Canada: Investigation Reveals Police Treat Many Sexual Assault Allegations as “Baseless”


The Globe and Mail newspaper (“Globe”) recently completed a 20-month investigation into sexual assault complaints in Canada. Their investigation found that police dismiss one in five allegations of sexual violence as unfounded. “Unfounded” is a formal classification used by Canadian police to indicate no crime occurred and no crime was attempted. Globe researchers noted that “unfounded” rates for sexual assault complaints were much higher than for other reported crimes and varied widely among jurisdictions across Canada, suggesting that complainants in some jurisdictions are less likely to be believed than in others.

Notably, allegations of sexual assault were less likely to be classified as unfounded when thorough investigations took place. According to the Globe, these results suggest flaws in the investigative process including inadequate training of sexual assault investigators, poor interviewing techniques, and the persistence of sexual assault myths among police. The Globe also found that high rates of “unfounded” sexual assault allegations distort general police statistics on sexual assault, making it appear that the police “receive fewer complaints of sexual assault than they actually do. . . [and] that more complaints lead to an arrest.”

Globe researchers reviewed data from 92% of policing jurisdictions in Canada and conducted interviews with more than fifty complainants, verifying their accounts with further interviews and reviews of case file documents.


Compiled from:  Doolittle, Robyn, Unfounded:  Why Police Dismiss 1 in 5 Sexual Assault Claims as Baseless, The Globe and Mail (February 3, 2017).