Kelowna RCMP’s ‘heinous’ treatment of Indigenous teen disclosing abuse ‘a pattern’

Video shows a male officer asking pointed questions of a young woman describing a sexual assault

B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond speaks to a reporter in Vancouver on November 13, 2015. B.C.’s former child representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says the “heinous” treatment of an Indigenous teenager during a 2012 RCMP interrogation reflects a pattern she has seen over and over. On Wednesday, politicians expressed outrage after APTN published a 2012 video of a male officer asking pointed questions of a young woman disclosing a sexual assault experienced in the B.C. foster care system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C.’s former child representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says the “heinous” treatment of an Indigenous teenager during a 2012 interrogation by an RCMP officer reflects a pattern she has seen over and over.

In recent days, politicians have expressed outrage after APTN published a video of a male officer asking pointed questions of a young woman describing a sexual assault she said she experienced in the B.C. foster-care system.

“Were you at all turned on during this at all, even a little bit?” the officer can be heard saying in the video.

“No,” the young woman replies.

“Physically, you weren’t at all responsive to his advances, even, maybe, subconsciously?” the officer says.

“Maybe subconsciously, but no … I was really scared,” she says.

Upon the video’s release, as a result of a current lawsuit, politicians were quick to convey outrage, including on the floor of the House of Commons.

READ MORE: Kelowna RCMP under fire after video shows officer interrogating Indigenous girl who reported sex assault

During question period, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Wednesday that its contents were ”absolutely abhorrent” after he was asked about it by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

“The apparent attitudes and techniques that were on display in 2012 are profoundly outdated, offensive and wrong,” said Goodale, the minister responsible for the RCMP, to applause from MPs on both sides of the House.

B.C.’s Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy said Thursday the video is “sickening and horrible.”

“Women, especially Indigenous women and girls, face many barriers in reporting sexual violence,” she said in a statement. “We must do everything possible to reduce those barriers and protect survivors of sexual violence.”

While the video may have generated shock, it is far from an isolated case, Turpel-Lafond told The Canadian Press, adding that provincial and federal politicians know well there has been ”major difficulty” with this issue for some time.

“The heinous way in which this young person was treated, being alone in an interrogation room, being treated as though she was a criminal, not a victim, and also the poor training, the suggestion that somehow a victim of sexualized violence is enjoying the sexualized violence, this is so fundamentally offensive but is a pattern I’ve seen again and again and that we need to address,” Turpel-Lafond, now a law professor at the University of British Columbia, said in an interview.

In 2016, she produced a report showing at least 109 girls were the victims of sexualized violence while in government foster care and that 74 of them were Aboriginal. The case of the teen in the 2012 recording was among them.

“My experience has indicated to me that this has been an issue for some time and it should be known to be an issue,” Turpel-Lafond said. “There was a comprehensive reporting.”

Young women who face sexualized violence and then get inappropriate responses by police are less likely to get support and more likely to be preyed upon, she said, adding an effective complaints process for such treatment is sorely lacking.

Turpel-Lafond said young people being abused in foster care often can’t find a way to bring it to official attention.

“We don’t have an easy process for young people in care or Indigenous girls and women to bring their issues forward, to be taken seriously, to be dealt with in a rapid way,” she said. “It takes years and years and lawsuits.”

Policing is expected to be a major theme highlighted in the forthcoming report on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, set to be released publicly on June 3 in Gatineau, Que.

Racism, sexism and victim-blaming were raised during pre-inquiry gatherings before the commission began its work, Crown-Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Thursday.

There has been an acknowledgment of these issues particularly by the RCMP, Bennett said, noting a 2017 report produced by the force to help strengthen police training and awareness.

“We also hope that all other police forces will be very intentional about this and take this all very seriously, not only in recruiting but in training and consequences at any incident,” she said.

– With files from Laura Kane in Vancouver

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Giants to stream 2007 Memorial Cup championship game Saturday night

Giants versus Medicine Hat Tigers can be viewed on YouTube at 7 p.m.

Award-winning gospel singer Carolyn Arends releases COVID-inspired song

‘After This’ blends footage of Arends performance with video of residents and empty Langley streets

Nearly 6,200 Langley students set to return to school June 1

School district shared COVID-19 update during board meeting

Langley Lodge ordered to swab all residents staff, new cases discovered

Four new cases – two residents and two staff – have been confirmed at the long-term care home

Aldergrove zoo to reopen Monday with new COVID-19 safety measures: spokesperson

June 1 reopening to be ushered in by words from Darryl Plecas, Legislative assembly Speaker

Influx of cross-border visitors to Peace Arch Park sparks concern COVID-19 could spike

Police, parks officials say patrols, education and signage have all been increased

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Langley Advance Times to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

B.C.’s police watchdog probing death of Richmond man in alleged shoplifting incident

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is asking any witnesses to come forward

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Yukon ready to lift COVID travel restrictions with B.C. in July: premier

Premier Sandy Silver says the territory’s health-care system can cope with the virus.

‘It is dire:’ Study finds B.C. logging continues on critical caribou habitat

The federal Species At Risk Act requires provinces to identify critical habitat for caribou herds

Most Read