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Canada RCMP to take new look at 284 sexual assault cases classified as unfounded

The RCMP headquarters building is shown in Ottawa, on Oct. 5, 2011.

Fred Chartrand/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Mounties say they are going to take a new look at 284 sexual assault cases that they originally classified as unfounded.

The decision comes after the RCMP reviewed 2,225 sexual assault files from 2016 in which police concluded that no violation of the law had taken place or was attempted.

The force says 1,260 of the unfounded cases were misclassified and the 284 need further investigation.

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The RCMP says a team in Ottawa reviewed reports from divisions across the country to assess all aspects of sexual assault investigations, consult with external stakeholders, partners and experts and provide direction on how to improve investigations.

In all, the Mounties say they responded to 10,038 reported sexual assaults in 2016.

Before the review, 22 per cent of the cases were ruled unfounded, but that label now covers 9.6 per cent.

The force says it is committed to supporting victims of sexual assault and treating them with compassion, care and respect.

It promises to conduct investigations consistently and to the highest professional standards.

Among other things, it says it wants to "increase public awareness and trust of RCMP sexual assault investigations and encourage greater levels of reporting."

The Mounties announced the review last February, after a series of Globe and Mail reports that the newspaper said exposed deep flaws in the way investigators treat sexual assault allegations.

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The Globe analyzed data obtained through freedom-of-information laws from scores of police services, and concluded that police across Canada close about one in five sex-assault cases as unfounded.

As a result of consultations with 30 NGOs and 44 government partners, including victim advocates, Crown prosecutors and health care workers across the country, the RCMP plans to develop a new sexual assault training curriculum.

It said the training will look at existing legislation and consent law and focus on trauma-informed investigative tools and approaches.

It will also highlight common myths and stereotypes, reinforce victim rights and support services and bolster supervisory oversight and review.

"This training will be inclusive of vulnerable populations including but not limited to: Indigenous people, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, sex trade workers, children and youth under 18," The force said in a statement.

"It will also be reflective of the diverse cultures and communities the RCMP serves."

The Globe's Robyn Doolittle speaks at the #AfterMeToo Symposium on sexual misconduct in the workplace. Doolittle goes into detail about the in-depth Unfounded investigation into police handling of sex assault cases.
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