The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women spent the last year examining violence against young women and girls, and released a report on Monday.
What is immediately striking is the way one of the committee's findings leads to the same conclusion as The Globe and Mail's 20-month investigation into the high rate at which Canadian police dismiss allegations of sexual assault as "unfounded."
Between these two independent investigations, there is now more than enough evidence for the federal government to take concrete steps to fix a glaring problem.
The committee's investigation, it must be noted, had a broader scope than that of The Globe's Unfounded series. It focused on all violence against girls and women, not just sexual assault, and its findings are harrowing.
But on sexual assault, both The Globe and the committee point out that Statistics Canada stopped publishing national data on unfounded cases in 2003, amid worries that police were misclassifying those cases as baseless, or not reporting them at all.
The Globe gathered its own data and discovered that the unfounded rates vary wildly across the country. Many police departments have admirably low rates in the low single digits, while others have rates of over 30 per cent.
Overall, police dismiss one in five cases as unfounded – a rate that is out of whack with numerous studies that conclude that fewer than 8 per cent of sexual assault allegations are false.
One result is that many women are choosing not to report sexual assaults to police, because they fear – with good reason, often – that they will not be taken seriously.
Experts who testified before the committee say that a first order of business for Ottawa is to standardize the way cases are labelled as unfounded, and to help provide the relevant training to police departments. Statscan is already discussing this issue with some police departments, but the committee wants the government to officially request that Statscan start collecting the data again.
Women who have been sexually assaulted must be able to believe that the people they turn to for help – the police – will take them seriously. The committee has added a powerful voice to the call to fix Canada's unacceptable unfounded rate.