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Support Recommendations of Report – Silenced: Canada’s Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Accessibility Crisis

  • RESET

Category:

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Sub-Category:

Sub-Category: GENERAL

Resolution Number:

700.10.39

Club:

Hastings and Prince Edward

Province:

Ontario

Year:

2022

Status:

Open

Background:

Certainly, the largest noted hurdle in sexual assault cases is in having victims report theoccurrence. Even after reporting, survivors may decline to press charges or may ask the
Crown to withdraw the charges / decide they no longer wish to participate in the trial, which
may ultimately result in a dropped charge if their testimony was the main source of evidence
( Spohn et al. 2001 ). In provinces where the Crown is responsible for laying criminal charges,
the Crown may deny recommended charges due to the absence of evidence required to
satisfy the threshold for criminal convictions in Canadian courts ( Lonsway and Archaumbault
2012 ). In provinces where police are responsible for laying criminal charges, cases may not
be pursued without evidence. There is a tendency to limit the filing of sexual assault charges
to cases with a greater perceived chance of conviction.( Hohl and Stanko 2015 ; Lievore 2003 ;
O’Neal et al. 2015 ). According to Justice Canada's Research and Statistics Division's Just
Facts of April 2019, 83 per cent of sexual assaults are never reported and of those reported,
less than half (varying 41-46%) were cleared by charge, less than half again of which (42%)
resulted in a finding of guilt (resulting in ~4% findings of guilt in known sexual assault
instances).
In many sexual assault cases, physical evidence is not of primary importance or relevance.
In fact, many cases are tried with no physical evidence at all, especially in those cases where
the issue is consent or in those cases wherein a long time has passed before reporting. That
said, there are many instances when evidence can prove decisive in seeking justice for
survivors. In those instances, time and accuracy are critical in evidence collection.
According to She Matters (2021), Silenced: Canada’s Sexual Assault Evidence Kit
Accessibility Crisis, “41% of Canadian hospitals did not have kits, relied on RCMP to bring kits
or refused to disclose whether their facility had kits” at time of survey. The 'SAEK Crisis' has
resulted in “survivors presenting to hospitals and health centres only to be told that they
cannot be assisted as the hospital does not have SAEKs available or does not have trained
staff to conduct an SAEK. Depending on location, a survivor must then resort to involving the
RCMP to access an SAEK or commute to the nearest hospital where SAEKs are available to
undergo an examination. In some cases, the nearest hospital is hundreds of kilometers away
and can severely deter a survivor from continuing their search for healthcare and justice.”
For cases where evidence of assault could prove beneficial to supporting the survivor, the
police services or the Crown in finding justice, better access to SAEKs across the country, in
remote and urban locations alike, is key. Improved access to SAEKS can be attained by
removing long delays in process or extended travel for survivors, providing sufficient and
accessible kits, ensuring trained staff are available to administer the kits and that there is
adequate evidence storage in place.

Comments:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Canadian Federation of Business and Professional
Women (BPW Canada) urges the Government of Canada, specifically the Minister of Justice
and Attorney General of Canada, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth and
the Minister of Health to urge Health Canada to support the findings of the Recommendations
of the Silenced Report, specifically by enacting legislation or implementing regulation that
requires Sexual Assault Evidence Kits (SAEKs, aka kits) be available for use in all settlement
areas of Canada
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional
Women (BPW Canada) urges the Government of Canada, specifically the Minister of
Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and
Youth and the Minister of Health to urge Health Canada to further support the findings of the
Recommendations of the Silenced Report by the following:
a. create a national database for public use listing all hospitals and health centres with
SAEKs, available trained staff and storage facilities
b. supply federal funding to ensure every province and territory has sexual assault related
sensitivity training for all hospital staff, including triage staff and phone operators; and
c. create federal regulations that ensure all students in nursing and medical schools learn
sexual assault evidence collection.

©BPW Canada  www.bpwcanada.com

Article ID: 13350