West Kelowna RCMP's response to Indigenous teen's rape complaint raising concerns across Canada - InfoNews

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West Kelowna RCMP's response to Indigenous teen's rape complaint raising concerns across Canada

Kelowna RCMP is the focus of scrutiny this week for how they handled a 2012 rape complaint.
May 22, 2019 - 9:19 AM

KELOWNA - Very few people knew the story of an indigenous Kelowna teen's rape complaint to RCMP falling on deaf ears. Many of those who did, didn't care.

This week, that all changed.

“The story went viral, especially in the indigenous community,” said Jane Smith, whose real name is being withheld to protect her identity. “I’ve been overwhelmed with the responses.”

Smith, who was in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development in 2012, told her foster parents she’d been raped by an acquaintance she met up with on the bus home. They took her to the hospital for an investigation, but halfway through collecting evidence the nurses and police walked away from the 17-year-old.

Smith said it was because a social worker had told them she was lying. In a subsequent interview with an RCMP officer, it got worse and not only was she dismissed, she was asked whether she enjoyed the assault.

READ MORE: Indigenous teen says RCMP video supports claim her rape complaint was ignored

Audio of that interaction was released to Smith earlier this month and she shared it with media outlets, including iNFOnews.ca.

And as it has played, outrage has built.

MPs, RCMP, and women’s advocates have come forward to deride the “disgusting” line of questioning, and Smith has been taking it all in. 

The story started a rallying cry and the way she was treated all those years ago is being characterized as another piece of the puzzle in the Missing and Murdered Women Inquiry.

In Kelowna this week, there was a protest outside the RCMP office in support of her and other women who have faced similar bias and it's believed more demonstrations of this kind are expected.

“I know (the protest) wasn't all about me. My story snowballed this into action,” she said. “It’s honouring that people think about me and people like me. It’s time to make a change … It’s not going to be the same story for thousands of other women, but at least it will help get the ball rolling for some women.”

READ MORE: Sex assault investigations have ‘evolved’ since West Kelowna teen’s 2012 complaint, RCMP say

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, released a statement this week showing support and calling for change.

“We vigorously condemn and strongly denounce the actions of the RCMP officer and (Ministry of Children and Family Development) social workers for further victimizing this young woman in a time of crisis,” he said. “Their actions are starkly indicative of the deeply embedded racist devaluation of Indigenous women and girls that exists broadly in Canadian society. We demand that the Liberal government and the RCMP take immediate action to address this particular incident and the shameful legacy of violence towards Indigenous women and girls."

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said that indigenous women and girls demand justice.

“We have been the target of extreme violence for too long, and we will not be silenced anymore,” she said.

“This vulnerable young woman was victimized when she was assaulted, and instead of honouring her story and seeking justice, she was further victimized by the system that was supposed to help her.”

In addition to not taking her claim seriously, Smith was asked to write a letter of apology to the RCMP, her attacker and the social workers who she was in the care of.

Smith filed a civil suit against the social workers involved in this incident, including Robert Riley Saunders, who faces abuse complaints from 17 clients, including many indigenous clients like her. The vast majority of her complaint is against Siobahn Stynes, who was Saunders’ direct supervisor.
”Stynes and the plaintiff’s foster parents accused (Smith) of falsifying the allegation for an excuse for using drugs, however, (Smith) was not on drugs at the material time,” she said in her claim against Saunders and Stynes.

None of the allegations or claims have been proven in court.

“(Stynes), arriving at her own conclusion in regards to the allegation, punished the plaintiff by removing extracurricular activities from the plaintiff causing isolation and depression.”

It said Stynes instructed and caused Smith to write a letter of apology to her attacker. At this point, no meaningful investigation was done.

“The defendant, Stynes, berated, demeaned, bullied and caused the plaintiff emotional harm,” she said in the claim.

Smith claimed damages, a restraining order as well as a return on costs.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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