In its failure to deal appropriately with a police constable who was raped by a colleague, the Kativik Regional Police Force in northern Quebec has let down the officer, besmirched its reputation, and eroded public confidence in its ability to protect the community.
The officer, Denise Robinson, was raped by Special Constable Joe Willie Saunders in Kuujjuaq, an Inuit community where they both worked, following a party on Feb. 5, 2010. She was intoxicated at the time and Mr. Saunders was on duty. He pleaded guilty on the eve of the trial last August, and is serving an 18-month prison term.
And yet, up until his sentencing, Mr. Saunders remained on the force, after a three-month suspension. In contrast, Ms. Robinson, who reported the assault, was told to use vacation days to travel to Montreal for an immediate psychiatric exam and that she could not return to work until the medical evaluation was complete. She felt totally abandoned. “Every fear a rape victim should not have to feel – remorse, shame, abandonment – I have had to repeatedly endure. I was betrayed by one of my fellow officers, on duty, sworn to protect the public,” she said in her victim impact statement.
Just as the RCMP has had to change its internal culture and procedures following a class-action lawsuit launched by more than 150 female members alleging gender discrimination, so too the Kitivik police must enact reforms of its own. The resources and expertise of a regional police force are far smaller than a national one. But the Kativik force could still promote change from within and enact a stronger code of ethics. Created in 1996 to address the special policing needs of the North, the force pledges on its web site a commitment to impartiality in the execution of policing services and the promotion of a responsible work environment. In its treatment of Const. Robinson, it fell far short of this mandate.