‘This could have a chilling effect’: The impact of a Kelowna Mountie’s alleged actions

Click to play video: 'The potential impact of a Kelowna Mountie’s alleged actions'
The potential impact of a Kelowna Mountie’s alleged actions
The potential impact of a Kelowna Mountie’s alleged actions – Apr 23, 2021

Lisa said she first met Const. Brian Burkett when he responded after she was domestically assaulted.

She said he found her on Facebook a few days later.

“He could have called me from the detachment or done something more professional,” she said.

Lisa said she was in a vulnerable spot at that time in her life.

“I was trying to confide in him to get some justice for what happened that night,” Lisa said. “Because I know when we were talking, I did send him pictures of my bruises.”

She said they kept messaging.

Story continues below advertisement

“And then he sent me a completely nude picture and was just being super inappropriate,” she said.

“It’s not okay, he is to serve and protect,” Lisa said.

“I was scared because of the badge and the title of being a policeman. Maybe I was scared of what he was capable of doing,” she added.

That was in the summer of 2016.

According to court documents, Lisa was the last of Burkett’s seven alleged victims.

RCMP started investigating the officer around that time, but breach of trust charges wouldn’t be laid for three years.

“This is so much bigger than just him,” said Michelle, one of Burkett’s alleged victims. “I don’t know what the solution is, but I can tell you what’s happening now is not working.”

Burkett’s alleged victims are calling for swifter action and question how RCMP weren’t aware sooner that the officer’s actions might have been inappropriate.

Story continues below advertisement

“While my story is important, my story is a fragment of a system that is broken,” Kate said. “I was somebody who needed the police for just a short period of time, and have now been victimized by the system.”

“When you think about how many times you actually need the police, they aren’t your greatest moments. They are moments when you will be vulnerable,” she said.

Get the latest National news. Sent to your email, every day.

“And these are not times for a sexual predator to show up and to take your personal information and to decide to stalk, harass and abuse you.”

“We have a broken system. We do have a legal system. We do not have a justice system,” she added. “I say that as somebody who for five years has been treated like the criminal in a case where I’m the victim.”

Michael Patterson is a lawyer representing four of the women in civil suits against Burkett.

“Too many victims suffer in silence because they don’t have the resources to take on the RCMP and the attorney general of Canada,” he said.

“That allows people like Burkett to allegedly continue to perpetuate and abuse their power on members of the public,” he added.

Story continues below advertisement

Angela Marie MacDougall is the executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services.

“He’s a man with a gun who has the power, the weight of the entire nation behind him,” MacDougall said. “And so the power imbalance is off the charts.”

She’s worried Burkett’s alleged actions could deter other domestic or sexual assault victims from stepping forward.

“This could have a chilling effect for so many women about whether the police can be an actual resource for them, and particularly in Kelowna,” she said.

Burkett’s accusers said it wasn’t easy to share their stories, but they’re trying to help shape a better future.

“I’m a mom of young girls. I’m a voice for women who can’t be — who I couldn’t be five years ago,” said Sara, another of Burkett’s alleged victims.

“The thing is, I realize that this is just so big in my world, but in our whole world, it’s such a small step to such a big problem,” Sara said.

Story continues below advertisement

“And I just hope it can be a little bit of change at least so in my girls are grown women that they can feel safe.”

Zoe said she was motivated to step forward to put a face to one of Burkett’s alleged victims.

“So you can see who I am. So you can see how this impacted me,” she said.

She wants to inspire anybody who believes they have been victimized by Burkett to come forward to add to the story.

“To fill in those gaps, because the RCMP won’t do it,” Zoe said.

“But only if it feels right to them. I would never want to coerce or pressure anybody to relive a trauma like myself and all of these other women have had to.”

Zoe believes there is deep toxicity within the RCMP.

“What do I want to change? I want the narrative to stop being that women are liars, that we have anything to gain from going through these experiences and becoming public with these experiences,” Zoe said.

Story continues below advertisement

“I just want women to know that there is a growing chorus of us standing up with experiences all across the spectrum. And we won’t be silenced,” she added.

The allegations against Burkett have not been proven, and he did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

He resigned from the police force in 2017.

The Crown says it expects him to plead guilty to seven counts of breach of trust at his next court appearance in June.

He has not filed a statement of defence to any of the lawsuits brought against him.

Sponsored content