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Unfounded review survey results

unfounded

What is your police service doing about sexual assault?

In response to a Globe and Mail investigation into how Canadian police services handle sexual assault cases, law enforcement and government officials vowed action. But change looks different depending on where you are in the country

After The Globe reported that police dismiss 1 in 5 sexual assault complaints as unfounded, at least 100 police services across the country launched reviews of previously closed cases.
As a result of those reviews, police have reopened 402 unfounded sexual assault cases.
And police have determined 6,348 unfounded sexual assault cases were misclassified.
To date, police have put 19,717 unfounded sexual assault cases under review.
Further, many police services opted to expand their review to other types of sexual assault files, such as cases that were “founded” but not solved. In total, 37,272 sexual assault cases have been — or will soon be — reviewed.

The background

In February 2017, The Globe and Mail launched Unfounded, an investigative series that looked at how Canadian police services handle sexual assault cases. Since then, police departments from across the country have pledged to review thousands of previously closed cases, as well as their policies, practices and training around sexual assault investigations. To get a better understanding of the nature and scope of these reviews, The Globe sent an 18-question survey to 177 police services.

In total, 89 police services — including most of Canada’s largest forces, such as the RCMP, OPP and Sûreté du Québec — responded to The Globe’s questions in some way. In certain cases where a police service may have declined to participate in the survey, The Globe was able to track down relevant information through local media reports or from the respective police services boards. Read the methodology

Through the survey results, The Globe and Mail determined that 6,457 of the sexual assault cases that police services have reviewed to date had been misclassified. Of those, the vast majority — all but 109 — had been designated as “unfounded.” (Unfounded is a police term that means the investigating officer does not believe a crime occurred or was attempted.) In fact, the surveys showed that 32 per cent of the unfounded cases had been incorrectly coded. This is especially significant as — prior to the Globe’s investigation — once an investigation was dismissed as unfounded, it was not reported to Statistics Canada, meaning the complaint would essentially disappear from public record. (Statistics Canada has since announced it will begin collecting and publishing unfounded data as early as the summer of 2018.)

Our full findings are below. You can also use the search bar above to find out how your police service responded to the Globe’s survey.

A national snapshot

Roughly half of Canada's police services are doing sexual assault case reviews.

100

Services have done or are doing

a review

13

Services are not doing a review

64

Services’ review status unknown

13

64

100

Services have done or are doing

a review

Services are not doing a review

Services’ review status unknown

100

64

13

Services have done or are doing a review

Services’ review status unknown

Services are not doing a review

The law enforcement agencies doing reviews collectively police 79 per cent of Canada’s population. But these police services have approached their reviews differently. In total, 29 per cent of Canada’s population is being policed by a force that only used their own internal, “sworn” uniformed officers in their review. That’s 42 services. But many police services broadened their review teams to include individuals such as Crown attorneys, violence against women advocates, victim services workers and health care professionals — among others. Use the search bar above to see who was involved in your police service’s review.

New practices

In addition to posing specific questions about each service’s review process and its findings, the Globe’s survey addressed potential changes to police policy around sexual assault investigations. There were two areas in which significant change is being made. One, new oversight models going forward, specifically, the inclusion of individuals who regularly work in the area of violence against women [VAW advocates]. Two, training measures that incorporate new science around how the body responds to trauma.

51 per cent of Canadians live in a community where their police service is doing, planning or considering adopting some form of VAW case review inspired by the so-called “Philadelphia Model.”

The Philadelphia Model is an oversight program, now in its 17th year in that city, in which VAW advocates are given full access to police sexual assault files to look for signs of bias and investigative missteps. Since its inception, the unfounded rate for rape cases in Philadelphia has dropped from 18 per cent to 4 per cent. In Canada, 28 police services are doing, planning or considering reviews that involve VAW advocates.

These 13 services did or are doing reviews that involve VAW advocates
These 15 services are planning or considering VAW reviews going forward
Brantford Police Service: The [Philadelphia Model] anticipates ‘improved relationships between police and advocates’; and any skepticism that I may have held about that claim previously is allayed. — Joanna Brant, the Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant and a VAW advocate who was part of Brantford’s review committee, is quoted as saying in the Brantford Police Service’s survey.
52 per cent of Canadians live in a community where the police service has either already implemented —or is actively planning —trauma-informed training.

Following the Globe’s Unfounded series, experts who regularly work with sexual assault complainants urged police services to implement a “trauma-informed approach” to investigations, particularly when it comes to interviewing complainants. Neurobiological studies over decades have shown that the fear response that kicks in during traumatic experiences, such as a sexual assault, can alter the ways the brain operates, impacting a person’s behaviour at the time of an attack as well as their ability to recount it after the fact. Across Canada, 26 police services have implemented or are planning trauma-informed training.

These 11 services have already implemented trauma-informed training
These 15 are planning trauma-informed training
Regina Police Service: We understand that the questions we ask are intrusive. We know victims will wonder why we are challenging every aspect of their stories. We know we must take the time and care to explain so that victims don’t interpret our actions as disbelief. We must help them understand the steps that must be taken to build a case to go forward to prosecution. The case has to withstand challenge by the defence, so our job is to clarify and support every aspect of the victim’s experience. We cannot make improvement unless we recognize and acknowledge we can do better. — Regina Police Service wrote in their response to our survey.

Findings by province

In its original “Unfounded” report, the Globe and Mail determined that one out of every five sexual assaults was being dismissed as unfounded, but that the rate fluctuated dramatically from town to town, city to city and province to province. For example, New Brunswick’s unfounded rate was 32 per cent, while British Columbia’s was 11 per cent. The Globe’s survey has found that the police response to the issues raised in the Unfounded series is equally disparate.

Police services in all the provinces and territories that had unfounded rates above the national rate were either asked or encouraged to undertake reviews by their respective government bodies.

Unfounded sexual-assault rate by province and territory

Percentage of sexual-assault allegations cleared as unfounded (2010-2014)

19% national rate

32

N.B

Services in provinces with rates above the national rate of 19% were ordered or encouraged to do a review

30

N.W.T.

28

Nvt.

27

P.E.I.

25

N.S.

25

Ont

25

Yuk.

Sask.

19

Alta.

18

Que.

17

Nfld.

16

Man

14

B.C.

11

19% national rate

N.B

32

Services in provinces with rates above the national rate of 19% were ordered or encouraged to do a review

N.W.T.

30

Nvt.

28

P.E.I.

27

N.S.

25

Ont

25

Yuk.

25

Sask.

19

Alta.

18

Que.

17

Nfld.

16

Man

14

B.C.

11

19% national rate

New Brunswick

32

Services in provinces with rates above the national rate of 19% were ordered or encouraged to do a review

Northwest Territories

30

Nunavut

28

Prince Edward Island

27

Nova Scotia

25

Ontario

25

Yukon

25

Saskatchewan

19

Alberta

18

Quebec

17

Newfoundland and Labrador

16

Manitoba

14

British Columbia

11

The national rate covers 89 per cent of Canada's population. The percentage of the population covered in each province is as follows. N.B. 95%, N.W.T 100%, Nunavut 100%, P.E.I 73%, N.S. 99%, Ont. 99%, Yukon 100%, Sask. 97%, Alta. 66%, Que. 73%, Nfld. 100%, Man. 82%, B.C. 100%.

The Globe’s survey revealed that police services in every single province are conducting case reviews, although the majority of audits involving VAW advocates are taking place in Ontario. The survey also reveals that there is not necessarily an overlap between the police services that are working on trauma-informed training and the ones that are doing VAW review.

Services doing

a review (%)

Total number

of services

12

B.C.

100%

Alta.

10

70

10

Sask.

60

8

Man.

13

62

71

Ont.

51

16

Que.

9

100

N.B.

10

80

N.S.

3

100

P.E.I.

1

100

Nfld.

Total number

of services

VAW advocate review current or future (%)

12

0%

B.C.

10

Alta.

10

0

10

Sask.

0

8

Man.

62

35.5

Ont.

3.9

51

Que.

11.1

9

N.B.

10

10

N.S.

0

3

P.E.I.

0

1

Nfld.

Trauma-informed training implemented or planned (%)

Total number

of services

0%

B.C.

12

30

Alta.

10

20

Sask.

10

0

8

Man.

27.4

62

Ont.

0

51

Que.

11.1

9

N.B.

20

10

N.S.

0

3

P.E.I.

0

1

Nfld.

Services doing

a review (%)

Total number

of services

12

B.C.

100%

Alta.

10

70

10

Sask.

60

8

13

Man.

62

71

Ont.

51

16

Que.

9

100

N.B.

10

80

N.S.

3

100

P.E.I.

1

100

Nfld.

Total number

of services

VAW advocate review current or future (%)

12

0%

B.C.

10

Alta.

10

0

10

Sask.

0

8

Man.

35.5

62

Ont.

3.9

51

Que.

11.1

9

N.B.

10

10

N.S.

0

3

P.E.I.

0

1

Nfld.

Total number

of services

Trauma-informed training implemented or planned (%)

0%

B.C.

12

30

Alta.

10

20

Sask.

10

0

8

Man.

62

27.4

Ont.

0

51

Que.

11.1

9

N.B.

20

10

N.S.

0

3

P.E.I.

0

1

Nfld.

Trauma-informed training implemented or planned (%)

VAW advocate

review current or future (%)

Services doing

a review (%)

Total number

of services

British Columbia

12

0%

0%

100%

Alberta

10

30

10

70

Saskatchewan

10

0

20

60

8

0

0

Manitoba

13

62

71

35.5

27.4

Ontario

51

3.9

0

Quebec

16

9

100

11.1

11.1

New Brunswick

10

20

80

Nova Scotia

10

0

0

3

100

Prince Edward Island

0

0

100

1

Newfoundland and Labrador

The rate at which each province’s police services participated in our survey in some way is as follows: B.C. - 0 per cent; Alta. - 70 per cent; Sask. - 80 per cent; Man. - 50 per cent; Ont. - 60 per cent; Que. - 26 per cent; N.B. - 100 per cent; N.S. - 80 per cent; P.E.I. - 33 per cent; Nfld. - 100 per cent. The percent of each province’s population covered by the service’s responses is: B.C. - 0 per cent; Alta. - 95 per cent; Sask. - 99 per cent; Man. - 97 per cent; Ont. - 64 per cent; Que. - 66 per cent; N.B. - 100 per cent; N.S. - 90 per cent; P.E.I. - 3 per cent; Nfld. - 100 per cent.

Canada’s largest police service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which serves as a provincial or municipal police body in numerous provinces and territories, is not included in our provincial breakdown. Although the Globe’s initial Unfounded series was able to collect RCMP data for each individual community through access to information laws, in responding to our survey, the agency provided its review results as total figures, rather than on a jurisdiction by jurisdiction basis. The RCMP polices 21 per cent of Canada’s population and, as a whole, had an unfounded rate of 17 per cent, which was below the national rate of 19 per cent, although the rates were sometimes much higher — and lower — in certain communities. In an interview with the Globe, the RCMP indicated it was planning VAW advocate involvement in future reviews, as well as trauma-informed training.

Unfounded rates 2010-2014 by RCMP jurisdiction

Population Groups

Unfounded Sexual Assault Rate

100,000-249,999

+10

+5

-5

-10

50,000-99,999

National Rate

19%

30,000-49,999

10,000-29,999

5,000-9,999

5-4,999

Population Groups

Unfounded Sexual Assault Rate

100,000-249,999

-10

-5

+5

+10

50,000-99,999

National Rate

19%

30,000-49,999

10,000-29,999

5,000-9,999

5-4,999

Population Groups

100,000-249,999

50,000-99,999

30,000-49,999

10,000-29,999

5,000-9,999

5-4,999

Unfounded Sexual Assault Rate

-10

-5

+5

+10

National Rate

19%

List of all police services grouped by province

In addition to VAW advocate involvement and trauma-informed training, our survey also looked at whether policy or training changes of any sort were happening, and whether the police services were going to continue doing case reviews going forward. Tap on the police service names for the full profiles, or search for a police service in the search bar above.

  • service doing a review
  • no review
  • did not reply

Filter services by

  • All
  • Conducting a review
  • Not conducting a review
  • Involved VAW advocates
  • Policy or training changes
  • Trauma-informed training
  • Future reviews

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  • Province
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If you notice an error, please send an e-mail to datafeedback@globeandmail.com

CREDITS: Reporting and writing by ROBYN DOOLITTLE; Data reporting by ROBYN DOOLITTLE, TU THANH HA and LES PERREAUX; Data analysis by MICHAEL PEREIRA, LAURA BLENKINSOP and JEREMY AGIUS; Photography and videography by JENNIFER ROBERTS; Design and development by JEREMY AGIUS; Illustrations by NICOLE XU; Editing by DENNIS CHOQUETTE, LISAN JUTRAS and MATT FREHNER; Multimedia editing by LAURA BLENKINSOP; Photo editing by RACHEL WINE; Video editing by MELISSA TAIT; Data science consulting and verification by SHENGQING WU; Survey generation help by MATTHEW MCCLEARN and SHENGQING WU; Survey fact checking by ANNA-KAISA WALKER, RICK CASH and STEPHANIE CHAMBERS; Proofing by STEVE BREARTON
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