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. 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

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Rain clouds were absent for most of April in the West Kootenay. Photo: Betsy Kline
April precipitation only one-third of normal in West Kootenay

Third month in a row with below average rain fall

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

Central Mountain Air will be flying seven days a week this summer. Photo: Betsy Kline
Central Mountain Air increases Castlegar flights

West Kootenay Regional Airport will see flights to Vancouver seven days a week this summer

Photo: RCMP
Rossland pedestrian dies after being pinned between 2 vehicles

RCMP Sgt. advises that victim services is available for anyone requiring help

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

Most Read