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Opinion: Public Safety for Whom? When the Police are Perpetrators

By Laurel McBride
June 18, 2024

In recent months, multiple cases of male police officers in Canada who used their positions to gain access to, and abuse, vulnerable women have been made public due to proceedings in criminal court and the police conduct boards.

Such cases are at odds with the stated values and commitments of modern policing in Canada. The webpage for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the largest police force in Canada, operating in communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast, reads: “We are one of only a few police services recognized around the world for both our policing excellence and our image – the “Mountie” and, “Over the last century-and-a-half, we have grown and evolved with and for Canadians. The result is a more modern, diverse and inclusive RCMP that serves with honour and pride to keep Canadians safe.”

The individual male officers became acquainted with the female victims, some of whom were teenagers at the time, through their work as police officers tasked with responding to mental health and domestic violence cases. These police officers exploited the access and trust that their jobs provided them to target women who were vulnerable due to factors that included substance use and mental health struggles, young age, Indigeneity, prior victimization, and involvement in the sex trade. 

In 2021, RCMP Constable Connor McDonald transported an unconscious, intoxicated woman who was apprehended under the Mental Health Act to the hospital and stayed with her for hours, engaging in “personal conversation.” Following her release, he sent her a Facebook friend request, gave her his personal cell phone number and at the conclusion of his shift, he came over to the woman’s home and engaged in sexual acts her. In 2024, the RCMP conduct board ordered his dismissal from the force. 

Between 2014 and 2021, Surrey RCMP Corporal Peter Leckie carried on a sexual relationship with a young Indigenous woman who was in the sex trade and struggling with addiction and her mental health. Cpl. Leckie initiated contact with the woman on the false pretense that he was assigned to a prostitution task force and was seeking her assistance with this work. He also pursued a woman who had been the subject of a “wellness check” for a sexual relationship. He pled guilty to three charges of breaches of public trust in relation to the two women and in 2024, was sentenced to 18 months of house arrest.  

In February, Toronto police officer Constable Conal Quinn, was sentenced to four years in prison for a 2021 sexual assault. Const. Quinn responded to a call regarding receiving threatening text messages and returned to the woman’s house the next day in uniform whilst on duty and sexually assaulted her.

Retired police inspector with the Lethbridge Police Service, Bill Kaye, is facing charges of breach of trust, sexual assault and criminal harassment related to offences alleged to have occurred in 2017 and 2018 during his time as program coordinator of the Domestic Violence Action Team with one of the participants, a domestic violence survivor. The accusations have not been proven in court and he is awaiting trial sometime this year.

Women deserve to be treated with dignity and have their humanity recognized when they report to police or are struggling and as a result, come in contact with police that some male officers instead view these women as outlets for sexual gratification is abhorrent. It is chilling that officers who have a great deal of power vested to them by the state, with the explicit mission to protect the public, operate without proper oversight. Until women are safe from those are called to serve and protect, the honour and pride that Canadian police claim is empty rhetoric.

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