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Addressing “Unfounded” Cases of Sexual Assault and Violence - 2017

Resolution Number: 200.60.1
Club: North Toronto
Year: 2017
Status: Open

BACKGROUND: A February 4, 2017 Globe and Mail investigation revealed that since 2003 Statistics Canada has not released records of sexual assault case investigations with a closure code of ‘unfounded’ – a term that means police have determined the allegation of rape was baseless and that no crime occurred. The Globe and Mail article collected data from national and provincial police forces representing 92% of the population, and revealed that ‘unfounded’ cases in Ontario between the years of 2010 to 2014 averaged at 25% and fluctuated from 3% to 59% in different jurisdictions including 34% by the OPP. The article revealed that independent international research indicated that 2% to 8% of sexual assault complaints to police may be misidentified or determined to be false allegations (Doolittle, 2017, February 3). In fact an argument can be made that a disproportionate rate of unfounded sexual-assault cases constitutes unequal treatment under Ontario’s Human Rights Code (Crew, 2012).
Subsequent to the articles the Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Marie-France Lalonde was quoted: “…. ask that all police services boards and chiefs of police in Ontario begin similar reviews of the way sexual assault cases are handled, including policies and procedures at the local level” (Leblanc, 2017, para. 15). As well, the OPP announced a review of sexual assault investigations and outcomes on a detachment by detachment basis of all 163 OPP detachments. An OPP spokesperson was quoted as follows: “At the end of the day, if somebody has been a victim of this type of crime, they need to know that the OPP treats these incidents very, very seriously and they put their best resources behind investigations that do take place” (White and Doolittle, 2017, para.8).
City of Toronto Auditor, Jeffrey Griffiths recommended external audit of such cases in 1999 (Griffiths, 1999). In 2016 Ontario’s committee on sexual assault and violence recommended exploring adopting the Philadelphia model which includes an external audit of police forces unfounded cases (Doolittle, 2017, February 10). Jurisdictions were identified where ‘unfounded’ cases have been reduced by practices including collecting and making statistics freely available to the public and by providing external audits of police services unfounded cases by research and advocacy groups in programs such as the Philadelphia model (Lindy, 2015). This is a public safety issue requiring that the Government of Ontario enact a policy to accurately identify the number of occurrences of, and to work to adopt practices to prevent, investigate, and prosecute this crime so that Ontario women can have basic safety from violence in pursuit of their economic wellbeing.
REFERENCES: Crew, A.B.. (2012). Striking back: The viability of a civil action against the police for the “wrongful unfounding” of reported rapes. In Sheehy, E.A. (Ed.), Sexual assault in Canada. Law, legal practice and women’s activism (pp. 211 – 242). Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. Retrieved from
Doolittle, R.. (2017, February 3). Unfounded: Why police dismiss 1 in 5 sexual assault claims as
baseless. London, ON: The Globe and Mail Inc. Retrieved from
Doolittle, R.. (2017, February 10). Unfounded: How do you fix a broken system? The Globe and
Mail Inc. Retrieved from
Griffiths, J.. (1999). Review of the investigation of sexual assaults by the Toronto Police Service. Toronto: Toronto Audit Services. Retrieved from
Leblanc, D.. (2017, February 9). National strategy sought for sex-assault cases in the works. Ottawa:The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from
Lindy, D.. (2015). Auditing of sexual assault investigations by non-police agencies: An exploration of the Philadelphia case review model. Chester, PA: Widener University
White, P. & Doolittle, R.. (2017). Public Safety Minister Goodale calls for review of sexual-assault cases across Canada. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from

RESOLUTION: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that BPW Ontario urges the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to direct the OPP to review and investigate sexual assault and violence cases that the OPP categorized as unfounded between 2010 and 2015;

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that BPW Ontario urges the Government of Ontario, specifically the Minster of Community Safety and Correctional Services to direct the OPP to develop a methodology that defines the status of sexual assault and violence case investigations such as to refine the categories of closure regarding complainant’s investigation to be accurately based on objective review of facts in lieu of opinions; such that the language of categories exclude the word ‘unfounded’ or other general terms that may reflect divisive, prejudged, or dismissive opinions towards the complainant in lieu of evidence based investigation;

AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that BPW Ontario urges the Government of Ontario, specifically the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Safety following an objective review of the findings from data collected related to “unfounded” cases to direct the creation and funding of a task force that this data be used by policy makers to direct resources to implement a provincial strategy to reduce the barrier to justice of rates of inappropriate closure of sexual assault and violence case investigations, by the use of means including external audits of OPP case records.


©BPW Ontario

Article ID:4381

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