19 and 8 are Ronnie West and Verna Joseph. "The late Verna Joseph." What ocean of sorrow is contained in those four words? At least we know where she was in Grade 3.

    We can't unravel the mystery of the conflicting records without more investigation.

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  137. But it was so easy for the public and media to heap scorn on Morice on talk shows and in newspaper columns all across the country. Like the man in my courtroom all those years ago, he was an outsider. If today Daniel Morice is a damaged, embittered and abusive man with no respect for lawyers or the justice system, which he undoubtedly is, we should search our own consciences about how he got that way.

    But he was telling the truth about at least one thing; he was at Immaculata when John Furlong taught there, and the proof is right in the court's own records.

    Nothing about us without us

    Yet the most striking feature of the epic Robinson-Furlong legal melee is what didn’t happen.

    What didn’t happen was for Indigenous Canadians who made claims against a powerful public figure to have their day in court. Indeed, the Furlong trial was marked by not just the absence, but by the explicit exclusion and suppression of evidence from Indigenous witnesses about a matter of profound concern to them.

    On a motion by Furlong’s defence counsel at the outset of the trial over whether he had defamed Laura Robinson, every affidavit sworn by his former students was ruled inadmissible and excluded as irrelevant and prejudicial. Prejudicial to whom?

    And so the door quietly closed on any evidence from the Furlong claimants themselves, and was locked from the inside. From that moment on, this was a trial by and for the non-Indigenous people in the room, full stop.

    Except as everyone knows, it wasn’t. In the public’s mind this was more than a defamation case, it was a trial about what John Furlong did or didn’t do all those long years ago and so far away. It was the Indigenous claimants who were on trial, through the proxy Laura Robinson.

    Running like a vein of ice through the judge’s ruling is the unspoken inference that all the claimants’ stories are false. In fact, her approach toward them seems strangely cold, although she'd heard not a whisper of evidence from a single one.

    Whether John Furlong’s accusers were truthful, mistaken or lying, we still don't know to this day. Clearly some of the evidence and witnesses are seriously compromised, but the majority haven't been scrutinized at all. In view of the larger context, the claimants should have been heard in court, irrespective of any errors by the journalist who reported their story.

    The Morice example shows what happens when we shut people out of a trial and jump to conclusions about them. Given all that we now know, more effort to accommodate Indigenous witnesses should have been made.

    In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “justice without mercy is cruelty."

    Freezing out the marginal and disenfranchised

    The Furlong ruling has the dangerous potential to freeze out the ability of the vulnerable and disenfranchised to challenge the powerful and find voice in the media.

    In its landmark 2009 ruling on defamation in Grant vs. Torstar, the Supreme Court of Canada sided squarely with the constitutional right of journalists to report on matters of public interest, so long as they do so responsibly. The court said (emphasis added):

    The first two rationales for the freedom of expression guarantee in... the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — the proper functioning of democratic governance and getting at the truth — squarely apply to communications on matters of public interest, even those which contain false imputations. Freewheeling debate on matters of public interest is to be encouraged and the vital role of the communications media in providing a vehicle for such debate is explicitly recognized in the text of (the Charter) itself.

    The Supreme Court recognized the very serious problem of the damage to reputations of individuals, including public figures, but found that this interest does not outweigh the public's interest in...

  138. ...full debate on matters of importance, and the vital role of the press in reporting it.

    It prescribed comprehensive directions for journalists to follow when reporting matters that veer into the realm of defamation, giving instruction to lawyers and judges to carefully weigh and balance two important and competing interests.

    In the Furlong trial, the judge didn't concern herself with the public interest in getting at the truth of what happened at Immaculata School. Rather, Furlong’s reputation was of paramount concern. She found that when someone faces "such serious and devastating allegations" as those leveled at John Furlong, reporters have a high bar to meet.

    Yet the judge's finding that Robinson had not even minimally “tested” most of the claims of her sources flies in face of the the TRC recommendations, which point to the practical impossibility of obtaining independent corroboration for marginalized victims.

    In Torstar the Supreme Court of Canada ruled:

    To insist on court‑established certainty in reporting on matters of public interest may have the effect not only of preventing communication of facts which a reasonable person would accept as reliable and which are relevant and important to public debate, but also of inhibiting political discourse and debate on matters of public importance, and impeding the cut and thrust of discussion necessary to discovery of the truth.

    The inescapable implication of the Furlong ruling is the opposite. It doesn't matter if eight people in Burns Lake (or dozens more who gave unsworn statements) say they were physically abused as children by a powerful public figure. Without independent corroboration, the press shouldn’t report it and the public shouldn’t know it.

    The danger is that nobody’s going to publish these stories at all. And if nobody will publish or prosecute, the powerful are immune. This is how to get a conviction rate of 0.13 per cent.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Ireland's Ryan Commission into child abuse at residential and industrial schools, the Boston Globe's investigative journalism all involved an expansive view of the public interest over individual reputations.

    Whatever journalistic errors Robinson made, it’s essential that our courts defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable to be heard, and the right of the media to responsibly yet fearlessly report on their experiences.

    Even as the TRC releases its final report to Parliament, if the Furlong ruling stands as the last word on defamation, Indigenous and vulnerable voices will fall silent.

    Furlong’s accusers have not backed down, and are expressing horror at a trial that disgraced and discredited them in absentia. They are adamant and unrepentant, and they're trying to turn up the pressure. They've asked for Prime Minister Trudeau and the government to intervene to provide some forum for them to be heard.

    But few media outlets will report their statements now; a deeply unhealthy state of affairs for the press.

    A real commitment to Reconciliation demands that we do this better, and get it right. While John Furlong has a powerful and justifiable interest in his own reputation, justice demands a better resolution for these claimants, who have never been heard, yet have been humiliated and shamed by a system that placed a powerful man's reputation above their own. Whether their claims are true or false, it's clear that the formal justice system as it is presently constituted, is failing Aboriginal Canadians.

    Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, committed the government to the principle "Nothing about us, without us" last week in the House of Commons.

    She could start right here with this. Let's stop pretending we're innocent.


  139. Confusion reigns over number of missing, murdered indigenous women

    RCMP said 1,017 indigenous women were killed between 1980 and 2012, activists say it's closer to 4,000

    By John Paul Tasker, CBC News February 16, 2016

    Canada's minister for the status of women suggests the number of missing and murdered indigenous women could be as high as 4,000, but a dearth of hard data means it's all but impossible to pinpoint an accurate figure.

    Patty Hajdu told reporters Tuesday that the government doesn't have an exact number, but pointed to research from the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) that puts it at 4,000, much higher than a figure near 1,200 the RCMP has previously stated.

    The comment comes after Hajdu and Carolyn Bennett, the minister for indigenous affairs and northern development, wrapped up cross-country talks Monday ahead of a formal national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

    Activists working for the Walk 4 Justice initiative started collecting the names of indigenous women who are missing or murdered — they stopped counting when they got to 4,232.

    Dawn Lavell-Harvard, the president of NWAC, said the names of those women were shared with her organization and Chuck Strahl, the former Conservative minister of Indian affairs and northern development. No further action was taken at the time.

    Lavell-Harvard said the anecdotal evidence was also shared with the Liberal cabinet ministers during the recent pre-inquiry talks.

    However, when CBC News contacted one of the activists who supplied NWAC with the information, she said "roughly 60 to 70 per cent" of the 4,000 or so people on her list were indigenous.

    Gladys Radek, co-founder of Walk 4 Justice, said her group collected the names while speaking to people during a trek across Canada in 2008. They stopped collecting information in 2011.

    NWAC said the confusion around the number emphasizes the need for clear data on this issue. "Lives are too important to rely on an informal database," Lavell-Harvard said.

    "The gulf between 1,200 and pushing 4,000 is huge. Even if it is somewhere in the middle, it is still an outrageous number to [not have been investigated] until this point. I think that's why it's so important that this inquiry happen," she said.

    RCMP figure in doubt

    A 2014 report by the RCMP concluded 1,017 aboriginal women had been slain between 1980 and 2012, and that another 164 were considered missing.

    Hajdu, who represents Thunder Bay–Superior North, said the 4,000 number is more believable because there is a history of police underreporting homicides, or failing to investigate suspicious deaths.

    "When you actually start to add in, you know, disputed cases, for example, people that have claimed it's a suicide or death due to exposure, but in fact there's symptoms or signs that maybe it wasn't, then of course the numbers jump," Hajdu said ahead of a Liberal cabinet meeting.

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  140. Bennett for her part would not speculate, but has said that the number is "way, way higher," than the RCMP's 1,200 figure.

    "I don't have the data, but I know the problem is not about us fighting about the numbers. The problem is making sure that these families that lost a loved one, these survivors that are still living, that their stories lead us to the kind of concrete actions that will actually put an end to their vulnerability and what has been going on," Bennett said Tuesday.

    The minister said the RCMP "did their very best" in trying to come up with an accurate number, but she said the testimony she heard at the pre-inquiry talks puts that figure in serious doubt.

    "We have heard enough stories to hear that if you count these deaths, that were called a suicide or other things, we have anecdotal evidence that the problem is greater," she said. "I think it's important we look to the root causes."

    Lavell-Harvard said the RCMP's number is incomplete because of a history of mistrust between the police and indigenous communities.

    "Part of the challenge comes from the fact that very often many families, because of negative interactions in the past, because of racism, have not in fact reported when a loved one goes missing," she said in an interview with CBC News on Monday. "There's a lack of willingness to trust police forces and to come forward."

    Dust off cold cases, families urge

    Bennett said many families of missing or murdered indigenous women want police to dust off cold cases, or actually launch investigations.

    "The families want certain cases reopened, we heard that coast to coast to coast. But there's also the common theme of the uneven application of justice, from the quality of the search to whether it's called a murder or not, to the charges that are laid, to the plea bargaining ... it seems to the families that this is very different if the victim is indigenous," Bennett said.

    "What the families would say is that a lot of these cases were never opened in the first place because there was never an investigation ... time and time again the family will tell you that the file is empty. There was no investigation."

    Lavell-Harvard said finding justice for indigenous families will be at the heart of a national inquiry.

    "If there has been [police] misconduct, then it needs to be addressed," she said.

    "That is going to be absolutely central to reopening some of these cold cases that have been sitting for many, many years. If we find there wasn't an adequate investigation in the first place, then those need to be looked at; our women deserve that much," she said.


  141. Missing and murdered women

    A look at 5 cases not included in official RCMP tally

    A 2014 RCMP report documented 1,181 cases, but Indigenous Affairs minister says number is 'way, way bigger'

    By Connie Walker, CBC News February 18, 2016

    Just how many missing or murdered indigenous women are there in Canada? No one can say for certain — and the numbers reported in recent days only add to the confusion.

    The number 1,181 has been widely accepted after the release of a RCMP report in 2014. But that report doesn't necessarily provide a complete picture.

    The RCMP report only included police-documented homicide cases between 1980 and 2012, and did not count "suspected homicides or deaths deemed suspicious." Missing persons cases were only included if a woman was missing for more than 30 days.

    After concluding the pre-inquiry phase into missing or murdered indigenous women, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Monday that "it's bigger than 1,200; way, way bigger than 1,200."

    And Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu cited Tuesday a Native Women's Association of Canada effort documenting 4,000 cases. But the advocate conducting that research later clarified not all of those names were indigenous women.

    Both Bennett and Hajdu noted that in pre-inquiry consultations with the families of missing or murdered indigenous women, they were told of deaths the families said were not properly investigated or deemed suicides despite suspicious circumstances.

    Not including such cases is harmful for the families, said Audrey Huntley, the co-founder of No More Silence, an organization creating a community-run database documenting missing and murdered cases in Ontario.

    "It is the continuity of societal indifference; it translates to 'she didn't matter,'" said Huntley. "That's how people perceive that, that their daughter or sister didn't matter."

    A CBC News investigation last year into the unsolved cases of missing or murdered indigenous women identified more than 230 cases, including several that would not have been included in the RCMP report.

    As we continue to track unsolved cases, adding more names to that database, here are five women's stories:

    Nadine Machiskinic: The 29-year-old mother of four was found injured in a downtown Regina hotel on Jan. 10, 2015 and died the same day in hospital. She worked in the sex trade and struggled with addictions. Her family says police told them privately that the young woman died violently, plunging 10 storeys down a laundry chute at the Delta Hotel. Regina police issued a statement stating: "The investigation into the death of Nadine Machiskinic has revealed no indication of foul play." Machiskinic's aunt, Delores Stevenson, said that doesn't make sense. "A young aboriginal woman, who lived a high-risk lifestyle in the sex trade, ends up at the Delta Hotel at 4 a.m. CST, and falls down a laundry chute and it's not anything to be considered suspicious?" The investigation is still open.

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  142. ​​Trudy Gopher The 19 year old was from Sunchild First Nation, a Cree community in Alberta. Her mother describes her as beautiful and young, and someone who took care of herself. Gopher was also a mother to a five-month-old baby. After attending a wedding celebration in May 1997, her body was found hanging from a tree. Her mother says police told her it was a suicide. "Nothing was done over her death because they automatically ruled it as a suicide," she said, adding that the police should have investigated the case more. CBC contacted the RCMP but they declined to clarify the status of the case.

    Bella Laboucan-McLean: The Cree woman, 25, fell 31 storeys to her death from a downtown Toronto condo building on July 20, 2013. She had moved to the city from her home in northern Alberta in 2011 to study fashion design. Just before 5 a.m., the young woman went over the balcony. When officers arrived on the scene, they knocked on every door in the apartment building, but there was no answer at the unit Bella had been in. Around 5 p.m., 12 hours after Bella died, a man called police from the unit to report her missing. Detectives said they interviewed every person who was in the condo that night; all said they were not aware Bella had fallen. Toronto police say they do not have enough evidence to call the case a homicide, but there are no more leads to pursue. They're calling the case a suspicious death. The investigation remains open.

    ​Rocelyn Gabriel: The 20-year-old woman hoped to go to school to become a nurse. She was found frozen outside a recycling depot in Portage la Prairie, Man., on the morning of Jan. 26, 2014. She was rushed to hospital, where she died that afternoon. RCMP have not released the cause of her death, nor have they deemed it suspicious. Her family believes foul play was involved.

    Audrey Mary Desjarlais: In the early 2000s, Audrey left her family in Regina and relocated to Steinbach, Man. Her daughter, Barb Desjarlais, says Audrey always called to check in but those calls stopped in 2011. On June 15, 2012, the unidentified remains of a woman's body were pulled from the Red River. Little was known about this Jane Doe, except she was about five feet five inches tall, had long, dark hair, and was thin — just like Desjarlais's mother. She also had a full set of dentures — as did Desjarlais's mother. Then there was a police sketch that bore a resemblance to her mother. But also found with the remains was a necklace with a dolphin on it. "I had the matching ring," Desjarlais said. "My mother gave it to me when I was a teenager." Winnipeg police, however, did not order a DNA test, because they'd been told by Steinbach authorities that Audrey Desjarlais wasn't missing and had recently been seen in the area. In April 2015, after a CBC News report, the Winnipeg Police Service requested Barb's DNA. DNA tests confirmed the remains belonged to Audrey. Police are still investigating her death.

    CBC News continues to investigate the stories of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. If you know anything about these cases, or any other unsolved MMIW case, email connie.walker@cbc.ca or MMIW@cbc.ca.


  143. Allegations of sexual touching bullying investigated at police college run by RCMP

    Two former bomb technician instructors face investigations after more complaints from former college staff

    By Alison Crawford, CBC News February 18, 2016

    The RCMP is scrambling to contain the fallout from bungled internal investigations into allegations of unwanted sexual touching, bullying and rampant nudity in the workplace at the explosives training unit of the Canadian Police College in Ottawa.

    Top brass have hurriedly ordered new code of conduct investigations and a review of previous inquiries and have suspended two employees with pay after receiving what they say is new information about alleged harassment at the school.

    Yet CBC News has spoken to four complainants, all former employees of the RCMP's explosives training unit, who maintain the information is not new at all. The men say they tried to share accounts of other disturbing behaviour at the school in 2014 and 2015, but RCMP investigators didn't want to hear it.

    One of the officers suspended Wednesday is RCMP Staff Sgt. Bruno Solesme, who used to be the unit manager. Solesme had already been disciplined for nudity in the workplace, specifically one instance where he was seen lying naked across the desk of a colleague. He was suspended with pay for several months in 2014 before an internal adjudication board formally issued a reprimand and docked him seven days' pay.

    The other man suspended this week is a civilian member of the RCMP and a former Canadian Forces Joint Task Force member, Marco Calandrini. He was docked five days' pay for walking around the office stark naked on a regular basis.

    The Mounties docked Calandrini another 15 days' pay after the force investigated allegations he had inappropriately touched a former colleague.

    Given the nature of the allegations and fear of reprisals, CBC News has agreed to protect the complainant's identities.

    One, a former bomb technician and instructor, says he became aware of the new investigation late last week.

    "I get this (inspector) guy calling me on Friday and asking the same questions as you, going, 'How come this didn't come out?' Like we're all lying now! It did all come out. Your investigators didn't want to pay notice to it!" said the former instructor.

    Like other former staff, he described a poisoned work environment where Solesme played favourites with Calandrini.

    'No humour'

    Good friends, the two men were reportedly fond of not only posing completely nude on each other's desks in a purported effort to shock each other but also allegedly simulated oral sex in the office.

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  144. All four former staff members told CBC about similar instances where Calandrini appeared naked in the corridors or announced he had just shaved his genitals before dumping the contents of his electric razor onto the table they all shared at mealtimes.

    "There's no humour to be found doing these kinds of lewd acts in a federal office. We're police officers!" one complainant told CBC News.

    Another said he was most affected by how Calandrini was never disciplined when Solesme observed Calandrini allegedly touching the former instructor inappropriately at work.

    "Initially I tried to rationalize it. Explain it to minimize it."

    A former instructor alleged Solesme tried to bully him into leaving the RCMP by repeatedly dropping retirement papers onto his desk and telling him to fill them out now.

    "So, he would walk away and come back a couple of days later and again, throw these retirement papers on my desk. So that happened, I don't know...three, four, five times until I lost it. I told him you better stop doing this because I can't handle it anymore. I'm the one who is going to decide when I'm going to retire, not you."

    Another alleged Solesme regularly threatened to not renew his contract at the college and that Calandrini jumped nude and uninvited into a single-person shower stall while he was showering.

    CBC News made several attempts to get in touch with Solesme and Calandrini for this story but did not receive responses.

    Suspended over nudity

    Calandrini and Solesme were first suspended in 2014 after one of the course instructors lodged a complaint before walking out, pledging never to return.

    In the three-week lag between the complaint and the start of the investigation, former staff say Calandrini and Solesme tried to talk them out of making statements.

    "That I didn't see anything, hear anything, that they were never naked in the office," one said. "[That] they never did anything wrong and we were basically all liars."

    According to those who talked to CBC News about providing sworn statements, the RCMP investigators who conducted the inquiry were narrowly focussed on the complaint about office nudity and some alleged bullying.

    "We could only testify on what was specifically alleged. We could not go beyond that. We were told that if we did go (there), it could not be investigated," one former staffer said, before adding, "And that made me angry, but what made me angrier was that they were sitting at home with full pay and benefits."

    continued below

  145. Solesme and Calandrini were suspended with pay. In the spring of 2015 an adjudication board formally reprimanded Calandrini and Solesme for disgraceful conduct relating to the nudity.

    It said Solesme's conduct was meant as a joke but "displayed a lack of professionalism and respect, which is highly inappropriate in today's workplace."

    With Solesme suspended, the RCMP searched for a replacement. Ultimately, the Mounties selected Staff Sgt. Ron Matthews for the job. A curious choice, considering he too has been disciplined for disgraceful conduct at work.

    In 2011 an RCMP adjudication board reprimanded Matthews for, among other things, downloading and viewing pornography at work and using a laptop in the office to record a striptease video, in which he was seen "exposing his genitals and performing sexual acts."

    The appointment was not welcomed by the three complainants who still worked at the office.

    One said he experienced a severe emotional crisis over Matthews' behaviour at the unit and walked out.

    After his suspension on the first matter, Calandrini was reassigned to the RCMP's Technical and Protective Operations Facility, which eventually amalgamated with the explosives training unit.

    Solesme, meanwhile, was assigned administrative duties at the Canadian Police College. But at the end of last summer, he was sprung from his desk job.

    The RCMP assigned him right back to the explosives training unit as an instructor.

    That caused two of the instructors, demoralized to see their alleged tormentor back in the office, to walk out.

    New review ordered

    For those who experienced it, the alleged bullying and harassment at the explosives training unit seemed completely at odds with the priority RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson put on addressing allegations of sexual harassment inside the force as well as promised reforms to what was seen as a flabby, slow and ineffective disciplinary system.

    Late last week, one of those former instructors wrote to Paulson for an explanation.

    Paulson passed the file to Deputy Commissioner Peter Henschel, who is responsible for the college.

    In an interview with CBC News, Henschel said that despite the men's claims RCMP investigators didn't want to hear details outside the scope of the earlier investigation, he is confident after reading interview transcripts the Mounties gave all the men several opportunities to elaborate.

    Nevertheless, Henschel said he immediately ordered a review. On Wednesday, he ordered Calandrini and Solesme suspended yet again and launched two new investigations.

    "When this came to our attention, we were appalled at what the allegations were. I found it hard to believe that in this day and age that this kind of behaviour would take place in our organization or anywhere else," Henschel said. "It is completely unacceptable behaviour. It's abhorrent. The kind of behaviour that was alleged is completely in opposition to our core values."

    Even so, there are considerable doubts the RCMP will get it right this time, especially among those who recall trying to tell their stories two years ago.

    "I have no faith in the system, so I'm not expecting anything," said one of the four men.


  146. RCMPs recent history of harassment abuse and discrimination

    By John Paul Tasker, CBC News February 18, 2016

    The RCMP is investigating allegations against two former instructors at the Canadian Police Centre, CBC News has learned, following complaints from former staff that their earlier allegations of bullying and harassment were ignored.

    Allegations of bullying are not new for the Mounties — in fact, the force has been rocked by hundreds of complaints in the last decade.

    In 2012, after a long investigation, the RCMP public complaints commission found rampant bullying in the police force. It unearthed 718 complaints filed by employees between 2005 and 2011, and found almost half the complaints were from men.

    The watchdog's investigation said the widespread perception of rampant harassment had rattled public confidence and tarnished the force's reputation.

    In February 2013, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson vowed to take action in the face of growing public disgust with the conduct of some of his officers.

    He released an action plan entitled "Gender and Respect," that included some 37 steps the force would take to respond to mounting sexual harassment complaints.

    "We've taken a big step forward," he told a parliamentary committee at the time, but he insisted there was not a "systemic" culture of sexual harassment.

    Below is a list of some of the other incidents of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination the force has faced in recent years:

    1. 400 female RCMP officers sue the Mounties for allegedly ignoring sexual harassment

    Nearly 400 female RCMP officers and civilian employees are suing the Mounties alleging years of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse.

    Many of the complainants argue that management ignored their concerns for years, leaving them with PTSD and other mental health conditions.

    Const. Janet Merlo, who has launched the class action, told CBC News she faced years of "overtly sexual comments" from her boss, including "offering to rub my breast ... offering to give me his 'big Italian salami' and asking if 'I liked it on top?'"

    She also alleges a sergeant left a dildo and a vacuum attachment on her desk.

    Merlo says other women that are part of the lawsuit have faced similarly disturbing treatment from their male colleagues.

    2. The RCMP then tried to fire some of the alleged victims of sexual harassment

    The RCMP has tried to fire two of the women named in the class action suit. Two more women say they fear they could also be dismissed by the police force, while others are on medical leave after facing harassment.

    In a statement sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shortly after his Oct. 19 victory, the women pleaded with him to intervene to stop the dismissals.

    3. RCMP officers have been accused of raping indigenous women in B.C.

    Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, sent researchers to B.C. to investigate claims of RCMP abuse against indigenous women.

    continued below

  147. They interviewed women and girls in First Nations communities along the "Highway of Tears."

    The group heard stories of alleged police pepper-spraying and using Tasers on young aboriginal girls, and of women being strip-searched by male officers.

    The report also contains troubling and graphic allegations of physical and sexual abuse, including from a woman, identified as homeless, who describes how an officer took her outside of town and raped her.

    The RCMP promised to investigate the claims, and said it is taking the accusations seriously.

    4. An RCMP staffer had sex with a unit commander in a police car while on duty

    In 2012, Const. Susan Gastaldo was found guilty of disgraceful misconduct, which involved having sex in a police car during work hours and using an RCMP BlackBerry for "sexting" with her unit commander, Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson. Both were docked pay.

    ​​During a hearing on the incident, Galstaldo claimed she was coerced into a sexual relationship, while Pearson, a former RCMP professional standards supervisor, claimed it was consensual.

    The board decided Gastaldo was lying and only alleged she was sexually assaulted after her husband found her Blackberry and learned of the affair.

    Later, the RCMP secretly cleared Galstaldo and quietly dropped all the charges against her.

    5. RCMP's former top spokeswoman goes public after years of alleged abuse

    One of B.C.'s highest profile Mounties went public in 2011, alleging she faced years of sexual harassment.

    During her tenure as the RCMP's spokesperson, Cpl. Catherine Galliford announced the arrest of Robert William Pickton and revealed charges had been laid in the Air India bombing.

    Despite her high profile, she alleged her supervisor was a serial abuser.

    "Everything that came out of his [a supervisor's] mouth was sexual," Galliford said in an interview with CBC News. "If I had a dime for every time one of my bosses asked me to sit on his knee, I'd be on a yacht in the Bahamas right now."

    Galliford says she faced constant sexual advances from several senior officers from the moment she graduated from the RCMP Academy in 1991.

    Galliford says the command and control structure at the RCMP encouraged Mounties to stay quiet, or risk getting reprimanded.

    6. Alice Fox, officer featured in the force's 'It Gets Better' campaign, sues for harassment

    Const. Alice Fox, one of 20 Mounties who told their stories in a video for the "It Gets Better" campaign, is suing a superior officer for alleged harassment and bullying.

    In a B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim, Fox alleges a staff sergeant subjected her to years of humiliating comments and behaviour.

    "[Fox] has suffered permanent and irreparable harm including extreme embarrassment, loss of reputation, extreme stress resulting in disabling psychological injury, personal expense and financial loss," the claim says.

    Fox went public about her sexuality in 2012 in a 10-minute video produced by the RCMP's youth unit. The Mounties told their stories about overcoming bullying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Canadians.

    In her lawsuit, Fox claims it wasn't her sexuality but her learning disabilities that drew harassment.


  148. Latest RCMP harassment allegations an embarrassment public safety minister says

    'How could this have happened in a facility that is designed to train police officers?,' Goodale says

    By John Paul Tasker, Alison Crawford, CBC News February 19, 2016

    Canada's public safety minister says the latest allegations of harassment and bullying involving the RCMP are an 'embarrassment'.

    "This is the national police force, this is an icon of the nation and it's got to be remedied very quickly to Canadian satisfaction. Canadians will not tolerate any half measures in the response here," Ralph Goodale said in an interview with host Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House.

    The strong condemnation comes after CBC News reported allegations of unwanted sexual touching, bullying and rampant nudity in the workplace at the explosives training unit of the Canadian Police College in Ottawa.

    "It's an embarrassment, and I think [RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson] is fully aware of that. That this kind of conduct and behaviour is simply unacceptable in the most absolute of terms and it's got to stop. It's got to be properly disciplined," Goodale said in an interview that is set to air Saturday morning.

    Staff Sgt. Bruno Solesme, who used to be the unit manager, and Marco Calandrini, a civilian member of the force and a former Canadian Forces Joint Task force member, were reportedly fond of posing completely nude on each other's desks in a purported effort to shock each other; they also allegedly simulated oral sex in the office.

    Former members of the unit told CBC News that Calandrini often appeared naked in the corridors or announced he had just shaved his genitals before dumping the contents of his electric razor onto the table they all shared at meals.

    One former staffer said Solesme regularly threatened to not renew his contract at the college, and that Calandrini jumped nude and uninvited into a single-person shower stall while he was showering.

    "There's no humour to be found doing these kinds of lewd acts in a federal office. We're police officers!" one complainant told CBC News.

    CBC News has agreed to protect the complainants' identities given the nature of the allegations and fear of reprisals.

    The two Mounties in question have since been suspended from the force pending the outcome of two new investigations.

    CBC News made several attempts to get in touch with Solesme and Calandrini but did not receive responses.

    The RCMP has already carried out three reviews of inappropriate behaviour at the police college, but complainants have said investigators did not want to hear fulsome accounts. The RCMP has denied this.

    'Unacceptable toxicity'

    continued below

  149. The public safety minister said he spoke to Paulson Friday morning after the alleged misconduct was revealed.

    "I expressed to the commissioner very clearly my outrage at this situation. He knows very clearly what I expect. I expect a complete transparent and comprehensive investigation. I expect strong discipline that suits the misbehaviour that has taken place," Goodale said.

    "How could this have happened in a facility that is designed to train police officers?" he said. "I expect a clean-up of what appears to be unacceptable toxicity in the workplace at the RCMP, where people should expect exemplary behaviour, not this kind of bizarre and degrading kind of conduct."

    RCMP Deputy Commissioner Peter Henschel told CBC News Thursday that he immediately ordered another review of the conduct.

    "When this came to our attention, we were appalled at what the allegations were. I found it hard to believe that in this day and age that this kind of behaviour would take place in our organization or anywhere else," Henschel said.

    "It is completely unacceptable behaviour. It's abhorrent."

    'This is very, very urgent'

    When asked whether he had faith in Paulson and his officers to carry out a thorough investigation — considering the RCMP has already conducted three reviews of the police college — Goodale said he would be personally following developments on this file.

    "I have laid out my expectation and I fully expect the commissioner to deliver and I will be following this very, very closely.

    "This is something where I expect to see results very quickly to the extent that there are investigative procedures that need to take place," the minister said.

    "You've got to make sure the investigation is thorough and is conducted in a professional manner with all of the resources that are needed to get to the bottom of what went on. But both he [the commissioner] and I both understand this is very urgent."

    Allegations of harassment and bullying are not new for the Mounties — the force has been rocked by hundreds of complaints in the last decade.

    In 2012, after a long investigation, the RCMP public complaints commission found rampant bullying in the force. It unearthed 718 complaints filed by employees between 2005 and 2011, and found almost half were from men.

    The watchdog's investigation said the widespread perception of rampant harassment had rattled public confidence and tarnished the force's reputation.

    Send anonymous tips directly to reporter Alison Crawford using securedrop.cbc.ca. She can also be reached at alison.crawford@cbc.ca.


  150. RCMP culture of bullying at root of harassment allegations commissioner says

    Bob Paulson says more women in higher ranks will help eliminate sexual harassment in RCMP

    By Peter Zimonjic, CBC News February 23, 2016

    The RCMP must target its culture of bullying and intimidation to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace, Commissioner Bob Paulson says.

    Speaking at the Commons public safety committee Tuesday for the first time since CBC News revealed several incidents of sexual harassmentat the Canadian Police College in Ottawa, Paulson insisted the force is dealing with those and other allegations of misconduct.

    "Yeah, we had a bullying problem, there is no question about that, and we are working on that, and recent events notwithstanding, I am here to tell you we are doing better at it," he said.

    "It can't be understood as a sexual harassment problem — sexual harassment has no place in the organization, don't get me wrong — but it's the culture of bullying and intimidation and general harassment which I think needs everyone's focus and attention."

    Paulson's visit to the committee saw the commissioner questioned extensively over the CBC's exclusive account detailing allegations of unwanted sexual touching, bullying and rampant nudity in the workplace at the explosives training unit of the Canadian Police College.

    CBC News spoke with four former members of the unit who said Staff Sgt. Bruno Solesme, who used to be the unit manager, and Marco Calandrini, a civilian member of the force and a former Canadian Forces Joint Task Force member, were reportedly fond of posing completely nude on each other's desks in a purported effort to shock each other; they also allegedly simulated oral sex in the office.

    Allegations include reports that Calandrini often appeared naked in the corridors or announced he had just shaved his genitals before dumping the contents of his electric razor onto the table they all shared at meals.

    One former staffer said Solesme regularly threatened to not renew his contract at the college and that Calandrini jumped nude and uninvited into a single-person shower stall while he was showering.

    Women in the RCMP

    Paulson agreed with Liberal committee member Pam Damoff that one way to combat sexual harassment in the RCMP was through promoting women into the higher ranks, explaining that Mounties had a target of 30 per cent female members by 2020.

    "Women do not want to get promoted because they are women," said Paulson. "They want to get promoted because they are good. What we are doing is looking at the women that are good, and we are bringing them along, attaching them to senior leaders, both men and women, in the organization to feed that group."

    Paulson said that one way to attract more women to the RCMP was to "avoid the kind of public display of behaviours that have been on in this last week or two."

    The RCMP will face even more scrutiny for harassment among the ranks. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is using his authority under the RCMP Act to ask Ian McPhail, chair of the Mounties' Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, "to undertake a comprehensive review of the RCMP's policies and procedures on workplace harassment."

    Furthermore, Goodale wants McPhail to assess how well the Mounties have implemented all 11 of his recommendations made in the commission's 2013 Public Interest Investigation Report into RCMP Workplace Harassment. McPhail's office has confirmed he is eager to conduct a follow-up investigation.


  151. RCMP settles sex harassment suit with Catherine Galliford

    Former spokeswoman went public about her allegations with CBC News

    By Manjula Dufresne and Natalie Clancy, CBC News May 03, 2016

    Cpl. Catherine Galliford, whose allegations of sexual harassment in the RCMP sparked widespread attention, has accepted a settlement that ends a four-year legal battle with the national force.

    The former high-profile British Columbia spokeswoman for the force first went public with her claims of long-term sexual harassment over two decades with the RCMP on the CBC in November 2011. That opened up a flood of similar complaints.

    In May 2012, Galliford filed a civil suit against four officers, an RCMP doctor, the Attorney General of Canada, which oversees the RCMP, and B.C.'s justice minister

    ​Galliford was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after what she said were years of harassment from her colleagues. She said she has been unable to work for the last 10 years and finds it difficult to leave home.

    Trial had been set for 2017

    In February, Galliford wrote to Ralph Goodale, the new minister of public safety, saying, "I have been off duty sick from my workplace due to ongoing harassment, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation."

    She said she was "an extremely professional, compassionate and capable police officer until I developed health issues due to the ongoing misogyny, harassment, lying and both criminal and sexual corruption which I observed within an organization which I once revered."

    Galliford was awaiting an eight-week trial in early 2017 after a postponement from early 2015. The letter to Goodale said, "I [went] through 11 legal discoveries in rooms full of lawyers (for the various defendants) asking me about my sex life, my childhood, my high school boyfriends, my parental upbringing and whether or not I had my uniform altered to make it 'tighter.'"

    Galliford said she lost everything by complaining.

    "I have lost my home, I have paid my lawyer a quarter of a million dollars. I cannot trust Commissioner [Bob] Paulson or anyone in senior management.… Commissioner Paulson has done nothing to fix a culture which cannot be fixed."

    In March, mediation efforts first begun in 2015 were renewed and the settlement came out of that.

    Galliford's lawyer Barry Carter, who has won other cases against the RCMP, told CBC he is "satisfied with the result. The matter has been resolved satisfactorily."

    The details of the settlement cannot be revealed under the terms of the agreement.

    May never work again

    Galliford said it was impossible to put a price tag on everything she says she endured. She will get a medical discharge on May 13. She completed 25 years with the RCMP, but may never be able to work again.

    "Because of the PTSD I still struggle with multi-tasking and I struggle with short-term memory loss, and until I get some help I can't focus on a future career."

    Galliford said it's all still sinking in.

    "It's been such a long battle, I am still stuck in that fight or flight mode, and I haven't quite processed everything."

    RCMP declined to comment

    The RCMP told CBC News on Monday that it will not be commenting on the settlement.

    Paulson took on the top job with the force in 2011 soon after Galliford went public. He said he would make it a priority to deal with harassment in the force and get "rid of the bad apples."

    Changes were made, but those who allege harassment say they became targeted for speaking out. The rules have been tightened and Mounties face code-of-conduct inquiries if they speak out.

    Several other women have filed individual sexual harassment claims against the RCMP. Over 400 are part of a class-action lawsuit that has yet to be certified, most of whom went public after Galliford told her story.


  152. Dozens of Aboriginal women pick up phone to complain about Quebec police abuse

    First Nations paralegal service logged 44 calls since police abuse hotline was set up in April

    By Catou MacKinnon, CBC News May 12, 2016

    It's been just a month since Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux invited Aboriginal women across Quebec to call a new toll-free line if they'd been assaulted by police.

    In that short time, 44 women have reached out.

    Coiteux said the new line was an alternative to calling the Montreal police force, which is in charge of investigating allegations against eight Sûreté du Québec officers that surfaced last fall in a Radio-Canada Enquête report.

    40 per cent ready to press charges

    ​Calls to the new hotline are being directed to an existing paralegal counselling service for aboriginal people – Services parajudiciaires autochtones du Québec.

    Coiteux said the new line was an alternative to calling the Montreal police force, which is in charge of investigating allegations against eight Sûreté du Québec officers that surfaced last fall in a Radio-Canada Enquête report.

    40 per cent ready to press charges

    ​Calls to the new hotline are being directed to an existing paralegal counselling service for aboriginal people – Services parajudiciaires autochtones du Québec.

    "We were not expecting that kind of result," said Jean Jolicoeur, the vice-president of the paralegal service.

    "Within a month, we had 44 women that reached out to us and explained their case."

    He said it only made sense to offer women an alternative to calling the Montreal police force.

    "You have to realize it was extremely difficult for them to call police, to make a claim against another police."

    Jolicoeur said most of the women are not ready to press charges at this time.

    "Forty per cent" are, he said.

    No more code of silence

    Patricia Bouchard, a community worker at the Sexual Assault Prevention Centre in Val d'Or, says it's "appalling" the number is so high.

    "We knew there was an issue, but we never knew how big it was," said Bouchard.

    Bouchard said allegations of sexual assault stay hidden all too often.

    "It means to us the silence has been broken, that there is no more omertà (code of silence) about allegations like that."

    Bouchard also congratulated the province for hiring the First Nations paralegal services to set up an alternative.

    "I'm glad a second line was offered to these women," said Bouchard. "So they can feel free to talk to whomever they want to because it's such a difficult thing to break the silence."

    The province's contract with the paralegal services agency is for two years.

    Montreal police also have a hotline, but the force was unable to tell CBC News how many Aboriginal people had laid complaints using that service.

    First Nations paralegal services hotline number: 1-888-844-2094
    Montreal police hotline: 1-844-615-3118


  153. Mounties to offer up to $100M compensation for harassment, sexual abuse against female members

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson offers 'sincere apology' to women

    By Kathleen Harris, Natalie Clancy, CBC News October 06, 2016

    The RCMP is offering compensation to female officers and civilian members in a massive settlement that could cost up to $100 million.

    It covers all women in the RCMP since 1974 and anyone can make a claim, it was announced at a news conference in Ottawa this morning.

    CBCNews.ca is carrying that news conference live.

    While 20,000 women could file a claim, it is expected about a thousand will seek compensation.

    The settlement agreement, which must still be approved by a federal court, deals with two separate class action cases. over sexual harassment and discrimination in the RCMP.

    Paulson apologizes

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson teared up as he apologized and praised the women for their courage.

    "You came to the RCMP wanting to personally contribute to your community and we failed you. We hurt you. For that, I'm truly sorry," he said.

    Paulson also apologized to all Canadians for the "shameful" examples of conduct within the ranks that bred "deep disappointment" in the national police force.

    Paulson said the government has "generously" set aside $100 million for the claims, but there is no "cap" on the payouts.

    While specific terms of the agreement will not be publicly disclosed until after it is approved by the court, Paulson said it sets out two broad elements:

    There must be continued organizational change within the RCMP, with new initiatives and more accountability to eradicate gender discrimination and sexual abuse.

    There will be an independent claims process and compensation scheme. Claims will be adjudicated by retired Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache.

    Const. Janet Merlo is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed nearly five years ago. It was joined by more and female officers and civilians from across Canada.

    Merlo attended the news conference, calling it a "turning point" for the RCMP.

    "I have total faith that this is the beginning of a new era — hopefully a better era," she said.

    Allegations included rape, unwanted sexual touching, physical assault, sexist comments, threats, gender discrimination, harassment and bullying.


  154. RCMP too big to fix says former spokesperson Catherine Galliford

    'They are talking about changing a culture and I don’t know if that can be changed'

    By Bridgette Watson, CBC News October 07, 2016

    The RCMP offered a national apology Thursday to female officers and employees who were subjected to harassment, discrimination and sexual abuse while on the job.

    Compensation could total up to $100 million.

    Catherine Galliford, a former high profile RCMP spokeswoman, filed an individual lawsuit in 2012 and settled in May. Hundreds of other women came forward afterwards, resulting in two class action lawsuits.

    Galliford spoke with On The Coast host, Gloria Macarenko, to share her reaction to the apology and settlement.

    Q: What goes through your mind when you hear the emotional responses to the apology from other women?

    I am so proud of them.

    This is like a revolution because people are talking about it now. I don't want the members of the RCMP to stop talking about this because now they have a voice.

    Q: The settlement covers all women in the RCMP since 1974. What do you think about those terms?

    I think those terms are amazing. But what struck me today was the national apology.

    For these women to have a national apology from the Commissioner of the RCMP, to have him say we owe these women an apology, that is worth more to them than anything.

    Q: Do you think this settlement goes far enough?

    I think they are talking about changing a culture and I don't know if that can be changed.

    I think the RCMP has gotten too big to be managed. There are a lot of women and men who have been harassed to the point where they are still trying to do their jobs but are walking zombies.

    People are afraid to complain and are still being harassed.

    I don't believe the RCMP in its current state can be fixed. I think it should be a federal police board only and provincial governments can set up their own police forces.

    Q: Presumably, many perpetrators are still working in the force. Do you think that's fair?

    There are many sexual predators, harassers, and perpetrators, still working. There is no accountability for the perpetrators and I think that is what everyone is sitting back and waiting for.

    Why are we being asked, or demanded, to go back into the workplace when we still have our perpetrators in there?

    There are certain people in there that I could never work beside and I am waiting to see what happens to them.

    Q: What other accountability would you like to see?

    I would like to see the perpetrators held accountable. Shame them. Have the RCMP hold them up and shame them. The whistleblowers are the ones who have been shamed and demeaned and humiliated. I don't understand why the RCMP isn't turning the tables.

    Q: You reached your own settlement in May. What are you doing now?

    Almost daily I am a conduit for other members who are trying to file a complaint and need someone to talk to.

    The continual harassment within the RCMP gave me PTSD and now that I am separated from my abuser I am going to treatment to hope that I can continue to move forward in my life. And that's what I hope for all the other women.


  155. Why I failed to catch Canadas worst serial killer

    By Joanna Jolly, BBC World Service 1 June 2017

    Ten years ago, the trial of Canada's most prolific serial killer opened in Vancouver. Det Con Lorimer Shenher had long suspected the man in the dock, who eventually admitted to nearly 50 murders, but Shenher's attempts to question him had been hindered by red tape. He is still haunted by his failure.

    Lorimer Shenher had been working in his new job as head of Vancouver's Missing Persons Unit for only two days when an anonymous caller gave him a name - the name of a man who could be responsible for the disappearance of women from the city's Downtown Eastside district.

    It was July 1998 and Shenher had been tasked with finding out what had happened to 17 women missing from the district, also known as the "low-track", because it was where people went to buy cheap sex.

    All the missing women were sex workers and drug users, and many were from Canada's indigenous population.
    Shenher entered the name he had been given, Willie Pickton - or Robert William Pickton - into the police database.

    He saw immediately that his suspect had form. Earlier that year, charges had been dropped against the 49-year-old pig farmer for imprisoning and stabbing a sex worker, almost fatally.

    The caller said he had been told women's handbags, identity cards and bloody clothing could be seen at Pickton's farm. And he said he had listened himself to Pickton making disturbing jokes.

    "Pickton had a meat grinder he would talk about," says Shenher.

    "He would tell his friends, 'If you ever need to dispose of a body…'"

    Working out whether Pickton had anything to do with the disappearances would be a straightforward case of issuing a search warrant and bringing him in for questioning, Shenher thought.

    "My mantra was you have to either rule him in or rule him out," he says.

    But in fact it would be another four years before officers finally searched Pickton's property - on an unrelated charge - and by that time at least another 14 women had been murdered.

    A forensic search of Pickton's farm eventually revealed the DNA of 33 women in various buildings, freezers and machines.

    As he had boasted, the pig farmer had disposed of his victims in his meat grinder. Others he had fed to his pigs.

    He later confessed to an undercover officer that he was one short of hitting his target of 50 kills.

    So why did it take so long to catch him?

    Shenher began his police career in the early 1990s as Lorraine Shenher - an athletic, hard-working 27-year-old who achieved one of the highest scores ever in the Vancouver Police Department selection process. He has since undergone gender reassignment, changing his name from Lorraine to Lorimer.

    For one of his first assignments he worked undercover in the Downtown Eastside. Dressed in a short skirt, he would wait on street corners for men to solicit him for sex so he could arrest them.

    The experience gave Shenher an insight into the brutality sex workers routinely experienced. Clients could be violent - one threatened to kill him, another tried to abduct him at gunpoint. He also noticed that police officers who should have been protecting the women often ignored their complaints.

    At this time, he had a unique perspective on what he saw happening around him.

    "I felt I was a man observing the situation. But also, living as a woman myself, I couldn't put up with the oppression and sexism the women faced," he says.
    "I had a lot of anger around it."

    A few years later, Downtown Eastside residents began to report that women were going missing.

    continued below

  156. One, a young drug user and sex worker called Sarah de Vries, described her fears in her diary.

    "Am I next?" she wrote in December 1995.

    "Is he watching me now? Stalking me like a predator and its prey. Waiting, waiting for some perfect spot, time or my stupid mistake. How does one choose a victim?

    "Good question. If I knew that, I would never get snuffed."

    In April 1998 Sarah herself disappeared.

    She was the 17th person on Shenher's list when he was appointed to the Missing Person's Unit.

    Several officers within the Vancouver Police Department had already begun to suspect a serial killer was at work.

    One of them was Det Insp Kim Rossmo, who had recently completed doctoral research in criminal profiling.

    "I went back 20 years using data and typically we would find either no, or just one or two, unfound people in a year," he says.

    "This number started to grow in 1996, 1997 and 1998. I thought the only explanation for this was a serial murder case."

    But when Rossmo took his findings to the officer in charge of the Major Crime Section, he was told that because the women tended to live transient lives, it was more likely they had just drifted away.

    In fact, this was wrong. Although the women were drug users and poor, they still maintained strong ties to families, friends and their community.

    But because no-one had found the women's bodies, Rossmo's boss thought no crime had taken place and that in time the women would show up.

    One of Shenher's first moves was to get in touch with the officer who had arrested and charged Pickton in 1997 for his attack on a sex worker at his farm.

    Despite the severity of the victim's injuries, prosecutors had dropped the case because she was a heroin addict and it was felt she wouldn't be a convincing witness.

    Shenher found this decision inexplicable, and his views were shared by the arresting officer - from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) - who helpfully opened his files to Shenher.

    Because Pickton's farm was outside the city, it fell under the jurisdiction of the RCMP rather than the Vancouver Police Department.

    In Shenher's view it made sense for the Vancouver police and the Mounties to work together on the case, but at the highest levels of both forces there was resistance to the idea and full co-operation did not begin for several years.

    So Shenher returned to his original phone tip-off.

    The caller had mentioned parties held on Pickton's farm in a barn known locally as Piggy's Palace. These late-night gatherings were popular with biker gangs. Sex and drugs were said to be freely available.

    A female friend of the informant had attended these parties, and it was she who had seen personal items and bloody clothing that could have belonged to the missing women.

    Shenher quickly identified this woman but she didn't want to speak to the police. So Shenher proposed an undercover operation to confirm her story, using a female officer who would befriend her and become her confidante. The plan was refused.

    Instead, Pickton was put under surveillance for three days. But as he did little to arouse suspicion, this was discontinued.

    "If these women were from any other walk of life, there would be total outrage, search parties, volunteers, roadblocks," says Shenher.

    "On a very deep level, a large segment of society and the policing community didn't feel these women were worth searching for and many people questioned whether they even wanted to be found."

    In May 1999, the Vancouver Police Department established a Missing Persons Review Team with Shenher as the lead investigator. Although this was an improvement from the Missing Persons Unit, it still lacked the resources of a fully-fledged homicide investigation.

    continued below

  157. Then another source came forward with a gruesome story that appeared to identify Pickton as the man killing and disposing of the missing women.

    The source said he had seen handcuffs in Pickton's bedroom and a special freezer in his barn from which he had been served "strange meat", which he believed could have been human.

    He also spoke of a female friend, whom he named as Lynn Ellingsen, who had gone with Pickton to the Downtown Eastside to help him pick up women.

    The source said that Ellingsen had told him that she had walked into Pickton's slaughterhouse and had seen what she thought was a female body hanging from a meat hook.
    Pickton was standing beside it cutting strips of flesh off the body's legs. She said she hadn't realised that human fat was yellow - a detail that lent credibility to her story.

    At this point Shenher felt he had enough evidence to bring both Ellingsen and Pickton in for questioning, but because Pickton's farm fell under the jurisdiction of the RCMP, it was up to them to take the investigation forward.

    The RCMP questioned Ellingsen twice, but both times she refused to talk.

    As for Pickton, Shenher later found that an RCMP officer visited his farm but was told by his brother to "come back during the rainy season" because they were too busy working. Four months later, RCMP officers did interview Pickton, who denied killing the women. He consented to a search of his property - but amazingly, this offer was not followed up.

    By now the number of missing women had risen to 30 and Shenher was beginning to experience physical symptoms brought on by what he regarded as his failure to solve the crimes.

    He suffered from nightmares and mysterious aches in his body, had trouble eating and developed allergies.

    "I've asked myself so many times could I have just physically gone to the farm and tried to execute a search warrant," he says.

    "The answer, really, is 'No'. It was not my jurisdiction. What failed us was that someone at a very senior level in my force should have approached someone at a very senior level in the RCMP. But it didn't work that way. We didn't get that support."

    By the end of 2000, Shenher was exhausted and demoralised. He was beginning to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder so asked to be transferred to a different unit.

    Then, in January 2001, nearly three years after Shenher had received his first tip-off about Pickton, the RCMP and Vancouver Police Department finally established a joint operation to re-examine the cases of missing and murdered sex workers in the province of British Columbia.

    Shenher should have been cheered by this. Instead he was depressed.

    "What they did was to pull in as many sex offenders and predators that they were aware of in the province and put together a list of 100 men, but not rank them in priority," he says.

    "So despite having all our information about Pickton, they didn't put him at number one of the suspect list."

    continued below

  158. It was only in February 2002 when a junior RCMP officer visited Pickton's farm looking for an unlicensed gun and spotted an asthma inhaler bearing the name of one of the missing women, that he was finally arrested.

    Within hours, the Pickton property became the site of the largest crime scene search in Canadian history.
    Shenher, when he found out, experienced a wave of contradictory emotions.

    "Shock, elation, dread, excitement, sorrow, grief, nausea - it was all there, jumbled up together," he says.

    "It was a hollow victory and all I could do was cry."

    In 2007, a court found Pickton guilty of six counts of second-degree murder. There was enough evidence to charge him for a further 20 killings, but prosecutors decided not to proceed because he had already been given the maximum life sentence.

    Shenher's criticism of the police investigations was shared by family and friends of the victims.

    In 2010, in response to popular pressure, the government of British Columbia formally announced a Missing Women Commission of Inquiry to look into the police's conduct.

    It ruled that their investigations suffered from a lack of leadership, describing them as a "blatant failure" marked by a deep bias against the poor, often drug-addicted, victims.

    At the same time it praised certain officers, like Shenher, for striving valiantly to solve the crisis.

    But what could have been an opportunity for genuine soul-searching about the failures of the province's police and justice systems was wasted, Shenher says.

    He even accuses the inquiry of suppressing information that would have shed light on why Pickton's farm was not searched earlier.

    "My sense was there appeared to be a concerted effort by the provincial government to restrict the amount and type of information that came out," he says, though he admits he has no firm evidence to back this suspicion.

    He now hopes a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, announced last year by the new government of Justin Trudeau, will go further towards answering the question why vulnerable women were so badly let down.

    "When a missing woman is viewed as inevitable, where the surge of the investigation is not done at the same level as other investigations and women are dying, then we have to do better," the Canadian Minister for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, told the BBC.
    Racism and sexism were still a problem within the country's police forces, she added.

    Shenher is now on long-term medical leave from the police. In 2015 he published a book that details his frustrations with the Pickton investigation, That Lonely Section of Hell.

    "People think there's police accountability in Canada," he says.

    "But there aren't a lot of mechanisms that the government has to oversee their work.

    "Without that accountability, I do think a killer like Pickton could get away with it again."

    This article was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

    see photos at:


  159. RCMP tolerates misogynistic, racist, and homophobic attitudes: former Supreme Court justice

    Catharine Tunney · CBC News · Nov 19, 2020

    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police's culture is so toxic, the federal government needs to conduct an external, independent review of the RCMP's future as a federal policing organization, says a former Supreme Court of Canada justice tasked with dealing with the fallout from the force's historic sexual assault settlement.

    "What I learned led me to conclude that a toxic culture prevails in the RCMP. This culture encourages, or at least tolerates, misogynistic, racist and homophobic attitudes among many members of the RCMP," wrote Michel ​Bastarache in his final report — "Broken Dreams Broken Lives" — which was released today.

    "The problem is systemic in nature and cannot be corrected solely by punishing a few 'bad apples.'"

    The Merlo-Davidson settlement, named after lawsuit plaintiffs Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson, covers those who were harassed while working for the RCMP during or after September 1974. They include women who experienced sexual harassment and gender or sexual orientation-based discrimination while working for the Mounties.

    Bastarache was appointed to independently assess the claims and write a final report based on his findings. Over the past four years, he said, he and his team conducted 644 interviews of current or former female employees of the RCMP.

    "The level of violence and sexual assault that was reported was shocking," he wrote in the report.

    "What the women told the assessors shocked them to their core. This process has forever tarnished the image of the RCMP as a Canadian icon."

    More than 2,300 women received compensation
    In 2016, the Liberal government set aside $100 million to cover the claims. Back then, the RCMP was expecting about 1,000 women to submit claims.

    Instead, the assessors' office received more than three times that number.

    Of that total, 2,304 women were compensated and 782 claims were denied.

    In all, $125,266,500 was paid to claimants.

    Each victim was eligible for a payout of between $10,000 and $220,000.

    Davidson, who retired in 2012 after a career lasting almost 30 years, said that while her profession brought her moments of glee, she was tormented for years by her male coworkers.

    "The sexual assaults, the inadvertent tearing my top open and reaching in and grasping me by my breast, things like that," she said.

    "Things like they would go into your locker and open it up and I found ketchup smeared over one of my shirts.They had actually taken tampons and dipped them in ketchup and hung them from the coat hangers."

    There were 150 claims approved at the highest level, which covered "penetrative sexual, bullying and constructive dismissal of vulnerable claimants resulting in resignation, or leaving a claimant in a dangerous situation without backup in which she was seriously injured resulting in permanent disability."

    These women reported having suicidal thoughts and severe PTSD.

    "No financial compensation can repair the damage that the assessors witnessed. If no concrete measures are taken, the RCMP will be in the same place again in a few years," the report said.

    Commissioner Brenda Lucki issued an apology today to all the women involved.

    "We failed them because they are women," she told reporters Thursday afternoon. "I am angry for these women and their families.

    "I can definitely sympathize and understand what these women went through. It's touched me very personally. Today has been a very emotional day. But this is exactly why I took on this job. I am deepening my resolve to do better."

    continued below

  160. RCMP commissioner says change takes time

    Bastarache wrote that the problems faced by women in the RCMP have been known to the force and to the government for at least three decades.

    He said that while some improvement has been made, legislative changes and administrative reforms haven't rooted out the toxic culture.

    "It's time to discuss the need to make fundamental changes to the RCMP and federal policing," Bastarache wrote.

    "I am of the opinion that the culture change is highly unlikely to come from within the RCMP. The latter has had many years to proceed, has been the subject of numerous reports and recommendations, and yet unacceptable behaviour continues to occur."

    The report made 52 recommendations touching on areas like recruitment and training, postings, maternity and paternity leave and promotions. Lucki said the RCMP will look into all of the recommendations.

    Lucki said the force has already taken steps including setting up a new independent system for addressing harassment complaints.

    "I cannot fix the past. I definitely can make a different future," she said.

    But when asked whether she supports the call for an external review into the RCMP's culture, Lucki said she would not "speak to that specifically."

    "I have been in the chair for two and a half years. We're a big organization. Change takes time," she said.

    "But we have made significant change under my command."

    Davidson says the RCMP needs to be open to that outside review.

    "If it brings change, bring it on," she said.

    Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the report describes systemic patterns of abusive behaviour that are "repulsive and unacceptable."

    "No one should have to experience discrimination and harassment in the workplace, but we know that this is an everyday reality for many women and LGBT employees in Canada and in the RCMP," Blair said in a media statement.

    "Not only does this behaviour ruin careers, it has a lasting and significant impact on the lives of those targeted."

    Blair said he spoke with Lucki and "emphasized that these unacceptable patterns of behaviour must end now," and that a comprehensive plan to address the report's recommendations must be implemented.

    "We are absolutely committed to the reform. And I'll have more to say in the coming weeks about the direction that reform will take," he said.

    Bastarache wrote that his 52 recommendations are just a temporary aid.

    "These are not in lieu of the independent external review that I recommend be undertaken, but can be implemented as a stop gap measure," he said.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a key part of Lucki's marching orders when she was appointed in 2018 was to change the culture of harassment in the RCMP.

    "If an organization cannot keep its own members safe from harassment and discrimination, how can Canadians have confidence in them to keep them safe as they enforce the law?" he said Thursday.

    "There is a need for a lot of work moving forward to improve and reform the RCMP, and that's exactly what we continue to be focused on."

    The RCMP has reached a second settlement — for about another $100 million — for women subjected to sexual harassment or gender-based discrimination while they worked for the force in non-policing roles.


    READ THE REPORT https://merlodavidson.ca/wp-content/uploads/RCMP_Final-Report_Broken-Dreams.pdf

  161. RCMP could easily identify officers accused of sexual assault, says former Supreme Court justice

    Michel ​Bastarache's report found more than 130 claimants disclosed penetrative sexual assaults

    by Catharine Tunney · CBC News · December 02, 2020

    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is aware of — or could at least easily identify — the officers accused in some of the most egregious cases of sexual assault in the service, former Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel ​Bastarache told MPs tonight.

    "I think the more serious ones usually are more easily identified," said ​Bastarache, who was appointed as the independent assessor in the force's historic Merlo-Davidson sexual assault settlement. He was speaking before a parliamentary committee meeting earlier this evening.

    "Like the Catholic Church, they just move them to another parish. I have a list [of RCMP officers] who have been found guilty up to 15 times. Those people have been promoted."

    His appearance before the standing committee on national security comes two weeks after he released a scathing report on sexual harassment in the RCMP. Bastarache was tasked with independently assessing the claims made as part of the Merlo-Davidson settlement.

    That settlement, named after lawsuit plaintiffs Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson, covers those who were harassed while working for the RCMP during or after September 1974. They include women who experienced sexual harassment and gender or sexual orientation-based discrimination while working for the Mounties. In total, the federal government paid $125,266,500 to the claimants.

    "The level of violence and sexual assault that was reported was shocking. Indeed, over 130 claimants disclosed penetrative sexual assaults," Bastarache's report says.

    Over the past four years, Bastarache said, he and his team conducted 644 interviews of current or former female employees of the RCMP.

    "Harassment remains present in many areas of the organization. Worse still, disrespectful conduct has been perpetrated and condoned at every level of the hierarchy," he told the committee.

    "I often heard that there were many good members trying to do a good job in a difficult environment and I'm sure this is true, and that many members are well-intentioned and trying to do the right thing. But the reality is that even honourable members and well-intentioned leaders have been required to conform to, or at least accept, the underlying culture."

    Lucki says such behaviour won't be tolerated

    Bastarache said he has a list of men in the RCMP who have been accused of, and found to be responsible for, harassment. One of the conditions of the assessment process, however — which was intended to make it easier for women to come forward — was that the report could not name those accused.

    "I think that it's quite easy to identify some of them because, as I said, when they're found guilty of harassment, they're moved around," he said.

    "It's easy to see who has been changed three or four times and has been in trouble three or four times ... These aren't a few bad apples. These are hundreds of bad apples."

    CBC News has asked the RCMP for comment but has not heard back yet.

    When the report was published late last month, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki promised sexual harassment in the service would not be tolerated.

    "The facts are, despite all the reports, recommendations, and changes over the last three decades, this behaviour continues to surface," she said.

    "It must be stopped. It will not be tolerated."

    WATCH | 'Shocking' accounts of harassment, violence within RCMP detailed in report

  162. RCMP urges members to report sexual assaults — but isn't saying whether Mounties have been disciplined

    Retired Supreme Court justice says some of the more serious offenders could be 'easily identified'

    by Catharine Tunney · CBC News · December 03, 2020

    After a former Supreme Court justice told MPs that the RCMP is probably aware of serving Mounties credibly accused of sexual assault, the service is again calling on victims to come forward — although it's not saying how many of its members have been sanctioned for such acts.

    "We continue to encourage women and all those who have experienced harassment to come forward and make complaints," said RCMP spokesperson Catherine Fortin.

    "The RCMP takes these issues seriously and will take action. Harassment complaints can be brought to the RCMP and assaults should be reported to police of local jurisdiction."

    The comments came hours after former Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache told a House of Commons committee that the RCMP is aware of — or could at least easily identify — the officers accused in some of the most egregious cases of sexual assault in the service.

    "I think the more serious ones usually are more easily identified," said ​Bastarache, who was appointed as an independent assessor in the force's historic Merlo-Davidson sexual assault settlement.

    "Like the Catholic Church, they just move them to another parish. I have a list [of RCMP officers] who have been found guilty up to 15 times. Those people have been promoted."

    The settlement agreement contained a strict confidentiality provision — meaning Bastarache can't make that list public.

    When asked if charges or dismissals are being pursued, Fortin said it's possible that some perpetrators have been held to account in cases where a complaint already has been brought forward.

    "It is incumbent on every employee to come forward and speak out against this behaviour, and for our leaders and supervisors to take immediate action to stop it," she wrote in an email to CBC News.

    "There is absolutely no room for sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, bullying, sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia in the RCMP. It is incumbent on every employee to come forward and speak out against this behaviour, and for our leaders and supervisors to take immediate action to stop it."

    Bastarache's appearance before the standing committee on national security Wednesday evening came two weeks after he released a scathing report on the culture within the national police force. The report was born out of the settlement, named after lawsuit plaintiffs Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson.

    The settlement covered those who were harassed while working for the RCMP during or after September 1974. They include women who experienced sexual harassment and gender or sexual orientation-based discrimination while working for the Mounties.

    "The level of violence and sexual assault that was reported was shocking. Indeed, over 130 claimants disclosed penetrative sexual assaults," Bastarache's report says.

    Other recorded cases of sexual assaults involved the use of force or intimidation, attempts to undress the victim and situations in which a male colleague or superior rubbed his erect penis against a claimant, or attempted to force her to touch it.

    In all, 2,304 women were compensated through the settlement.


  163. Mountie hopes latest report on RCMP's 'toxic' culture convinces Ottawa to stay out of lawsuit

    Lawyer says the RCMP's policies for dealing with harassment aren't working

    by Catharine Tunney · CBC News · November 27, 2020

    The lead plaintiff in a one-billion-dollar-plus lawsuit alleging bullying and harassment within the RCMP says he hopes a recent report calling out the force's toxic culture will convince Ottawa to drop its fight against his claim.

    Last week, former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache released a report describing a police force in crisis. The report — "Broken Dreams, Broken Lives" — points to systemic cultural problems within the RCMP and called for an external review of the future of the iconic Canadian institution.

    The report grew out of the Merlo-Davidson settlement, which was the result of a class action lawsuit on behalf of women who were sexually abused or discriminated against while serving in the RCMP.

    Those findings hit home for Mountie Geoffrey Greenwood, who is helping to front a separate class action alleging "systemic negligence in the form of bullying, intimidation, and general harassment."

    Greenwood alleges he endured torment after reporting allegations of bribery and corruption against fellow drug officers in 2008.

    The Greenwood vs. Canada lawsuit — which seeks compensation for what could be thousands of officers, civilian employees, students and volunteers — argues that internal remedies for such complaints are ineffective because they are dependent upon the "chain of command," which is often made up of those who were either responsible for the offending behaviour or acted to protect others.

    According to the lawsuit, this chain of command perpetuated a toxic work climate, characterized by abuses of power.

    Greenwood said the RCMP's workplace culture ends up affecting almost every member.

    "It does affect everybody, from the new recruit walking in the door to the member at my service. It affects everyone and it affects them both professionally and personally," he said.

    "It's a very, very lonely road to walk and the scars will never, ever go away.".

    A Federal Court Justice certified the $1.1 billion lawsuit earlier this year. The federal government is appealing that decision.

    The Crown, on behalf of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is fighting against the lawsuit, saying the claims are "workplace disputes" for which there are various legislative remedies and avenues for redress within the RCMP.

    A hearing on Ottawa's appeal of the lawsuit's certification is expected in the new year.

    continued below

  164. A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said it's too early to know if the Bastarache report will affect future litigation.

    Lawyer Megan McPhee, class counsel in the Greenwood suit, said there are parallels between her client's case and the one that led to the Merlo-Davidson settlement.

    "The RCMP is continuing to fight this case and argue that the policies work, even though the reports say they don't," she said.

    "They say that they are workplace disputes, when the reports confirm that it's a toxic culture that's at issue."

    Pressure mounts for external review
    The Bastarache report also shows that the force can't be trusted to fix itself, McPhee said.

    In the report, Bastarache writes that he believes that "culture change is highly unlikely to come from within the RCMP." One of his main recommendations is for an external, independent review of the RCMP's future as a federal policing organization.

    "We've seen decades of reports now, and they've come from different mandates and from different perspectives, but the findings of the reports have been consistent and that's what the RCMP can't fix itself internally," said McPhee.

    "The processes and the policies in place for dealing with harassment aren't working for members."

    Greenwood said the only way forward for the force is to accept outside help in the form of an external review.

    "Whenever there is a report, or whenever there is a decision, or whenever there is something that's contentious within the RCMP, their immediate fallback is to take out the old policy, dust it off, add a couple of new words or a couple of phrases and see if that works," he said.

    "And nine times out of 10, that fails. So the membership, they're waiting."

    When asked about Bastarache's call for an external review during a committee meeting Wednesday, Blair said the government already committed to reform in September's speech from the throne.

    "We have very clearly stated our commitment to bring about reform of the RCMP and in particular to deal with issues of governance, oversight and accountability," he said.


  165. RCMP should be updating the nation on reform efforts, head of watchdog body says

    by Catharine Tunney · CBC News · December 21, 2020

    The head of the RCMP's watchdog body says she wants the national police force to start tabling annual reports explaining how it has succeeded — or failed — in following her reform recommendations.

    The request from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) comes as the federal government promises to shake up oversight of the RCMP sometime in 2021.

    As head of the team of investigators and lawyers that probes public complaints against the RCMP, CRCC chair Michelaine Lahaie issues around 100 to 150 recommendations every year.

    But making recommendations can be easier than finding out whether the RCMP actually followed through on them.

    "Part of the accountability profile is that they need to indicate when those recommendations have been implemented. And if they haven't, they need to be able to indicate why," Lahaie told CBC News.

    "My recommendation is that an annual report on the implementation of our recommendations be produced by the commissioner [of the RCMP]. I'm not tied to who that report needs to go to."

    Just a few weeks ago, the CRCC released a report that expressed concerns about the RCMP's use of strip searches — and specifically called out the detachment in Iqaluit, where members have removed bras during body searches.

    That followed a 2017 report which found "significant shortcomings" in the RCMP's personal search policies, which cover strip searches.

    "We had no way of verifying that those recommendations had actually been implemented. So we undertook a second review and in the process of that review, we found out that some of those recommendations had been implemented, but not all of them," said Lahaie.

    Over the summer, Lahaie told a committee of MPs that the RCMP hasn't been listening to the recommendations her agency has made in recent years regarding Mounties' behaviour on wellness calls — when police officers check up on individuals after someone has expressed a concern about their health or safety.

    She also warned the committee that the CRCC lacks the resources to follow up on the RCMP's implementation of its recommendations. That's part of the reason why she sent a letter to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair this fall calling for more powers and resourcing.

    Two bills that would have extended the CRCC's authority to include public complaints against the Canada Border Services Agency died in Parliament due an election and prorogation.

    continued below

  166. Statutory timelines a top demand
    Lahaie has urged the minister to modify those bills before reintroducing them. For starters, she wants the legislation to include statutory timelines for the RCMP commissioner to respond to the CRCC's reports.

    While the RCMP is legally bound to respond to CRCC reports, there are no statutory deadlines. It takes, on average, 17 months for the RCMP to reply to a CRCC report.

    As of Dec. 15, there were 158 complaint review files still awaiting an RCMP response. One has been waiting more than four years, while 21 files have been in the queue for three to four years.

    The force has insisted repeatedly it tries to respond in as timely a manner as possible while also making sure the recommendations are assessed thoroughly.

    The CRCC and the RCMP even drafted a "memorandum of understanding" to set service standards on the release of the commission's reports, but it's not binding.

    A number of high-profile CRCC investigation reports — including one on the RCMP's probe of the 2016 shooting death of Colten Boushie in Saskatchewan — are still waiting for release because the commissioner's office hasn't provided the required official responses to them.

    "Right now the RCMP's responsiveness to public complaints is not up to the mark that I believe it needs to be," Lahaie said. "Canadians have a right to receive timely responses to their complaints and right now that's not happening.

    "A public complaints process is credible when it's responsive to the needs of Canadians. Our findings and recommendations are made at the time that those reports are written and in some cases, because there's such an incredible delay in the responses, those findings and recommendations are no longer relevant. And that is my greatest concern."

    More resources needed, says chair
    Lahaie's letter to Blair, obtained through an access to information request, also stressed the need for "adequate resourcing in order to ensure the commission continues to meet its core mandate."

    The main spending estimates for 2020-21 show the commission, which employs 76 staffers, will see a dip in its budget, from $11.1 million in the previous fiscal year to $10.19 million.

    Even as its funding drops, the watchdog is reporting a 22 per cent increase in the number of complaints it received in 2019-2020 compared to the previous year. That rising workload is eating away at the commission's discretionary funding, said Lahaie.

    "We're just looking for an increase in our funding that's commensurate with the rise that we've seen in public complaints," she said.

    "There is a great desire by the public to see police held accountable. They have extraordinary powers. They need to be held accountable for their actions."

    The commission's larger investigations can be resource-intensive. The probe of the RCMP's response to anti-fracking protests in New Brunswick, for example, cost more than $1.7 million, according to the CRCC's letter to Blair.

    The commission's pot of discretionary funding is used to fund systemic reviews which cover wider issues of policing. The commission has taken on workplace harassment in the past, and an investigation of the RCMP's use of street checks is slated for the new year.

    "I think systemic reviews are a great way of fixing policing before the incidents happen and right now, because of funding constraints, I'm not able to take on as many systemic reviews as I would like," Lahaie told CBC.

    "I believe that, really, that's where we can effect great change in policing."

    September's speech from the throne promised to move "forward on enhanced civilian oversight of our law enforcement agencies, including the RCMP."

    A spokesperson for Blair said a bill concerning the CRCC will be coming in 2021, but it's not clear when.


  167. Privacy Commissioner Launches Investigation of RCMP Internet Unit

    The probe comes after Tyee reports on Project Wide Awake and web spying. Here are some questions to pose to the force.

    by Bryan Carney, December 14, 2020 | TheTyee.ca

    The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has launched an investigation into the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operational Support unit and Project Wide Awake, the unit’s advanced web monitoring program using digital tools it kept secret.

    The office is probing “the RCMP’s collection of the personal information of Canadians under Project Wide Awake,” deputy commissioner Brent Homan of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner confirmed in writing to NDP MP Charlie Angus.

    Angus, a member of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, called for an investigation in a letter sent Nov. 23, following Tyee reports exposing Project Wide Awake and related programs at the RCMP.

    “I have grave concerns about the level of secrecy and duplicity the RCMP has gone through to hide their activities into procuring and using these tools to gather information on Canadians,” said Angus in the letter.

    He added, “I am very concerned that these internal documents appear to contradict how the force characterized Project Wide Awake to your office.”

    The files obtained by The Tyee revealed that the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operational Support unit requested “national security exceptions” which enable it to hide contracts for software it acquired. The force argued if the software was publicly procured, its capabilities might be defeated by people targeted for spying.

    At the same time, the RCMP emphasized that its software only seeks “open source” information online, implying that its sources were only those in the public domain.

    However, The Tyee investigation reveals that the force may consider any information it can acquire online, by any means, to be “open source.”

    Documents show that the RCMP purchased a license for a program that “unlocks” hidden friends for Facebook users who have set their friends to be private. The provider of Web Investigation Search Tool, used by police around the world, discontinued its operation after a Tyee report.

    The RCMP also listed “private communications” and those from “political protests” in a diagram of “darknet” sources, which it aimed to target with a “dark web crawler” and monitoring software.

    The internal documents obtained by The Tyee also contained references to programs that appear related to digital surveillance but outside of Project Wide Awake, including ones named Cerebro, Sentinel and Search, and a reference to “expansion of biometrics”.

    Here are some questions about the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operational Support unit the privacy commissioner inquiry might seek to resolve:

    What are the RCMP programs Cerebro, Sentinel and Search?

    Might the force be using more sophisticated information gathering methods than it has acknowledged?

    The RCMP mentioned programs Cerebro and Sentinel and Search alongside Project Wide Awake during a Tactical Internet Operational Support unit meeting agenda. The force did not respond to questions posed by The Tyee on these programs. What are the function and capabilities of these programs?

    What is the purpose and scope of the RCMP’s program ‘expansion of biometrics’?

    RCMP training materials associated with the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operational Support unit and Project Wide Awake included screenshots with a button labelled “image biometrics” and “audio biometrics” — terms associated with facial and voice recognition. The force also listed a project called “expansion of biometrics” in its progress reports.

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  168. The Tyee previously obtained the RCMP’s contract for controversial facial recognition software Clearview AI after the force denied it was using it.

    The Tyee has asked the RCMP about the “biometrics” reference in the documents but the force did not respond.

    What digital tools and features did the RCMP purchase along with Babel X from Babel Street security software maker?

    The Tyee obtained RCMP contract documents for internet monitoring suite Babel X. Babel X allows police forces to track and analyze sentiment, emotion and intent in postings throughout the web including sites requiring login credentials, intentionally encrypted (dark web) or otherwise hidden from search engines (called “deep web”), according to the company that makes it, Babel Street.

    The RCMP’s contracts with Babel X obtained by The Tyee indicate the force purchased “optional goods” from Babel Street as well — additional software or services. This section was blanked out in the FOI documents released, however, hiding those additional services.

    Does the RCMP circumvent privacy with other tools?

    Documents showed that the RCMP listed a tool which exposed friend lists Facebook users expected would remain private. The Tyee asked if the RCMP uses any other means to circumvent expectations of privacy but did not receive an answer.

    What is the RCMP ‘dark web crawler’ referred to in emails?

    The RCMP listed “private communications” and those related to “political protests” among components in its diagram of the dark web — encrypted and hidden parts of the internet — and also mentioned it was building a “dark web crawler.”

    What “capabilities” was the RCMP concerned could be ‘defeated’ if its software purchases were made public?

    Since the RCMP argues that it only seeks “open source” data on the web — content posted with no expectation of privacy — how might its tools and techniques being publicly known change the behaviour of anyone the force targets?

    Was the RCMP request for a national security exception for its advanced social media analytic platform begun in February 2019 denied? If so, what were the reasons given?

    Documents show the RCMP sought a national security exception for its purchase of Babel X in 2020 so that the software would not be revealed to the public. But months later, procurement for an advanced tool was posted on the RCMP’s site which requested features closely resembling advertised features of Babel X. The force selected Babel X as the bid winner.

    This suggests the force was denied a security exception. If this is so, why were previous licenses of Babel X, which the force used in Manitoba and Quebec, allowed to remain secret? Why, too, were purchases of other software tools, such as SAS or Social Studio on which the RCMP built advanced additional features, allowed to remain secret?

    RCMP on web spying roots

    A spokesperson for the RCMP told The Tyee in an email that the force was prompted to equip itself for social media spying by the MacNeil Report, an independent review of the murders of three officers in Moncton in 2014. The force, said the spokesperson, proceeded to procure “a real-time social media analysis tool to help identify operational risks, improve public communication and ultimately enhance the safety of the public and communities we are entrusted with policing.”

    The RCMP is in the process of an audit it requested of its open source information program and the results will be posted soon, said the spokesperson.


  169. BC Mountie fired for sexual messages to teen had previous misconduct complaints, suit alleges

    Brian Eden was dismissed from Richmond RCMP for hundreds of text messages to victim in sex assault case

    by Bethany Lindsay · CBC News · December 16, 2020

    A young woman who received hundreds of unwanted and sexually inappropriate text messages from an RCMP officer is suing the B.C. government, alleging a failure to investigate previous complaints of sexual misconduct against the now-former Mountie.

    The civil claim, filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Dec. 9 by a woman using the name Jane Doe, names the minister of public safety and ex-constable Brian Eden as defendants.

    "The minister knew or ought to have known of the risk of harm that Eden posed to female complainants of sexual assault, but failed to take … any reasonable steps to prevent that risk of harm from materializing," the claim says.

    Doe alleges that Eden's superiors "failed to adequately investigate credible complaints of sexual misconduct alleged against Eden before the misconduct in question."

    Eden was fired from the RCMP in 2017 because of his text messages to Doe. He was 40 years old at the time of the incident, while Doe was just 17.

    An RCMP conduct review board found Eden's "decision to pursue contact … via sexualized text messages" undermined public confidence in the force.

    The decision from the RCMP conduct board also confirmed a second incident around the same time in which Eden used police records to track down and ask a woman for coffee after issuing her a traffic ticket earlier in the day.

    Neither Eden, the ministry nor the RCMP have filed responses to the claim. Eden's current whereabouts and profession are unknown, according to Doe's claim.

    A spokesperson for the ministry said it would be inappropriate to comment while the case is before the courts. B.C. RCMP spokesperson Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said the force has not been served with the claim.

    'Substantial' harm alleged
    According to Doe's claim, she came into contact with Eden after reporting that she had been the victim of an aggravated sex assault by multiple male suspects in December 2014.

    Eden was part of the team assigned to investigate her case. Doe says she first spoke to him on the phone on Jan. 4, 2015 to provide more information about the people involved in the alleged assault.

    Following that first contact, Eden initiated "approximately 300 personal text message exchanges," according to the claim.

    Those messages "began with an invitation for coffee, and then escalated thereafter to include sexually suggestive comments and sexually inappropriate photographs," the claim says.

    The texts included messages calling the teen a "saucey little thing," and telling her to "send a pic," "im a fan of yoga pants ... hint lol," according to the decision from the RCMP conduct board.

    "Eden knew or ought to have known that the kind of psychological harm suffered by the plaintiff was substantially certain to follow," Doe's claim says.

    Those harms, according to Doe, include post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts, depression, difficulty trusting people in authority, low self-esteem, anxiety and sleep disturbances.

    Doe is asking for the court to hold the province vicariously liable for Eden's actions, accusing the ministry of negligence, willful blindness, recklessness and breach of fiduciary duty.


  170. Accused of sexual assault, RCMP officer told to get counselling after 'disturbing' email

    by Jason Proctor, CBC News February 23, 2021

    A B.C. Supreme Court judge has recommended that a Lower Mainland RCMP officer who was charged with sexually assaulting his spouse should get counselling after the "disturbing" details of one of his emails made it into the court record.

    The criminal charge against the officer was dropped last December in favour of a one-year peace bond issued because the alleged victim had "reasonable grounds to fear that the claimant would cause 'personal (psychological) injury' to her."

    The details of the allegations are contained in a family court judgment which resulted in an order for a shared parenting agreement.

    Justice Carla Forth cited an email written by the officer that was attached to the record filed in support of the peace bond. The judge said it contained "most inappropriate and offensive language" written toward the woman.

    "Most concerning in it are the attempts by [him] to dominate and control [her] in respect to sexual activities. The tone of the email is disturbing. It is understandable that [she] would be fearful of [him]," Forth wrote.

    "I am of the view that [he] should undertake some type of counselling to address the views he has expressed in this email, particularly in light of the position of trust and power he holds as an RCMP officer."

    Suspended with pay

    CBC is not naming the officer or his spouse because of the nature of the allegations and the interests of the couple's children. Forth's decision identifies them by initials only.

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  171. RCMP said the officer is suspended with pay while an internal code of conduct plays out.

    According to Forth's judgment, he "strongly denies the facts underlying" the allegation of sexual assault.

    The officer and his spouse, who are both 44, were married in 2006. She left the family home with the children for a transition house on May 1, 2020, after requesting the assistance of RCMP to leave.

    At that time, the woman made statements to RCMP investigators that resulted in a criminal charge being filed against the officer last August in relation to an alleged sexual assault from September 2019.

    The charge was stayed last December, and the officer agreed not to have contact, directly or indirectly with the alleged victim. The peace bond also forbids him from possessing a firearm apart from during the course of his work as a peace officer.

    'Skewed attitude' toward wife 'as a female'

    Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women's Support Services, says she is familiar with the case.

    She believes the attitudes and allegations outlined in the case should factor into custody decisions, and she also questions the officer's ability to do his job given what the judge described as his "skewed attitude" toward his wife "as a female."

    "Here is a case where the father appears to have performed sexualized violence on the mother and has done so from a point of view that the judge acknowledged was disparaging of women," she said.

    "And so we have to ask the question, why is the father's conduct with the mother not factored into the ability to parent?"

    According to the ruling, Forth said she saw "little evidence" to indicate that the officer would act in a violent way toward his spouse and none that he would be violent toward the children.

    The couple are in the process of getting a divorce. The woman initially sought sole guardianship but a shared parenting scheme was arrived at through a series of judges and the pair have now agreed to enter into mediation.

    Forth said the officer was engaged with the children in a "well-rounded" group of activities during the Christmas holidays and was up to speed on "how to parent during the pandemic."

    MacDougall said her group has established special support services for the wives of police officers who can find themselves isolated when trying to complain about sexual violence or domestic abuse.

    "We've actually had issues with police that have been known to have perpetrated domestic violence to their partners, who [the police officer] have then been investigators — as patrol members — on cases that have come to our attention, because we've been supporting the victim," MacDougall said.

    "And we've seen how the police have done a bad job investigating."

    An RCMP spokesperson said that the internal investigation was still under way and subject to the Privacy Act. They also said duty status is subject to regular assessment.


  172. Internal data shows surge in harassment complaints at Canada Revenue Agency and RCMP

    by Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press February 11, 2021

    Complaints of workplace harassment and violence have risen sharply at several federal departments and agencies in recent years, according to internal data.

    The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) saw harassment complaints jump 82 per cent to 166 between 2016-17 and 2018-19.

    The RCMP says it received 1,132 harassment complaints over a five-year period, with numbers increasing by more than 50 per cent between 2015 and 2017 before levelling off.

    The RCMP figures follow an independent report in November on misogyny and homophobia in its ranks that called for fundamental change to rid the Mounties of a toxic culture.

    At Canada Post, complaints about workplace violence have grown every year since at least 2011, doubling to 641 between 2011 and 2015 and swelling to 870 in 2019. Most of the complaints concern interactions with the public rather than fellow mail carriers.

    Harassment complaints filed to Fisheries and Oceans Canada shot up to 66 in 2018-19 from four in 2016-17.

    In a response to an order paper question from the NDP, the CRA said the figures "are not necessarily an indication of more discrimination and harassment" but rather the result of greater public awareness and beefed-up internal processes that encourage victims to come forward.

    "It is not clear whether these statistics can be attributed to an increase in reporting or an increase in incidents," Mary-Liz Power, press secretary for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair — who oversees the RCMP — said in an email.

    She highlighted efforts that include an Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution set to launch this summer and a management advisory board established in 2019 to identify internal policy improvements on violence and harassment at the police agency.

    New Democrats sought to link the higher complaint tallies to the Liberal government, which the NDP says has avoided reforms to ensure a healthier environment for federal employees.

    "In the context of the investigation report on the former governor general that led to her resignation ... the Liberals knew that federal workers were increasingly subjected to a toxic and insecure working climate and failed to take the right measures to improve the working conditions of civil servants," NDP labour critic Scott Duvall said in an email.

    The accusation comes after reports of habitual bullying and belittling of staff by Julie Payette, who stepped down as governor general last month.
    Rising complaints, rising workloads

    Duff Conacher, co-founder of the advocacy group Democracy Watch, said the federal integrity commissioner and a broader consciousness around workplace mistreatment have helped to root out bad actors, but the government has not followed through on recommendations from a parliamentary committee to protect whistleblowers in the public service.

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  173. A government operations committee report from 2017 sought to shield federal workers who speak up about wrongdoing, including harassment, through amendments that would prevent employer retaliation and shift the burden of proof from the whistleblower to the government in cases of reprisal.

    "You're going to have a lawyer paid for. You're going to be rewarded if your claims are found true. If they try to do anything to retaliate ... you'll get compensation for that," Conacher said of the would-be legislation. "In other words, you won't be on your own ... and you can do it anonymously.

    "Obviously that deters people from harassing people and abusing them in other ways, because you know that person is going to have a place to go that is dedicated to protecting them."

    Katherine Lippel, Canada research chair in occupational health and safety law at the University of Ottawa, said workplace harassment has ballooned over the past decade, partly as a result of rising workloads.

    Harassment, rather than relating exclusively to verbal abuse or violence, is "about not having enough time to do what you're supposed to do, being asked to do contradictory tasks, having no control of the workload, having very, very high demands," she said.

    Still, a growing recognition among employers of the psychological strain — and bad press — tied to toxic workplaces means new processes could prompt a flurry of complaints.

    "It might be very healthy that there's an increase in complaints. It might just be an indicator that the policies are working," Lippel said.
    Encouraging staff to speak out

    New workplace harassment and violence-prevention regulations under the Canada Labour Code came into effect Jan. 1. They include an increased focus on prevention and informal resolution.

    The Canada Revenue Agency pointed to its five-year-old Discrimination and Harassment Centre of Expertise, established as a way for employees to report discrimination and harassment.

    "Following the introduction of the DHCE, there was increased communication and awareness for employees," along with a more centralized approach to addressing discrimination and harassment complaints, CRA spokesperson Sylvie Branch said in an email.

    At Canada Post, roughly 70 per cent of the violence complaints filed by employees stemmed from "customers or the public being aggressive," agency spokesperson Jon Hamilton said in an email.

    About 20 per cent related to peer-to-peer interactions, while the rest concerned employee-supervisor incidents, he said, with both numbers plateauing in recent years.

    "Most often the cause is customer frustration due to factors beyond the control of the front line employee, such as delivery delays or a corporate policy," he said.

    Jane Deeks, a spokesperson for the minister of fisheries and oceans, said the department is striving "to move towards a harassment-free workplace."

    "Although an increase in numbers may spark concern, they also demonstrate our increased efforts to encourage employees to come forward, to address these issues and complaints, and to find a meaningful resolution," she said.


  174. Federal Court approves class-action lawsuit claiming RCMP doctors sexually assaulted recruits

    by Catharine Tunney, CBC News March 31, 2021

    Sylvie Corriveau has spent decades trying to sound the alarm over reports that some of the RCMP's designated doctors have sexually abused patients.

    She said she felt a sense of "personal vindication" last week after a Federal Court judge certified a class-action lawsuit in which she is the lead plaintiff. The lawsuit alleges the RCMP's designated physicians sexually assaulted applicants during mandatory physical examinations.

    "It's rewarding to be able to move this forward and know that some folks will get resolution," Corriveau said from her home in Fredericton, N.B., where she's living out her retirement.

    Justice Ann Marie McDonald issued a written decision late last week certifying the class-action lawsuit, which makes allegations of systemic negligence and breach of duty-of-care against the RCMP. A copy of her decision was made public recently.

    Corriveau, who worked as a civilian RCMP employee in the operational communications centre, said she was sexually assaulted by a doctor while applying to become a member of the force back in 1989.

    As part of the recruitment process, applicants must undergo a medical examination by a designated physician.

    In an affidavit filed as part of the class action certification process, Corriveau said she was sent to a doctor in Toronto who spent a considerable amount of time during her exam pinching her nipples in what he called "tweak tests."

    The allegations have not been proven in court.

    "It felt more like a sexual encounter than it did a physical, but all along he kept telling me that he had the last say in whether or not I got this job," she told CBC News on Tuesday.

    "I had already quit my job of 11 years and moved myself to Toronto. I needed this job. So I did what he asked me to do."

    After joining the force, she said, she heard that other women had similar experiences with the same doctor.
    RCMP was aware of allegations, court documents allege

    Corriveau said she contacted the RCMP Member Employee Assistance Program (MEAP) to report her experience. In her affidavit, she argues that the RCMP was aware of the assaults, failed to act on that knowledge, actively interfered with investigations, covered up complaints and condoned the behaviour.

    "We did really fight hard to try and stop this doctor and to prevent further abuse or neglect," she said.

    Eventually, nearly 30 women came forward alleging sexual assaults during their exams — but in 2019, sex crimes investigators with the Toronto Police Service said there were "no grounds" to lay criminal charges.

    Police said that investigators reviewed medical standards at the time and concluded there was a lack of evidence "to prove there was a sexual purpose" to the doctor's exams.

    The class action certification motion also notes that Halifax Police opened an investigation looking into allegations that another RCMP-designated doctor sexually assaulted applicants over a period of roughly 22 years. Police in that city also did not lay charges.

    McDonald's decision looked not at the evidence or facts in the case, but at whether it met the standard to be a class-action lawsuit.

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  175. The office of the Attorney General of Canada referred inquiries about a possible settlement to the RCMP. An RCMP spokesperson said one of the two physicians mentioned in the class action certification motion is now dead, and the other is no longer employed by the RCMP.

    "The RCMP takes all allegations of sexual assault, violence, and inappropriate behaviour seriously," said Robin Percival.

    "Canada consented to the certification of the common issues relating to negligence. The litigation is at a procedural stage, and the nature of the agreement on the consent order reflects a procedural rather than substantive agreement between the parties."
    'The trauma was so deep'

    Megan McPhee of Kim Spencer McPhee Barristers — the law firm representing Corriveau as the lead plaintiff — said hundreds of men and women have come forward so far.

    She said many of the applicants were either fresh out of high school or in their early 20s when they were assaulted.

    "They were being seen by a doctor who had such a high degree of control over them, and kept reminding them of that ... then suffered these terrible sexual assaults," she said.

    McPhee said the doctors were so well known that a whisper network emerged within the RCMP warning young recruits about "Dr. Tweakers" and "Dr. Fingers".

    "And yet young men and women continued to be sent to them," she said. "And some of them were so deeply affected they ultimately didn't end up joining the RCMP, the trauma was so deep."

    McPhee said it's too early to discuss compensation.

    "We're happy to see this certified, we're happy to see this is going ahead," she said. "We encourage any individual who wants to speak with us to share their stories. We'll keep all of that information confidential."
    Former judge urged compensation

    This class action would cover people who fell outside of the class definition for the historic Merlo-Davidson settlement, which covered all women who were harassed while working for the RCMP during and after September 1974.

    The independent assessor in that case, retired Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache, said he was shocked by the stories he heard about women suffering abuse at the hands of the RCMP's sanctioned doctors.

    "Vulnerable women, applying to the RCMP, their dream career, were subjected to 'prostate' rectal exams; their breasts were felt in a lingering and unprofessional manner; they were subjected to unnecessary and gratuitous vaginal 'exams,'" he wrote in his final report, released in November.

    "I was also told that the conduct of these doctors was known to other members of the RCMP. Indeed, one of the doctors was given the nickname Dr. Fingers by both male and female members. More than one claimant remembered being warned about the medical examination by others who had been through it.

    "It is incomprehensible to me that such conduct could be tolerated."

    Because many of these women were not members of the RCMP at the time of their examinations, they were not eligible to join the Merlo-Davidson lawsuit.

    "I strongly recommend that the RCMP provide compensation to these women," wrote Bastarache.


  176. Internal Emails Reveal RCMP’s Fragmented Response to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

    Lack of a co-ordinated strategy and careful monitoring undermines effort to end ‘genocide,’ say experts and advocates.

    by Amanda Follett Hosgood, The Tyee April 19 2021

    The RCMP responded this week to a Tyee freedom of information request filed a year ago that asked what it spends investigating cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

    The response — which only provides a portion of total costs — reveals a piecemeal approach and lack of national strategy to solve crimes against Indigenous females.

    Robert Gordon, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University, called the news surprising in light of growing awareness about violence against Indigenous women following Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which released a final report nearly two years ago.

    Tracking and sharing the information is a matter of “basic accountability,” he said.

    “The police are there, theoretically, to provide all of us with security and public safety,” Gordon said. “There needs to be an accounting of how much money was spent doing what, with what results.”

    Yet the response, received in a 54-page compilation of internal emails, indicates the force does not separately track cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women, despite calls for greater transparency and a new approach to its relationship with Indigenous communities.

    In March 2020, The Tyee requested the total resources spent investigating cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls between Jan. 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020.

    A tally of responses forwarded from divisions across Canada shows the RCMP spent just over $3.6 million during the 15-month period, a small slice of its $3.5-billion annual budget.

    However that total is incomplete and does not provide a full picture of how Canada’s national police force addresses what the national inquiry described as “genocide” against Indigenous women.

    In a March 2020 email to the RCMP’s access to information and privacy branch, the force’s national headquarters called the request “fairly impossible” to answer, noting that homicides and missing persons are investigated individually by the RCMP’s 13 divisions.

    Of those, responses were provided from just eight divisions — those in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C., the Yukon and Nunavut. Information was also provided by B.C.’s integrated homicide investigation team, which includes members from the RCMP and municipal forces.

    In addition, the RCMP’s sensitive and specialized investigative services reported 642 hours — about 16 weeks — spent supporting investigations into missing Indigenous child and adult females. It did not include a dollar amount.

    The divisions that did provide a cost summary only included additional expenses, such as travel and overtime, but not regular salaries, which are not tracked, many divisions noted.

    “As indicated, this is not indicative of the total number of person hours dedicated to these investigations,” an email from Alberta RCMP’s serious crimes branch said. “This is not information which is tracked.”

    No information was provided by RCMP divisions in Ontario and Quebec, which also have their own provincial police forces.

    In addition, divisions in the Northwest Territories, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, provinces that rely on RCMP for provincial policing, did not provide a response.

    The divisions that did respond showed expenses that ranged from just over $65,000 in the Yukon to $1.25 million in Alberta for things like “overtime, travel, covert investigations, and assistance from other police forces.”

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  177. Nunavut declined to provide a cost estimate at all.

    “We have no way of tracking the exact costs of these files and there is no system that I am aware of that monitors this either,” Cpl. Erik Lieng said in his response to the RCMP’s access to information and privacy branch.

    “I can say that during that time period we had two files meeting the below request,” Lieng added.

    Most divisions that provided a response showed similar case numbers.

    Both the Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador said they had investigated two cases during the time period; Saskatchewan reported six; the combined total for B.C.’s major crimes unit and integrated homicide investigations team was six; Nova Scotia revealed one case under investigation during the time period, a homicide.

    Manitoba and Alberta revealed significantly higher case numbers, at 36 and 23 cases, respectively.

    Lorraine Whitman, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said those numbers don’t mesh with the hundreds of families who shared their stories during the national inquiry and hundreds more who felt too traumatized to testify.

    “There’s hundreds, and even into the thousands. We do not have a proper database that’s been given to us,” she said.

    “How many have been moved on to cold files? We don’t know.”

    In a 2015 update, the RCMP reported 204 unsolved homicides and missing persons cases amongst Indigenous women in Canada.

    Whitman, who is based in Nova Scotia, said that province’s single case is likely Cassidy Bernard, a young mother from the We’koqma’q First Nation who was found dead in her home in October 2018. The high-profile nature of the case and pressure from the community resulted in an arrest in 2019, she said.

    Manitoba and Alberta, provinces that stood out as reporting higher-than-average case numbers, both have RCMP units dedicated to murdered and missing persons.

    Gordon said the discrepancy is “probably a counting issue” between distinct divisions.

    “In the absence of national co-ordination, there are going to be errors, and they can be fatal to any attempt to come up with a national picture,” he said.

    Gordon said lack of a co-ordinated approach and national data limits police effectiveness in dealing with the cases. He pointed to the investigation into the disappearance of women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside two decades ago as a case study in how multi-jurisdictional policing can hamper investigations.

    In 2001, the RCMP established Project Evenhanded to oversee investigations into the disappearances, which overlapped RCMP and Vancouver Police Department jurisdictions. Robert Pickton was arrested — and later convicted — in the deaths of six women the following year. He had been killing women for at least five years by then.

    “There was no co-ordination of effort until they realized that there was a serial killer at work,” Gordon said. “Then they decided that they should have been a more co-ordinated investigation.”

    Project Evenhanded has since been disbanded, but a 2012 inquiry outlined “critical police failures” during the Downtown Eastside disappearances, including “failure to address cross-jurisdictional issues and ineffective co-ordination between police forces and agencies.” In the report, commissioner Wally Oppal credited Project Evenhanded with improving communication between multiple branches of the RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department.

    The report notes that criminal activity can be obscured by jurisdictional boundaries, which create gaps in law enforcement and investigations.

    “There is no question that this was true in the missing women investigations, and the challenge to apprehend was exacerbated by poor communication and co-ordination between police forces and agencies involved in the investigations,” the report states.

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  178. “The missing women investigations failed, in large part, because the approach was always one of multiple investigations. No one was in charge of the case as a whole.”

    In an emailed response to The Tyee, the RCMP’s national headquarters said the force has begun to make changes to policies, procedures and training to address the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

    It pointed to $9.6 million received over five years, beginning in 2019, to support the National Office of Investigative Standards and Practices, which “acts as an internal RCMP centre of expertise and provides national oversight for high profile/major case investigations.”

    The national unit will not be specific to murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, it said, but will provide “advice, guidance and national oversight” to investigations, including those related to violence against Indigenous women.

    “By setting national standards and providing advanced investigative training, the NOISP will benefit all major case investigations — including cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls,” the email said.

    “As Indigenous females and other vulnerable persons are overrepresented as victims of high profile and major crimes, a significant proportion of the investigative support work of the NOISP will focus on cases involving Indigenous and vulnerable victims of crime in RCMP jurisdictions.”

    An email from the office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness also pointed to NOISP as “an integral tool in the governance, oversight, co-ordination and application of sound major case management principles to high-risk investigations” involving missing and murdered Indigenous women.

    “Reconciliation is a crucial priority for our government and we are working tirelessly to renew our relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect and co-operation,” press secretary Mary-Liz Power said.

    “We know that there is work left to do, and that we need to do better.”

    In addition, the RCMP is contributing to the federal government’s National Action Plan, which it said is aimed at addressing violence against Indigenous women, girls, Two Spirit and LGBTQQIA+ people.

    An email from the office of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations said the National Action Plan is a priority for the federal government. It will include contributions from all levels of government, including provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous, with the first part released by the Yukon government in December.

    “The resulting distinctions-based National Action Plan will be rooted in, and will address the unique needs, experiences, and cultural contexts of, Indigenous peoples and communities,” the email said.

    It did not provide an estimated completion date for the plan.

    Gordon said that while it’s easy to identify the crisis in hindsight, national institutions like the RCMP take some time to pivot toward a response.

    “I think what it does is to amplify the problems involved with the organization of police in this country,” he said, adding that Canada’s national police force also takes on contracts that range from municipal to international policing. “This complicates the picture beyond belief.”

    Whitman added that the disappearance of unknown numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women constitutes more than a crisis.

    “It’s genocide,” she said.

    Governments and institutions need to recognize that, she added.

    “It’s not going to change until we acknowledge the problem,” she said. “We all know it exists. But until we say, yes, it exists, how can we solve it?”


  179. MMIWG national action plan is an inadequate response to the crisis, say Indigenous women's advocates

    ‘Justice delayed is still justice denied,’ says Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson

    by Ka’nhehsí:io Deer · CBC News June 03, 2021

    Indigenous women's organizations and advocates say the newly released national action plan to end violence against Indigenous women and girls is not an adequate response to the crisis.

    "This is not a national action plan," Pamela Palmater, chair in Indigenous governance at Ryerson University in Toronto told CBC News.

    The plan, co-developed between federal and provincial governments, the National Families and Survivors Circle and several Indigenous partners, was released Thursday, the second anniversary of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

    The inquiry concluded that the violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls amounts to genocide and made 231 recommendations, or "calls for justice," including one for a national action plan to be developed.

    The 113-page plan is described as an "evergreen" living document and a first step. It includes 23 short-term priorities to start within the next one to three years such as public awareness campaigns, a nationwide emergency number and a national task force to review and re-investigate unresolved files of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S people.

    The federal government's role in the plan was also released in a separate 30-page document.

    Palmater was one of advocates who expressed concerns at a virtual news conference on Thursday. She said using the word "evergreen" signifies the lack of a plan.

    "That is a real disservice to Indigenous women and girls across this country to basically say that genocide is going to continue for a while until we can figure out an actual plan," she said.

    For others, the number of actions and timeframe identified is not enough.

    "Justice delayed is still justice denied," said Neskonlith Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

    "We can't wait three years for some of these priorities to be handed down. Since the national inquiry, hundreds of women have gone missing and murdered."

    The women who spoke at the news conference expressed concern about the exclusion of a number of Indigenous groups working directly with families and survivors, including the Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in B.C.

    "I'm very disappointed in how the federal government has conducted this," said Wilson.

    "It should have been more open, more transparent, more easy for groups to be a part of this but again we're looking from outside in and hoping that a plan is going to be meaningful and substantive."

    Earlier this week, the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) announced that it had stepped away from the process, calling it "toxic and dysfunctional."

    The Ontario Native Women's Association and Quebec Native Women were excluded from the process, despite numerous requests to government officials to join.

    "We never had any input," said Mary Hannaburg, vice-president of Quebec Native Women.

    "Our representation is not there. The needs of our grassroots women are not there."

    However, the women speaking at the news conference said it is important to differentiate between the work done by families and advocates that contributed to the action plan and the government's actions.

    "None of these families and advocates are responsible for genocide," said Palmater.

    "Canada is the one that needs to stand up and say 'We are responsible for historic and ongoing genocide. Here's the ways in which we're responsible and here are the steps that we are going to take for our part to end this.'"