• By: Dan Donovan

The rapists and their protectors in both the RCMP and Ottawa Police Service

No one is charged weeks after Supreme Court justice tells MPs the RCMP raped 130 of their own

Two weeks after a scathing report on sexual harassment in the RCMP by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michel Bastarache was released which revealed that at least 130 women in the RCMP had been raped by other officers, no one has been charged or fired. This despite Bastarache appearing before a Parliamentary committee and telling MPs that the RCMP know who some of the perpetrators are and that many of the rapists are still on the force.

Bastarache was tasked with independently assessing the claims made as part of the Merlo-Davidson settlement. That settlement, named after lawsuit plaintiffs Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson, covers those who were harassed while working for the RCMP during or after September 1974. They include women who experienced sexual harassment and gender or sexual orientation-based discrimination while working for the Mounties. Over the past four years, Bastarache his team conducted 644 interviews of current or former female employees of the RCMP. To date, the federal government has paid $125,266,500 to the claimants. Bastarache says that “the level of violence and sexual assault that was reported was shocking”.

On December 2, Bastarache appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on National Security and reported that “more than 130 claimants disclosed penetrative sexual assaults.” (had been raped). He told MPs that the RCMP is aware of — or could at least easily identify — the officers accused in some of the most egregious cases of sexual assault in the service. “I think the more serious ones usually are more easily identified,” said Bastarache. “Like the Catholic Church, they just move them to another parish. I have a list [of RCMP officers] who have been found guilty up to 15 times. Those people have been promoted.” Bastarache went even further saying, “These aren’t a few bad apples (in the RCMP). These are hundreds of bad apples”. The RCMP tolerates “misogynistic, racist, and homophobic attitudes.” He told the committee that “Harassment remains present in many areas of the organization. Worse still, disrespectful conduct has been perpetrated and condoned at every level of the hierarchy.”

To further reinforce his concern about the systemic misogyny and incompetence of the RCMP and its management, Bastarache said, “I often heard that there were many good members trying to do a good job in a difficult environment and I am sure this is true, and that many members are well-intentioned and trying to do the right thing. But the reality is that even honourable members and well-intentioned leaders have been required to conform to, or at least accept, the underlying culture”.

Despite his report and remarks to the committee, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has done nothing. None of the rapists has been fired or even charged for the rapes. Prime Minister Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, a former cop himself, have said and done nothing about the rape, the rapists, or the fact that a former Supreme Court Justice has reported to a Parliamentary Committee that the RCMP know they have rapists in their ranks. No one in the government or in the federal opposition have called for a third-party independent criminal investigation to bring the rapists to justice.

The rape, sexual assault, misogyny and criminal misconduct problems in the RCMP are also a problem in the Ottawa Police Service. For years, the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) and more recently, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly have attempted to provide cover to police who have engaged in misogynistic behaviour and misconduct, including those involving allegations of rape within the Ottawa Police Service by referring to them as an ‘internal matter.’

However, Sloly and the OPSB ran into problems when complainants went outside the force seeking justice. In March 2020, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) charged Ottawa Deputy Police Chief Uday Jaswal with six sexual misconduct offences. Despite the charges, it took Sloly and the OPSB ten days to remove Jaswal as deputy and OPSB Acting Chair Sandy Smallwood did not demand an immediate pay suspension for Jaswal who continues receiving his full pay and benefits. It then came to light that the OPSB had received dozens of complaints about harassment and misogyny against female officers and employees on the force for over a decade including that a female Ottawa Police constable was allegedly raped by a fellow officer. The alleged rapist was only recently suspended and is still being paid by the OPS.

On May 26, 2020 in a report to the OPSB, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said that he was aware of 14 other cases (‘and maybe more’) of harassment and misogyny by officers at the OPS. He summarily dismissed calls for an independent investigation saying the OPS had launched internal investigations into two reports of sexual assault committed by members and six reports of sexual harassment in the past two years alone. He also refused to disclose what discipline, if any, the officers faced or if the women involved are still working within the organization. He acknowledged that it was likely there were many other incidents of sexual misconduct by officers against other OPS employees that have gone unreported.

Sloly tried to justify his action to protect the accused officers saying, “I am willing to consider anything, including heavier penalties and more direct punishment, against those who continue to willfully ignore and flout the rules and oath of office,” but in the next breath he claimed he’s “learned that heavier punishment doesn’t always solve the problem” and will also try “other tools such as mediation, restoration and truth and reconciliation,” depending on the circumstances.  

Shortly thereafter it was learned that the OPSB had paid out millions of taxpayers’ dollars in settlements to victims of police violence and misconduct in the past decade and that of the over 80 OPS officers criminally charged for various offences since 2008, including spousal abuse,sexual assault and related misconduct, not one had been fired.

When questioned about the problems with misogyny on the OPS, a petulant Sloly told the OPSB (and others listening) that he considered the sexual harassment and misogyny complaints “an internal matter.” Incredulously, not one of the OPSB members challenged Sloly’s characterization of  sexual harassment and misogyny as an  ‘internal matter’  and none reminded him that sexual harassment and rape are criminal matters, not an internal human resources problem for him to deal with as he sees fit. Worse none questioned the ignorance of his remarks towards the victims of the sexual abuse that had been perpetrated on his employees by his fellow officers. It seems OPS Chief Sloly has the same approach to dealing with misogyny as the RCMP.

However, media reports, public outcry and a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the OPS by the victims of the alleged rapes and misogyny forced the OPSB to instruct Chief Sloly to have the OPS pay for an independent investigation into the matter by respected lawyer Janice Rubin of Rubin Thomlinson LLP and to cooperate fully with her investigation.

Meanwhile as more sexual assault and misogyny cases continue to emerge under Sloly’s watch, it has become very apparent that unless there is outside intervention, there will be no serious consequences for the offending officers. The problem is that their continued presence on the OPS is endangering the very public the OPS is sworn to protect.

On July 8, 2020 Ottawa police officer Carl Keenan was found guilty in a Gatineau court of assault causing bodily harm in relation to a violent assault he committed against his girlfriend in an incident in 2017 while he was off duty. Keenan was charged by MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais police following an assault in a yurt in Gatineau Park on December 14, 2017. Five days after he was charged, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), with the full support of the OPSB issued a news release calling it a “domestic matter”. At the time they refused to name Keenan apparently ‘to protect the identity of the victim’ but were careful to note in their press release that “The Ottawa Police Service does not tolerate sexual violence [or] harassment in our workplace and takes all matters seriously.” Keenan continued to receive full pay and benefits compliments of Ottawa taxpayers as the case worked its way through the courts. Keenan earned more than $109,000 in 2017 and was listed on the annual ‘Sunshine list’ when criminally charged.

According to court records and the comments from the judge, Keenan, and the woman, both intoxicated, got into a dispute after Keenan accused her of being unfaithful. There was an altercation and Keenan pushed the woman forcefully against a metal bed frame and she hit her head and became unconscious. A video of the incident was captured on the woman’s cellphone. To revive the woman, Keenan slapped her and applied pressure to her sternum. After the woman regained consciousness, Keenan hit her again. Apparently, Keenan is under an ‘internal OPS investigation’ after at least two rookie officers he was assigned to mentor as a ‘coach officer’ also complained to OPS management that they were victims of sexual harassment by Keenan. (Before new police recruits can respond to calls on their own, they must spend 500 hours on patrol under the supervision of a coach officer). Neither Sloly nor the OPSB have yet to explain to the public why such simple investigation is dragging on for so long. Meanwhile, on October 23 a judge in a Gatineau court sentenced Keenan to two years’ probation and he was given a conditional discharge. Despite the conviction and two-year probation sentence for the violent beating of a woman, Keenan remains a fully paid full time OPS officer.

On September 4, 2020, OPS Constable Kevin Benloss was suspended more than two years after a fellow Ottawa police officer alleged in a human rights complaint that she was sexually assaulted by Benloss. The female officer alleges Benloss raped her in 2011 when she was a rookie on the force. None of the allegations against Benloss have been proven in court. The Ottawa Police Service and the OPSB were aware of the alleged rape of one of their employees for at least two years and did nothing. Before filing a human rights complaint, the woman went to the Ontario Provincial Police in 2018, which led to a criminal investigation. The OPP found grounds that a sexual assault had occurred but believed there to be no reasonable prospect of conviction and did not lay criminal charges.

The OPSB were apprised of the OPP investigation and their belief that the alleged rape was credible. Despite this evidence of an alleged rapist in their employ, the OPSB chose not to suspend Benloss or remove him from public duties. The OPSB members expressed no concern for the safety of the other women Benloss worked with or other women in the city who he might interact with as a police officer. To make matters worse all OPSB members were privy to a litany of other complaints about Benloss including being demoted in 2017 for admitting he fabricated traffic warnings issued to drivers in the police database as part of a sprawling investigation into “ghost warnings” issued by Ottawa police officers. Benloss was the ninth officer demoted as part of the probe, which saw about a dozen officers charged. None were fired.

OPSB members also knew that Benloss had pleaded guilty to two counts of discreditable conduct and one count of insubordination under the Police Services Act and was sentenced to an eight-month demotion from first- to second-class constable. They were  aware that Benloss lied about four traffic warnings without any evidence to support any offence and failed to serve or notify drivers of five warnings he entered the police system and did not properly take notes for 130 provincial offence notices he issued.

Despite the alleged rape allegations, discreditable conduct, and insubordination, during this same period Benloss was promoted and celebrated by the OPS management in their social media posts for being a member of the Ottawa Police Hoopstars, a basketball team made up of officers and community members who do outreach in the community through sport. As a result of decisions made by the OPSB and Chief Sloly, Benloss remains on the force, suspended with full pay.

The RCMP, OPS and OPSB preponderance to protect rapists and misogynists rather than the victims when this gross criminal misconduct is brought to their attention has had the triple whammy of revictimizing victims, empowering the predators and reinforcing the public distrust of the police. The inability of the police oversight bodies to hold police accountable when they break the law or rape someone is causing structural corrosion to the criminal justice system in Canada.

The preponderance of cases of police investigating and clearing other police involved in misconduct in Canada over criminal matters in Canada is rampant. Independent statistics show that in 94 per cent of cases where one police force investigates another police force for crimes, the accused police are fully cleared and exonerated. Call it a whitewash or a cleanse but it is anything but justice.

Take a recent case just this past week where the Ottawa Police Services ‘independently investigated’ and fully cleared a Nunavut RCMP officer who struck an Inuit man in the Baffin Island community of  Kinngait man with the door of his moving patrol truck during a violent arrest last June.

After the video surfaced, Chief Superintendent Amanda Jones, the commanding officer of Nunavut’s RCMP’s V Division, said it was “behaviour that we do not condone,” and the officer was removed from the community to an administrative position.

Bizarrely, the Ottawa Police Service ‘independently’ looked into the matter and issued a statement saying, “The investigation has determined that the RCMP officer driving the vehicle did not intentionally strike the community member with the vehicle door”. In the breathtakingly fictitious release they say, “The vehicle came to a sliding stop on a snow and ice covered track, the driver’s front tire went off the track, the vehicle dipped forward and the opened driver’s door swung forward and struck the community member.” The OPS investigators then go on to clear the RCMP officer of any criminal wrongdoing saying his actions were “unintentional” and that “the the arrest doesn’t meet the ‘threshold’ for a criminal assault”.

Unfortunately for OPS ‘investigators’, the assault by the RCMP constable against the man in Kinngait was watched by tens of thousands of people on video and you would literally have to be an oxygen-deprived dimwit to believe one word of their description of the brutalization of the Inuit man on the video. 

The OPS report was met with contempt, sadness, and disbelief in Nunavut. Benson Cowan, CEO of the Nunavut Legal Services Board, said his first reaction to reading the short news release from the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) was one of sadness. “We seem to be in this endless situation where there is a complete and willful and casual disregard for basic principles of accountability,” Cowan said. And “it boggles the mind” that neither the Nunavut government, the RCMP, nor the OPS insist on more information from the investigation, he added. “It’s a betrayal of Nunavummiut on a basic level,” said Cowan.

The OPS report clearing the RCMP officer from being charged with assault only further damaged the already soiled reputation of the OPS and has put yet another stain on the already sullied reputation of the RCMP.

Nunavut Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak has called the arrest “violent and unacceptable” and federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said it was a “disgraceful, dehumanizing and violent act”. It is very apparent that investigators doctored their report to allow the RCMP officer to avoid being criminally charged with assault. There is no other conclusion possible if you watch the video. The issue is what can be done when the police are so corrupt and brazen in their hubris to clear colleagues that they will go so far as to tell people that what they are watching . . . . is not what they are watching. In fact -they  even go further and actually write this fiction in an official police report. What do you do when the police abjectly lie? Oversight boards are meant to protect the public from those situations by holding the police accountable. But what do you do when the oversight bodies and authorities are the problem? The OPSB should now be investigating the competency of the OPS officers sent north to do the investigation. But don’t hold your breath! That will not happen. They have accepted the fraudulent report and moved on.

The sham Baffin Island ‘independent investigation’ by the OPS follows another doctored investigation in the spring when an OPS Superintendent presented false information in a report to the OPSB to clear three officers for misconduct in the wrongful arrest and charges against Ottawa resident Rodney Mockler, a gay man with HIV. The bogus report was written and given to OPS Chief Peter Sloly who then presented it as fact to the OPSB to ensure the matter would disappear. No one at the OPSB questioned the gaping holes and lies in that were evident in the report.

Chief Peter Sloly has only been with the OPS for one year. He was turned down for the top job in Toronto in 2016 and had applied and was turned down once before for the top job in Ottawa. His temperament, performance and competency on the job continue to raise valid concerns with minority groups and members of the community. Carleton University criminologist Darryl Davies says that Sloly is over his head and is not the right person to be making the massive changes that are required to deal with the rampant misconduct in the Ottawa Police Service. The problem is further exacerbated by a double-edged sword,says Davies. "First, the Ontario government has failed to bring in legislation to amend the Police Services Act of Ontario so that police officers can be suspended without pay and fired by chiefs of police whenever they are found guilty of discreditable conduct or a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada, Second, the abysmal failure of the Mayor, city councillors and members of the Ottawa Police Services Board to denounce police misconduct in this city is beyond comprehension. The city council has never brought a motion forward to investigate the over $20 million spent by the OPSB in victim’s settlement, lawyer’s fees, and salaries for police on suspension for criminality".

Despite the rapes, misogyny, and deplorable misconduct by many officers, OPSB Chair and Ottawa City Councillor Diane Deans remains the cheerleader-in-chief for Sloly and the OPS,regularly singing their praises and justifying their decisions that have only served to protect misogynists and rapists with a badge. Deans has not made a public statement on the alleged rape of an OPS constable or explained why she had to go outside the OPS and OPSB processes to be heard. Deans has also not commented on complaints by a twenty-year officer with a flawless record who says he was punished by Sloly when he complained about sexual harassment against his wife, who is also an OPS employee. That matter is now under investigation by the OCPC. Deans,hides behind the overused and abused line, “I can’t comment, it’s under investigation”. 

Davies says that Deans does not seem to understand the difference between operational independence and operational accountability. “She seems to think that because police decided to take action that they can’t be questioned on it. This is very problematic coming from someone charged with ensuring accountability. It appears that she seems to think she reports to Sloly rather than the reverse. It is also troubling that Sloly has met privately with OPSB members to scold them for bringing up things at OPSB meetings that he does not agree with", says Davies. “Sloly is proving to be a major disappointment and I’m sure many are questioning his hiring one year later".

The Ottawa police service currently has between 13 and 15 full time OPS officers suspended with full pay for a variety of criminal charges on everything from alleged rape, assault, sexual assault, fraud, theft and driving under the influence. The pay, pension and benefits to the suspended officers are costing city taxpayers more than $3 million. Davies says that, “It is shocking fact that the OPSB has silently paid out tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money to victims of police misconduct and their lawyers for their legal fees over the past decade. Despite this misconduct and abuse of taxpayer money to pay for it, neither the Mayor, councillors or the members of the police services board have said or done anything to demand accountability. Before approving an increase in the police budget, councillors should have required the Ottawa Police Service to first get their house in order with a specific list of things to report back on before they got new money."  Davies says that,"Council should have demanded an independent audit of the OPS budget for the past 5 years to uncover who was paid what and why, and for what offence by which OPS member. They should also ascertain what the consequences, if any, were for the police who committed the offences.The councillors who approved the increase in the police budget to the tune of $13 million for 2021 and permission to hire 31 new officers should have said no to any increase or new hires and demanded an independent audit of the OPS budget for the past decade to determine the actual real amount of taxpayers money 'down to every penny' that the the OPSB have spent to cover up misconduct and pay victims and their lawyers and related costs". An independent audit is one way to track money paid out to victims and their lawyers that have not been fully disclosed to the  public.It would also show how many millions of taxpayers dollars have been shelled out for suspended police.

“Imagine, an OPS policeman is alleged to have raped a colleague and gets suspended with pay. A deputy chief is charged with six criminal counts of sexual harassment and gets to go home with full pay and watch Netflix until he can be brought back”, say Davies. He also notes the irony that the three city councillors who serve on the OPSB — Diane Deans, Carol Anne Meehan and Rawlson King — all voted for the increase in the police budget and continue to say that we are receiving a fine police service in our community. “In their roles on the OPSB they would know much of the detail about the misconduct and crimes committed by certain police and if they do not, they have the authority to find out. Instead, they play the go along get along game. It is sheer idiocy and beyond that it is tragic for the rape victim and victims of misogyny at OPS who they should have helped and put first, “says Davies. 

That city councillors and the police don't take sexual harrassment seriously in the city beyond pontificating about it when it happens is a big part of the problem. Take the case involving College Ward Councillor Rick Chiarelli. Ottawa Integrity Commissioner Robert Marleau launched an investigation into Chiarelli’s conduct and in two reports described his misogynistic behaviour as “offensive and disreputable.’ He found Chiarelli violated the code of conduct for councillors when dealing with job applicants and staff by engaging in shocking conduct, including speaking to women about going braless to work, pressuring them to go to bars to hit on men as a way of recruiting volunteers, and commenting on their bodies. Davies says that, “the misogynistic behaviour described in the reports is clearly criminal yet the OPS have not investigated the matter and the OPSB have said nothing despite the Ethics Commissioners report which shows clear criminal wrongdoing”. In his first report Marleau recommended council suspend Chiarelli’s pay for a total of 15 months — 90 days for each of the five formal complainants — as well as remove him from any committees and take away his delegated authority to hire staff or spend his own office budget. The second and most recent report is chilling in its description of what is obviously criminal behaviour. Yet, not one OPSB member or city councillor has called for an OPS investigation into Chiarelli’s conduct. “No surprise” says Davies. He goes on to say, “these are same councillors whose silence was deafening when they learned that one of their employees, a female OPS constable, alleged she was raped. What will it take for these councillors to wake up to the seriousness of these allegations? It is so appalling and unacceptable that none of the elected officials in this city including our mayor came out and vehemently castigated the OPS. To make matters worse, if that’s possible, the lack of support the victim received from her employer and these politicians forced her to go to outside agencies and the courts to get justice and only when that happened did the OPSB order Sloly to bring in an outside independent investigator”, says Davies.

What we are learning from independent and external investigations into the actions of police officers when they are involved in major incidents, is that the whole process of police accountability in this country and especially in Ontario is one big, colossal joke says Davies. He says the RCMP officers who former Justice Bastarache referenced at the parliamentary committee should all have been immediately suspended, investigated, and where warranted charged under the Criminal Code of Canada, and if convicted fired. Justice Bastarache told the MPs in committee that he has a list of men in the RCMP who have been accused of, and found to be responsible for, harassment. One of the conditions of the assessment process, however — which was intended to make it easier for women to come forward — was that the report could not name those accused. “I think that it’s quite easy to identify some of them because, as I said, when they’re found guilty of harassment, they’re moved around,” said Justice Bastarache.

Davies says that that any outside investigation into the matter should not involve other police forces, especially the Ottawa Police Service who clearly cannot tell of an assault when it is literally videotaped for them. Davies believes that the federal government should bring in Janice Rubin and Rubin Thomlinson LLP or another credible firm to conduct an independent, third-party investigation.