Report alleges RCMP officers gang-raped B.C. woman, calls for action

The RCMP has been blasted by a human rights organization for failing to protect Indigenous women in northern British Columbia, including the victims of the “Highway of Tears” where dozens have been murdered or gone missing.

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The RCMP has been blasted by a human rights organization for failing to protect Indigenous women in northern British Columbia, including the victims of the “Highway of Tears” where dozens have been murdered or gone missing.

The report also claims Mounties have sexually assaulted Aboriginal women.

Human Rights Watch issued an 89-page report filled with details and first-hand accounts from women who allege they’ve been raped by Mounties, victims of excessive force and other abusive treatment.

“I feel so dirty…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,” according to one woman who told Human Rights Watch that in July 2012 four police officers took her to a remote location and raped her.

She said it wasn’t the first time. That police officers had raped her before and threatened to kill her if she said anything.

“The threat of domestic and random violence on one side, and mistreatment by RCMP officers on the other, leaves indigenous women in a constant state of insecurity,” said Meghan Rhoad, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “Where can they turn for help when the police are known to be unresponsive and, in some cases, abusive.”

Human Rights Watch said they conducted research along Highway 97 and the 724-kilometer stretch of Highway 16, better known as Highway of Tears.

Missing and murdered women along that stretch date back to the 1960s.

Human Rights Watch said interviewed 50 Indigenous women and girls last summer.

They conducted an additional 37 interviews with families of murdered and missing women, indigenous leaders, community service providers, and others across 10 communities.

When women complained they have faced ridicule.

“I will never forget that day,” said one mother whose 15-year-old daughter’s arm was broken by a police officer after the mother called the police for help during an argument between her daughter and her daughter’s abusive boyfriend. “It’s the worst thing I ever did. I wish I didn’t call.”

Human Rights Watch wrote to the RCMP last fall to advise them of their research.

RCMP Chief Supt. Janice Armstrong said in a statement they take these allegations seriously.

“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,” said Armstrong. “We also explained that complaints could be made to the RCMP directly, to the Commission of Public Complaints against the RCMP or to other independent investigative bodies without fear of retaliation.”

Human Rights Watch believes there needs to be accountability by the police.

“It’s about the lack of meaningful accountability for police neglect or police mistreatment which creates an environment of impunity for violence against Indigenous women and girls,” said Rhoad.

It comes down to lack will said Kim Pate of the Elizabeth Fry Society.

“Federal, provincial, territorial, we’re seeing a lack of will overall in term of addressing these issues,” said Pate.

The Assembly of First Nations said the stories shared in the report are appalling.

“The stories shared in this report are heart-wrenching and absolutely appalling, particularly given this is only a small sample of the conditions and experiences of Indigenous women, girls and families across our territories,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo in a release. “I commend the courage of all those who’ve shared their stories, and continue to urge others aware of violence or misconduct to speak up. We cannot accept violence against or among our peoples. We owe it to the families who’ve lost loved ones, and to our children and future generations to achieve safe and secure communities for our kids to learn, grow and thrive.”

Online Producer / Ottawa

Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.

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