A Kelowna woman says she refuses to accept a written apology issued by local RCMP after reporting a sexual assault only to be told by an officer that investigating her report “wasn’t worth her time.”
The woman, who spoke to Black Press Media on the condition of anonymity, said she was assaulted by a fellow resident advisor at the UBC Okanagan campus in September 2019. She detailed the assault to the RCMP in hopes of an investigation in May 2020.
But according to a review into a complaint filed by the woman to the RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, an investigation wasn’t opened.
Kelowna RCMP Const. Lesley Smith was head officer in the case, according to the review files obtained by Black Press Media. Smith was found to have told the woman that an investigation wasn’t worth RCMP time, instead offering to educate the survivor on “how not to have sex”.
The review concluded that Smith was neglectful in her duty as an officer, as well as that she had an improper attitude by questioning the professionalism of the woman’s counsellor, who was with the woman when she disclosed the assault to police.
Smith also documented in the case file, which was obtained by the Complaints Comissioner, that the survivor did not want to pursue charges. However, a subsequent investigation by Kelowna RCMP’s Sex Crimes Unit has resulted in charges being recommended to the B.C. Prosecution Service.
Charges have not yet been laid as of Nov. 23.
Supt. Kara Triance supported all the allegations made against Smith and issued a written apology to the survivor, which was included in the final report.
In the apology, Triance confirmed that Smith received operational guidance from higher ranking officials in September, and “has been made aware of my expectations regarding future sexual assault investigations.”
Smith has since left the RCMP.
In an interview with Black Press Media, the woman said she never received a direct apology from Smith.
“An apology doesn’t really do anything. It would mean more if it came from Const. Smith but she’s refused it every step of the way… She didn’t want to meet with me or anything. The whole apology seems kind of hollow,” she said.
“I don’t trust the police anymore at all.”
This isn’t the first time Kelowna RCMP has been questioned for their investigation protocols when dealing with sexual assaults.
Since 2020, the Kelowna RCMP has dealt with community backlash over its high number of sexual assault reports deemed ‘unfounded’, highly publicized incidents showing alleged excessive force used by officers, all as at least two Mounties —one who’s resigned before an internal code of conduct hearing and one former — make their way through court on criminal charges and others face civil lawsuits.
The woman said that had the detachment truly made improvements to holding officers accountable, Smith would have been investigated further.
“I don’t necessarily trust that they’ve shifted their attitudes in a healthy way regarding sexual assault.”
After Capital News reached out to the Kelowna RCMP, they released a media statement saying they are working with UBCO and Okanagan College to educate students on safety and crime prevention. Kelowna RCMP also adopted a “Start by Believing” pledge committing to end the cycle of silence and change their response to sexual assault.
“Going forward we continue to invest in our officers, our supervisors, in training, and in processes of accountability and review. We are committed to working with partners who support survivors of violence to ensure a trauma-informed response and police accountability,” Triance said.
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