Alberta’s civilian police watchdog has been tapped to lead an investigation into allegations of historical misconduct involving members of the Prince George RCMP and Indigenous girls.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) has been selected to lead the probe, and that the RCMP has indicated it will co-operate.
Like British Columbia’s Independent Investigations Office (IIO), ASIRT is led by a civilian director.
Its mandate includes investigating police interactions that have preceded serious injury or death, along with cases involving sensitive allegations of misconduct such sexual assault or obstruction of justice.
Some of the allegations date back nearly two decades, to 2004, when B.C. judge David Ramsey pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting Indigenous girls.
Some of the same girls also accused a number of RCMP officers of crimes, but no Mounties were ever charged.
Since then, former RCMP officers have come forward with troubling allegations in the file.
Retired Const. Lisa MacKenzie told Global News she reported that she’d found video tapes in 2006 allegedly showing Prince George Mounties harassing Indigenous girls. Within days, they were stolen in a break-in, she alleges.
Retired Staff Sgt. Gary Kerr told Global News that at the time of the allegations “the RCMP quite simply did nothing, absolutely nothing,” and that “in fact they took many many steps to bury this.”
The RCMP’s Civilian Review and Complaints Commission previously determined that no one ensured ”a reasonable investigation was conducted.”
In his statement, Farnworth said the commissioner of the RCMP had agreed with the CRCC’s findings and recommendations.
The BC RCMP has previously confirmed to Global News that both criminal and code of conduct investigations into the allegations remained open.
“While this report is directed at the RCMP, I have spoken to my federal counterpart Minister Marco Mendicino about these serious allegations and B.C.’s director of police services has ordered an independent investigation by an external agency into these allegations,” Farnworth said.
The provincial government has also consulted with family members who called for reform at the Assembly of First Nations Regional Chiefs to tell them the probe was going forward, he said.
“Our government is resolute in its commitment to ending systemic violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ+ people, particularly in northern B.C. and the cases which involve the police,” he said.
“I recognize the wisdom, advocacy and ongoing action of family members, survivors, community leaders and partners.”
Farnworth said the province would not comment further now that the investigation was underway.
— with files from Catherine Urquhart, Global News
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