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Sean Kilpatrick, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Meghan Rhoad, women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 13, 2013. The press conference was regarding the release of her report titled "Those Who Take Us Away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada."

Human Rights Watch Details Alleged Abuse, Rape, of Aboriginal Women by RCMP Officers in British Columbia

David P. Ball
2/14/13

Explosive allegations of gang rape, widespread abuse and anti-Native racism have rocked Canada's national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which vowed on February 13 to investigate the claims by one of the world's leading rights groups.

According to a shocking report released on Wednesday by the respected U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW)—which interviewed 50 aboriginal women and girls in numerous communities for its research—police officers gang raped one woman, stripped, sexually abused or raped several detainees in custody, and created a “constant state of fear” in victims.

The report, “Those Who Take Us Away,” details accounts of alleged widespread abuse by the RCMP.

This report “was about the level of fear that I and my colleague witnessed in the north at levels that we found comparable in conflict situations in post-war Iraq,” Meghan Rhoad, HRW's lead researcher for the report, said. “It’s about the lack of meaningful accountability for police neglect or police mistreatment, which creates an environment of impunity for violence against ingenious woman and girls.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was forced to respond to the charges in the House of Commons by both opposition parties, the New Democrats and Liberals, a sign that the allegations have further tarnished Canada's national police force.

“The allegation we receive relative to the RCMP is apparently that the RCMP won’t investigate something,” Harper said in Parliament today. “That is why we’ve given the appropriate information to the RCMP complaints commission. If Human Rights Watch, the Liberal Party, or anyone else is aware of serious allegations involving criminal activity, they should give that information to appropriate police so they can investigate it.”

On HRW's website, the alleged police misconduct was the top story, alongside a report on a massacre in Yemen and severe political violence in Kenya. The research comes amid escalating demands for a national public inquiry into the more than 600 missing and murdered aboriginal women documented by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC). Its research, however, stagnated after Harper scrapped funding for the Sister in Spirit project, the campaign that first brought national recognition to the issue of violence against Native women with carefully compiled statistics.

RCMP Chief Superintendent Janice Armstrong pledged to investigate the allegations—which have not been proven in court—but said that police cannot do so if the complainants remain anonymous. HRW replied that a “culture of fear” is widespread with police in northern communities, where many women fear retaliation or even further abuse if they step forward.

“In a written response to a series of questions posed by Human Rights Watch in fall 2012, the RCMP emphasized the seriousness of allegations of police misconduct and that these allegations must be brought forward for proper investigation,” Armstrong said in a statement. “It is impossible to deal with such public and serious complaints when we have no method to determine who the victims or the accused are.”

But the RCMP said it has no intention of launching a “large-scale inquiry” into the accusations, deferring the matter to the newly formed B.C. Independent Investigations Office, which responds to misconduct claims.

The 90-page report is the result of 87 interviews with 50 indigenous women and girls between 15 and 60 years old in at least 10 communities.

The reports findings include allegations that one woman, identified as “Gabriella P.,” was gang raped by four officers last year, who allegedly threatened her with death if she reported the assault.

“I feel so dirty,” the tearful woman told HRW. “They threatened that if I told anybody they would take me out to the mountains and kill me and make it look like an accident.”

As well, two separate 12 year olds reported being tasered, pepper-sprayed, or attacked with police dogs. Another woman in Prince George alleged she was arrested and taken to a basement by RCMP officers, who she claimed stripped, drugged and sodomized her, then threatened to murder or “disappear” her family members. 

“I just went home and cried,” the woman told HRW. “Why did this happen to me? Why didn’t they just leave me on the street?”

The rights group said it did not report the incidents with police because of the survivors' fears of retaliation.

“Human Rights Watch was struck by the level of fear on the part of women we met to talk about sexual abuse inflicted by police officers,” the report states. “The lack of faith that victims have in the safety and effectiveness of current complaint processes, coupled with the exclusion of rape and sexual assault from the mandate of the new B.C. Independent Investigations Office, leaves victims of egregious abuse without a place to turn.”

The organization described the treatment of aboriginal women, particularly in rural communities, as a “well-publicized stain on Canada’s human-rights record.”

“What this report does is adds to what’s already known,” Sharon McIvor, with the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, said in a statement. “We know that that police don’t respond when indigenous women and girls are missing or murdered in an appropriate way. What this does is it adds to the list of perpetrators. Every one of the stories in the report should not have happened.”

The disturbing allegations are not the first time the RCMP has faced criticism in B.C. In December, the province's Missing Women Commission of Inquiry found the force was guilty of “colossal failure” in its handling of the investigation of numerous reports of missing aboriginal women in the case of serial killer Robert Pickton.

The criticisms come after years of declining confidence in the police force, which has long been held up as a symbol of Canadian culture and stability but has been marred by scandal.

“Hopefully,” Rhoad said, “this will be a turning point in their response to both the accusations of neglect and the allegations of mistreatment. We’ll see in the coming days and weeks and months how exactly that apparent serious consideration of the report translates into action.”

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Justin's picture
Justin
Submitted by Justin on
The rcmp, unable to keep it in their pants, for far too long. Time for a public inquiry!

robin neil's picture
robin neil
Submitted by robin neil on
I lived in Prince Rupert for 20 years and worked for 3 years as a night desk clerk in the downtown. I spent many nights with native woman who told me horror stories of not only woman but all natives that where abused by RCMP and the death of there realitives while under arrest. I had a roommate while i was going back to school, he had an fight in a bar with an off duty officer. a few days later he came home white as a ghost and was packing his stuff and getting out of town he told me that the officer while on duty had arrested him and drove him to a remote location and told him that if he did not leave town the next time they took him for a ride he would not be coming back. he was trying to sell his income tax return to a ferind to get out of town he had wife and child that he was going to leave behind this was what made me beleive his story as he loved them both. He was not able to get out of town and was arrested and put in jail where he supposedly killed himself. This was investgated by the RCMP and of course they where found no RCMP invovlement. I also know of a case where the police raided a party and chased down a young man how was held down while one of there dogs was allowed to chew on him what brought this to mind was one of the pictures of a girl that they had done this to. I had a shift at the hotel that was 12am to 8 am I would see them arrest natives for things that just a few hours before I they let white people get away with, for example anative walking down the street with a stager was arrested and bouncing his head off the door of the car as they put him in it, then a white guy passed out on the sidewalk for a long time when they did deal with him after waking him they offered him a ride home. I think that it is a shame they investgative team from USA can see what is going on here but the people that are in charge here cover this things up. how long are we going to allow these men in thire uniforms of brutality to treat these natives as there punching bags and raping them. Stop the voilence

indianmedicine's picture
indianmedicine
Submitted by indianmedicine on
I read the THREAD & COMMENTS, and I am appalled at the alleged Conduct by Law Enforcement Officers; and in particular The RCMP that had an Outstanding Professional Reputation Internationally. I am a Hon.Ret, U.S. Peace Officer; and have worked at Local,State and Federal levels. I have arrested and prosecuted Former Law Enforcement for "Sex Crimes". It does bother Professional Men & Women; when the Sacred Trust given to Law Enforcement is violated. From the statements, these are not isolated events; but a clear "Pattern of Conduct". As presented by responding RCMP Superior Officers, if a timely complaint is not made where physical evidence can be collected - it is a "Hard Case" to prove to a Court of Law. There are ways to locate "Trace Evidence in a "Hard Case, or Cold Case". Forensic Behavioral Science is a branch of "Investigations" that can locate tangible Trace Evidence in Homicide Cases. There are "Trained & Experienced Mediums" that do this type of Work for Law Enforcement in The United States. The Sword cuts both ways; and evidence can be found where a Wrongly Accused individual can be cleared of any Wrong Doing. Minorities in any Nation face a difficult time in Stating A Case - but there is the ability to obtain some sort of "Justice" by Reverse Engineering a Crime Scene. I do not care if my comments make print; but I do care that this knowledge be presented to the "Tribal Counsels" and Organizations to do something positive in addressing this issue. I am truly disappointed in the lack of Professional Response and Policy of The RCMP, as a Peace Officer. Let this Petition also be a Prayer to The Creator, to put this before those that will do something about these Cases. My condolences to the Victims & Families that have suffered these issues, without any hope of closure. To understand what a Medium can do with an "Forensic Investigation Approach", I would suggest you look at the Movie "Suspect Zero"; which was made some years ago with the assistance of a Trained Military Remote Viewer. Also "Google" Technical Remote Viewing" on the Internet for further Information. I am sure there are "Peace Officers" in Canada that believe as I do, that Law Enforcement is Honorable; and separate "The Shadow Walkers" from those that Walk In The Light. With Respect, Indian Medicine

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Let our people handle these beasts. Our ancestors had just the right way to deal with such crimnals. I think most here know exactly what I'm talking about. Idle No More folks, let the world here about this aspect of life for our people at the hands of washichu law enforcement. They say, " Justice for all", only if you can pass as white it seems. The more time goes by the more our people are abused by the very ones who are supposed to take care of us as guaranteed by the various treaties. That's right, washichu's made the treaties as worthless as some of them are!

anonymous's picture
anonymous
Submitted by anonymous on
This is when the natives should record their stories on tape, or in writing. Then when they are able to have the documents to back up their stories, make it known to the world community. Surely, they have writers and reporters up there. Finally, it is extremely important to be united. The worst thing to happen would be to let anyone drive a wedge between the people in those communities.

Golden Eagle's picture
Golden Eagle
Submitted by Golden Eagle on
Yes! It is about time Aboriginal people are vocalizing what has been done to them by the police. For years we have suffered discrimination and racist acts by police. It does not matter whether one is working for the RCMP or at the proviincial level: police is police. I hope Aboriginal people of Canada continue to vocalize and take action against the criminal acts done to them by the police of this country. Far too long we have suffered in silence. It is truly appalling that we as Aboriginal people cannot entrust our lives to the police for fear that they might also end up hurting us. The police were set up to protect us...and the very same people that were set up to protect us from harm are the same people that have abused us!

Ken Brunton's picture
Ken Brunton
Submitted by Ken Brunton on
Why am I not surprised? White men have been abusing their power and local populations since Christopher Columbus first set foot in America. I am ashamed of what White people have done in such situations, often in the name of religion. Not only in North America but South America, Africa and throughout the World. I'm more than surprised that indigenous people even speak to us anymore! Then of course there have been treaties. Wow! The US broke every treaty they ever made with the Indians. I have cheered for the Indians and not Roy Rogers ever since I was a child.
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