The Aboriginal People's Television Network’s Holly Moore and Brittany Guyot released a series of short video clips on the Canadian network APTN news site that shows a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in a disturbing interview of a then 17-year-old First Nations teen who had been reporting an incident of sexual assault.
The videos stem from a March 2012 sexual assault report by the teen, who describes her situation with her assailant and describes that she resigned herself to ask the man to wear a condom because she wasn’t being given any choice.
Though the videos are from 2012, they are a part of APTN’s more extensive documentary special report titled Broken Trust produced by Cullen Crozier. The video later surfaced as part of a March 2019 civil suit that alleges that the Ministry of Children and Family Development had punished the youth after reporting the incident in 2012.
In the video, an unidentified officer repeatedly asks the teen — whose name has been kept confidential by APTN Investigates — if she was turned on by the assault, even subconsciously. He also inquires as the amount of sexual activity of the teen prior to the incident, and the officer also asks if she realizes the difficulty of a man committing sexual assault if the victim is unwilling.
During the over two-hour interview between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and the teen at a police facility in West Kelowna, a city in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, the female told APTN that in the interview she was immediately met “with a barrage of questions.”
“I felt very alone in there,” she told APTN. “There was no parental support for me there at all. I was terrified.”
Some of the exchanges between the teen and the officer are as follows:
Officer: Go over again with me. How did you try and get him to stop? Did you scream ‘no?’ Did you say ‘get off me?’ Did you say, ‘This was rape? I need you to stop?’”
Teen: “I don’t remember, I tried to get my legs around him to try and get him to stop,”
Officer: “Okay… um, I don’t know how that would work if he’s having intercourse with you and your legs are flat.”
The incident has sparked commentary from notable First Nations public figures to include Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry Chief Commissioner Marion Buller.
In one of three articles about the incident in APTN News, correspondent Holly Moore writes that Buller, the first female First Nations person appointed as a judge in British Columbia in 1994, said that though she hasn’t seen the entire interview, she did have some criticisms, including that the video was unfortunately typical of what she has heard from families in regards to sexual assault reporting.
Buller also noted that the officer “did not live up to the standards that other officers set for these types of investigations,” and that she felt it was “inappropriate to ask her to compare this experience with other sexual experiences she might have had. That’s just the beginning of where I could be critical of the interview,” said Buller in APTN.
One important note by Buller was the fact that the Indigenous teen was being interrogated for over two-and-a-half hours without another adult in the room, aside from two Ministry of Children and Family Development social workers who came briefly to offer the teen food.
“What concerns me is here is a young person, a minor in law who’s being questioned without an adult present,” said Buller. “My recollection is that if a young person is being questioned by the police as a suspect then their Youth Criminal Justice Act requires that there be an adult present.”
“To me, it just seems like common sense that there would be an adult present to act support for the young person.“
In addition to the criticisms offered by Buller, the lawyer for the young Indigenous woman in the video says he ‘believes her interview was really an interrogation.’
In a follow up article by Moore titled, Lawyer for woman in ‘extremely aggressive RCMP video says client was ‘disbelieved from the beginning’ Penticton, B.C., lawyer Michael Patterson — who represents several claimants in lawsuits against the Ministry of Children and Family Development and against agency social workers Robert Riley Saunders and supervisor Siobhan Stynes, told Moore he “understands that police need to investigate complaints vigorously but this interview was absolutely shocking.”
According to Moore’s article, ‘Patterson said the line of questioning by the officer adds weight to his client’s claim that social workers punished her for reporting the assault as stated in her amended statement of claim from March 2019.’
According to Moore, who corresponded with Indian Country Today via email, ‘the lawyer filed a production order to produce all investigative notes and materials related to the case as it was reported in 2012.
As of yet, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has not responded to requests for comments.
“As far as we know, The officer is still operational. If anything has happened to him, the RCMP is not telling us, Moore said.
Additional video clips and coverage by APTN at the following links:
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling