A video allegedly showed an RCMP officer sexually harassing an Indigenous teen. Then it went missing. Inside allegations of misconduct and cover-up in Canada’s national police force
A few months after the federal election, a video surfaced online of an RCMP officer allegedly sexually harassing a young Indigenous woman. The video was gone so quickly, it was impossible to identify the officer in the video and the woman, which meant that the allegations were either false or inconclusive. With the footage gone, the extent of the alleged assault was not clear.
Three weeks later, the story resurfaced — this time it was the RCMP officer. Police Chief Bob Paulson had been secretly recorded describing his alleged sexual encounter with the woman in the video — a encounter he said never happened. The woman, who cannot be identified for her safety, has since made a complaint to the RCMP saying that the officer pressured her into keeping the incident private. She alleges she was too afraid of retaliation for bringing the complaint, and she doesn’t trust the RCMP.
The allegations put Canada’s national police force under renewed public scrutiny. The case of the alleged RCMP officer has been referred to the RCMP’s human resources department, but no conclusion has been reached about whether the woman in the video is involved. Meanwhile, the RCMP has launched an internal investigation and the force has launched a $250,000 public relations and investigative campaign to counter the allegations and the backlash against it.
The story, which is just beginning to unfold, raises several lingering questions about the relationship between Indigenous people and the Canadian police. What happens when a woman with Aboriginal roots is allegedly harassed at the hands of a national police officer — does she speak out? What role does Indigenous representation play in the Canadian police force? What are the police’s priorities regarding Indigenous people, especially when it comes to sexual violence? And how can police officers be trained to work in multicultural communities with Indigenous people, not only to resist but also to support them?
“There’s been a lot of research on police abuse of people of colour and women. I think people think police abuse is just a problem of a man being killed by another man. We have a huge problem with police violence against Indigenous women,” says Andrea M. Williams, an academic who specializes in the history of policing and Indigenous peoples. Williams, whose work is