Olivia Chow's speech from
Imagine this: you are alone and you are being threatened. You are afraid that if you're not sexually assaulted you will be arrested. What would you do? Call the police, of course. Right. Well, Internal Affairs shows up and says, "This is unacceptable. We need to deal with this -- especially if the guy threatening you and sexually assaulting you is a police officer. This is not acceptable bring your lawyer with you." And then, what happens next? Internal Affairs says "Who set you up? We'll deal with this cop; we'll settle this situation. Don't worry, we'll take care of you. We'll charge that bastard. We'll do everything to nail him." You say ok, for the common good, you'll just have to do it. Sure enough, the cops bust him in your apartment and arrest the guy, but in interrogating this cop they don't write a report. They didn't take any statement. They put him in jail but let him out and don't lay any charges. Delayed and delayed and everybody is wondering when is this guy getting charged. They never had the intention to charge him in the first place. Why do you want to go through this if this guy wasn't supposed to get charged? Well, ok, they do the disciplinary charge; they charge him with something else, not criminal charges. More delays, more delays. You're trying to find out the name of this cop. You can't find out. You can't find out when is the hearing. You can't find out. You don't know anything. There is no written record of anything. You try to get hold of a lawyer. It doesn't go anywhere. And then the cops have the gull to say, "Well, the hearings happened; there were no charges. The officer got demoted a little but is still working. Not much happened. That is outrageous and ridiculous.
Fiona's memorial, November 8, 1996
However, this is not the end of it. Things did change; there was the Junger/Whitehead Inquiry. Whitehead is the cop that was assaulting Fiona. The Junger/Whitehead Inquiry had a list of recommendations and of course the former chief said nothing went wrong. "Nothing at all went wrong" -- that's what he said. She didn't go to the hearings because she wasn't paying enough attention. Right. Not only could she not find the name of the officer who had assaulted her, her name was to be released to the public. She had to go to court to stop that from happening. That's just outrageous. The inquiry lasted for 53 days plus 13 evenings. Imagine what Fiona had to go through. This was between Oct. '90 till March '92. That's a long time. Because of her courage and the strength a lot of people are talking about the whole issue of police accountability, and the whole issue of violence against women has come up. People noticed it. The public understood it and things were never the same again.
What is changed? I called the Police Service Board. I spoke to Maureen Prinsloo and asked her what has changed. She said women who have been sexually assaulted now know the time and place of the hearings. The can enter victim impact statements. The women's identity is now protected and the board is notified of new cases. Every month the board gets new reports from Internal Affairs; they didn't used to get any reports. Now they are notified about the progress of these investigations and there is a panel discussion happening next spring. The Ontario Police Services Board has a panel regarding the accountability of the Police Services Board.
Fiona made a big difference. What she accomplished was phenomenal; we have to understand that. It's hard to believe an officer finally got charged last year for sexual assault. Never before has an officer been charged. This sends a clear message that that is unacceptable behaviour.
Policy states that a person involved who is a member of this force shall be treated in the same manner as any other citizen. A criminal is a criminal; of course they should be treated like any other citizen. But it wasn't happening. At least we have it in writing now. It's a routine order. It's a standing order according to the cops. Apparently there is a very big important announcement coming this Thursday at the Police Services meeting, about investigating sexual assault. I'll believe it when I see it.
But I think in many ways Fiona gave all of us a lot of strength and she has moved the whole question of police accountability and violence against women a step forward. The rest of the many steps depend on all of us. I was suggesting -- and I don't know if they will do it or not -- that at the upcoming Police Services Board meeting on Thursday, we should ask them for one minute of silence for Fiona. We should demand that, because we need to turn our anger into strength. We need to have that. I'll suggest it on Tuesday to Ms. Prinsloo. I don't know what the response will be. Perhaps we'll force it anyway. Let's just go there on Thursday at 1 p.m. There is also a public meeting on Dec. 11. It's about sexual assault and investigations and all that stuff. There are many other steps we need to take, because we know Fiona wants us to take them. We know we can do it. We need to get together and do it, because there is lots of strength here. Let's do it.