The Canadian Armed Forces are changing the way they review sexual assault cases with the implementation of a new program promising more transparency.
The Sexual Assault Review Program, or SARP, will look at unfounded sexual assault files investigated by the military police. Currently, there are 179 unfounded sexual assault investigative files spanning from 2010 to 2016.
An external review team will include representatives from both the civilian community and the Department of National Defence as well as a victim advocate from Ontario, a representative from the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, a nurse examiner with the Canadian Forces Health Services, a civilian prosecutor from Ottawa, a member of the RCMP and a member of the Canadian Forces National Investigative Services (CFNIS).
The team will conduct an annual review and report their findings to the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, Brigadier-General Simon Trudeau, making “recommendations as to the conduct of the investigations, identifying policy, training or best practice proposals for consideration,” according to a release.
Trudeau, who is also Commander of the Canadian Forces Military Police Group, said the new process will ensure sexual assault investigations are held to standards of the “highest levels.”
“The Sexual Assault Review Program will provide another means by which the Canadian Forces Military Police continue to enhance the professional police service being provided to the DND/CAF community,” he added.
The goal of SARP is to conduct a more open review of unfounded sexual assault cases with input from the external review team to “validate the unfounded coding and conduct a substantive review of the investigation.”
In 2016, the Sexual Offence Response Team, or SORT, was created to provide investigators with context on how to approach cases of this nature.
The team received specialized training in investigating sexual assault, physical abuse and child death as well as forensic interview techniques and trauma-informed care.
Because a majority of CFNIS investigations are for allegations of criminal sexual offences, SORT provides expertise regarding new trends in law enforcement concerning such offences and best practices for future sexual related investigations.
SARP will hold their introductory meeting in December in Ottawa where they will commence their review of the 179 files.