OTTAWA — The RCMP says it plans to review sexual assault cases that were labelled unfounded in 2016 to see if they comply with police policy and appropriate decision-making based on evidence.
The national police force said in a statement Thursday it would also look at a sample of historical cases.
The moves follow a report by the Globe and Mail that the newspaper says exposed deep flaws in the way investigators treat sexual assault allegations.
It analyzed data, obtained through freedom-of-information laws from scores of police services, to conclude that police across Canada close about one in five sex-assault cases as unfounded.
Unfounded rates vary considerably between provinces and cities, and even between cities in the same region, the newspaper reported.
Statistics Canada stopped collecting the data in the early 2000s because it was concerned police forces weren't using the unfounded category consistently, the newspaper said.
The RCMP says investigations can be challenging and complex in determining the specific circumstances of an assault allegation, and in identifying and preserving evidence.
The Mounties recently updated their national policy on sexual offences, and it will soon be published as part of the force's operations manual.
If the review identifies gaps in how sexual assaults are investigated, the RCMP will look at more cases and consider whether further policy updates — or additional training — are required, the force's statement added.
Given the RCMP's mandate of providing police services to several provinces, territories and contracting partners, it must ensure that "an appropriate, co-ordinated national response is put in place."
However, the result of an investigation must turn on evidence, and not on opinion, the force said.
"To this end, the RCMP continually reviews and updates its policies, procedures and training to ensure it is using the most effective practices in law enforcement."
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has called on police to reassess how they manage sex-assault complaints. Several forces across the country are doing just that.
Earlier this week, Ontario Provincial Police said they would review approximately 4,000 sexual assault investigation reports that were designated as unfounded.
Commissioner Vince Hawkes said the review would cover allegations made between 2010 and 2014.
The OPP takes all reports of sexual assault and violence seriously and "uses all resources necessary to conduct complete, thorough and professional investigations," Hawkes said.
The OPP will examine the cases over the next several weeks and release a statement at the conclusion of the review, which will include a summary of the analysis, he said.
If it is determined that any sexual assault report was not properly investigated by the OPP, the investigation will be reopened, Hawkes added.
The Canadian Press