Examineradio – Episode 101

Bousquet: Hello, this is Examineradio, the weekly show and podcast that covers news, politics and all things Halifax. I’m Tim Bousquet, Editor of the Halifax Examiner, which is available online at halifaxexaminer.ca

Tailleur: I’m Terra Tailleur. I’m here to talk news.

Gragg: And I’m Russell Gragg, Examineradio producer and I’m back in the Halifax studios for the first time in a while.

Bousquet: Hi Russ – you zoomed into the studio right as we started recording, and you’re here for tonight’s event at the Marquee.

Gragg: Yes.

Bousquet: Do you want to plug that?

Gragg: Yes, absolutely. So it’s called ‘Is Atlantic Journalism Fucked?’ – and it will be a round table with Canadaland’s Jesse Brown, and the two of you, Terra Tailleur and Tim Bousquet – going to talk about the state of journalism in Atlantic Canada. It’s happening at the Marquee tonight at 6 p.m. – doors, we’ll be talking at 7 p.m. And it’s going to be sort of a joint live taping of both a Canadaland episode and an Examineradio episode. So hijinks will happen.

Bousquet: Great. Tonight, being Friday.

Gragg: Yes, Friday.

Bousquet: So people who are listening to this podcast after Friday you’re just out of luck.

Gragg: Yes. You’ll have to wait and tune in to one of the podcasts or both of them. Yes, so the whole thing is a fundraiser for CKDU Radio who are good enough to give us studio space each week and air time to do Examineradio each week. And we encourage people to go to CKDU.ca and become a sustainer – support independent journalism and independent media, and give us a hand.

Bousquet: Terra, are you going to bring all these pages that you bring into the studio with you, full facts and…

Tailleur: Facts? Yes. We love facts. I’m hoping to actually have…

Bousquet: That’s going to skew everything.

Tailleur: I want to have a whole phalanx of students there who are ready to fact-check.

Bousquet: Phalanx.

Tailleur: Yes.

Bousquet: Oh, I thought you meant something else.

Tailleur: No, no, no, no, no. I think that’s the dirtiest I will… you know, foul things that will come up out of my mouth.

Bousquet: Okay. This, as opposed to tomorrow, is Episode 101of Examineradio and as always you can listen to the show on CKDU, which is 88.1 FM in Halifax on Fridays at 4:30 or via their website at www.ckdu.ca.

Gragg: And you can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play or any other place that regularly aggregates podcasts, and you can have the episodes automatically delivered to your device of choice. Just look for Halifax Examiner in the search engine. It will be the first result.

Bousquet: Today we’ll speak to Susan Wilson from the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre about recent issues with taxis and sexual assaults, but first let’s do week in review. Terra, what do you have there?

Tailleur: Well let’s start off with teachers. I guess we can kind of – as you know, it has been in the news a lot – lots of things have been going on and it was last Tuesday when Bill No. 75 did pass, and that imposed a four-year contract on to the public school teachers of the province. You know, and again, this was a long debate – pretty acrimonious. Teachers were rallying outside. But since then, from what we understand, the education students from Mount were headed to the classrooms this week to start their practicum so it looks like that has kind of settled itself. But do you remember that council they were talking about – the idea that as teachers were talking about classroom conditions and they really wanted that addressed. So there are nine positions for teachers on this new council that’s going to look at classroom conditions. And guess how many teachers applied?

Bousquet: Oh – 979? I don’t know.

Tailleur: That’s pretty good – 779 actually. So 779 teachers from across the province applied for nine seats and they’re going to have to decide who’s going to get them next week.

Bousquet: The union – the NSTU – did issue a release complaining that they were not involved or will not be involved in the vetting of which teachers get appointed to the committee. So their fear is that that small minority of teachers who have been voting against or for approval of the contract and been taking the government’s party line will be appointed to this committee, and it won’t be a representative sample of teachers.

Tailleur: Well it is the school board superintendents who will be choosing the final nine.

Gragg: Can we talk really quickly about work to rule? Is that still a thing?

Bousquet: Well not as an organized effort.

Gragg: Okay.

Bousquet: The teachers I talked to are – there’s a range. Some are just demoralized and are saying ‘Why should I volunteer my time to go do this?’, but others that their love of the children and their work dominate their thoughts, and they’re back at it. It’ll be interesting to see some solid numbers on that into next semester.

Gragg: Liette Doucet, president of the NSTU, has said that the union is putting together a complaint.

Bousquet: So there’s been a series of rulings for the past couple years on very similar situations. Now, not exact but very similar situations with public employee unions having a contract forced on them and the courts have subsequently ruled that governments are interfering with the right of free association of the employees.

Gragg: Yes, so this is a constitutional challenge.

Bousquet: Yes, but unfortunately for the union, these court rulings typically take a few years so even if the court does rule for the union, it’s likely this contract will be nearly expired and certainly the government – there will be at least one election before then.

Gragg: Right, okay – so it’s sort of a kick-the-can-down-the-road kind of strategy of the McNeil Government.

Bousquet: Yes, I think that’s what they were hoping – that McNeil was going to say, ‘Okay, we’ve solved these labour issues, let’s have an election, vote for me because I’m such a tough guy with unions.’ And it doesn’t matter that the contract that he just opposed will get overturned by the courts.

Gragg: Right. Okay. What’s next?

Tailleur: News wise?

Gragg: Sure.

Tailleur: Let’s talk about Darrell Dexter, our former…

Gragg: Let’s say ‘high’ to Darrell Dexter.

Tailleur: Oh, you did go there, didn’t you? You had to go there.

Bousquet: Let me light up here.

Tailleur: There you go. So our former Premier who is a lobbyist working for Global Public Affairs is now a lobbyist for the weed industry. His project is called Cannabis Connect – yes.

Bousquet: Did you hear that CBC interview?

Tailleur: I didn’t hear it. I was just looking at the transcript.

Bousquet: It was hilarious, you know. Go on.

Tailleur: So you do actually have to go to the CBC site to read this. I do love the fact that they did ask him, ‘Do you still consume marijuana recreationally?’

Bousquet: Well he had said that in the 60s and 70s of course he – like most people did – experimented. I don’t know if that was his word. So the follow-up question was, ‘Do you still use it recreationally?’ And he said…

Tailleur: No, I do not.

Bousquet: You see, now I would have followed up. I would have been, ‘What about booze, Darrell?’ ‘Any oxycontin there?’ ‘Any other narcotics?’ But they just let that drop.

Tailleur: Bad CBC. (Laughter) Bad CBC, yah. Absolutely. So this will be interesting.  I mean, you know, he’s saying, look, he’s coming at this from a public policy perspective, and he’s saying ‘look, this industry is potentially worth $22 billion.’ That’s a lot of money.

Bousquet: Do you believe that number?

Tailleur: I don’t know. This is a Deloitte report.

Bousquet: Yes, he said that it was worth more than the entire beer, wine and spirits industry in Canada.

Gragg: I find that hard to believe. I’m going to be – Deloitte is a fairly reputable organization, but I’d love to know where they got that number from and…

Bousquet: What have they been smoking? (Laughter)

Tailleur: Okay, let’s talk about the drug audits at Halifax Regional Police.

Bousquet: And we need to, I think, give credit to Jacob Boon at the Coast for really getting into this story. He was the first to really break this story and has done some excellent reporting. That audit came out – was it almost a year ago now?

Tailleur: July. So what happened was, there was the initial audit and subsequently because they discovered there were things that were missing – they just weren’t there. We’re talking cash, drugs, drug paraphernalia – so since July – actually since the Fall. So the Fall going into basically last month – they did another audit. Basically they went through the database and they looked at all – and I’m going to give you this number – 12,792 drug-related exhibits, and they discovered that there is still stuff that’s unaccounted for. And this is what the police chief says though – that there’s no proof that anything is “untoward”.

Bousquet: I was at that police commission meeting and I have been following this since. I think he’s right. I think it’s unlikely that cops are stealing stuff out of the evidence room because it doesn’t make sense. I don’t think that cops are any more ethical than anyone else, but if you’re going to steal drugs from street criminals and stuff you’d do it before it gets to the evidence room, right? And I do think that this is a paperwork screw-up more than anything.

Gragg: I don’t know, I’m going to take the other side here. I think that there’s no reason to not assume that this stuff is going missing because people are taking it, and it’s because the people in the department know how lax the system is, and knows basically like, ‘I can go in, I can take what I want and they’re never going to…’

Bousquet: Well some of the… The details they tracked down is – so far they have not found that situation. So far they found that things had been returned to the court and hadn’t been recorded that way or things had been disposed of and hadn’t been recorded that way, so…

Tailleur: But what’s really telling is the recommendations that came out of that first audit, and what the police have been doing to implement these. I mean, they have wooden vault doors there so they’re replacing them with steel. Now they’re going to put CCTV cameras at the vault access. So they didn’t have them before? That’s a question. (Laughter) Individual vault access codes – so now everyone will have their own personalized code to get in and out, which suggests they didn’t have that.  Maybe they had one: 1,2, 3, 4 – who knows what it was. But also a two-person rule. So you go into the room – there has to be two people now. And they say that these are all things that they have been implementing.

Bousquet: These are common practices everywhere – police departments everywhere. The thought that I came away with after thinking about this is I really don’t care about the drug exhibits. I think we overcharge on drugs. We have too many drug laws. Even in Canada we have an effective war on drugs that is criminalizing entire communities and destroying people’s lives when their issues should be radicalized, on and on and on. You know, if some evidence is missing and someone isn’t prosecuted as a result, well, I’m okay with that. And you know, if people are stealing stuff, well that’s not the end of the world. What I worry about far more than the drug stuff is the other kind of evidence that was not audited. So – murder trials. What about rape kits? This was an issue down in the states that has been – the subject of some investigative journalism that rape kits go missing. As a result, serial rapists were never identified, et cetera. These are far more serious issues than, you know, somebody’s dime-bag disappeared from the evidence room, and I wish that we knew more about that.

Gragg: So currently they haven’t done any sort of an audit.

Bousquet: The audit was only of the drug room.

Gragg: And the money too, right?

Bousquet:  Drug-related, yes.

Gragg: Interesting. I guess we have to talk about the – I mean, the story that’s been blowing up for the last 48 hours is the acquittal of the cab driver. I don’t know how to quickly summarize this – and our guest will be talking a little bit more about this.

Bousquet: Well here’s the situation – and there’s a little weird thing. It’s not really relevant to the story, but kind of presaged on this – that there was a guy a couple years ago got in a cab and he told the cab driver, I need to get to – I think it was Subway on Quinpool. And a guy got out, went in Subway, came back out and says, no, I want to go to McDonalds. Went to McDonalds and he went to three or four fast food places late at night and finally the last one he went to the people called the cops and said, we just got held up by someone using a cab to get away.

Gragg: I remember that.

Bousquet: And this guy had robbed a series of these fast food restaurants using the same cab. He wasn’t the driver. He was paying the driver to take him to rob places and this guy… The cops were like, we’ve got to find this cab. And so they sent cops everywhere, and one of the cops was this female police officer who went down Atlantic Avenue behind the grain silos and she saw a cab sitting there running. And so she got out of her car and approached it, and what did she find? She found nothing to do with the fast food robberies, but a passed out nude passenger in the back seat and a driver zipping up his pants. And that’s how this whole thing came about. We have a witness of a police officer, DNA evidence – her DNA was on his mouth. There was obviously a drunk person. And he was charged with sexual assault. And what happened Wednesday was he was acquitted on those charges.

Gragg: This has predictably launched a fire storm and the story is quickly going national. I’ve been hearing from reporters in Toronto and points west wanting more information on this. Bassam Al-Rawi is the acquitted cab driver, which means he is free to drive again.

Bousquet: No. The city has considered his licence to drive…

Gragg: Currently his licence is…

Bousquet: He does not have a valid licence right now. He has not applied for one since this. He applied to get his revocation overturned. It was, but he didn’t apply for a new licence.

Gragg: Okay.

Bousquet: So he hasn’t been driving.

Tailleur: And no taxi company in this area is going to take him on.

Bousquet/Gragg: No.

Tailleur: They’ve all come out and they’ve all distanced themselves and said he would never work for any of them.

Bousquet: This is a reputational thing in their mind. They want… They hate this, right?

Tailleur: Absolutely.

Gragg: Yes, it was a huge black eye for the industry. But would there be anything stopping him from becoming an independent operator?

Tailleur: And that’s where the city would have a say here.

Bousquet: Right. And as of today there’s been no application for either car or reinstatement of the taxi driving licence. If there is, we’ll certainly let you know.

Gragg: Yes, we’ll report on that, certainly. I’d like to talk a little bit about the judge who acquitted Al-Rawi – Judge Gregory Lenehan – who’s got quite a reputation, I would say.

Bousquet: Well, you know, he’s a provincially appointed judge and he started his judicial career in Bridgewater and since seems to be moving around a little bit. He was one of the judges in the Rehtaeh Parsons business.

Gragg: Yes.

Bousquet: And he’s been working in Halifax – and lately in Pictou, and I’m not sure how that works – but he last hit the news in a big way when he kicked a woman named Willow Brooks out of his courtroom because she was breastfeeding her four month-old son.

Tailleur: So yes – it will be interesting to see if or how many complaints there are – official complaints will be filed about him.

Bousquet: Just coincidentally, back in November, I was very much interested in the issue that the judicial council, which is the provincial body that reprimands and disciplines judges for doing wayward things. And so I called up the courts and I said I’d like to see all the judicial council decisions. And after some back and forth they got back to me and said: there’ve been no complaints for 15 years against judges. I suspect that what that really means is that when someone calls up to complain or files a complaint, they say, before we make this official, maybe we can come to some sort of resolution without bringing this to the council. And that’s what my lawyer friends tell me.

Tailleur: Wouldn’t they keep track of the calls or the initial complaints? I mean, wouldn’t they keep track of the numbers that are kind of coming in, whether they’re settled or agreed to or not?

Bousquet: You would think, but they’re telling me there are zero. And if you look at the federal counterpart, there’s only been about five in the last few years nationwide, so I think that’s the  same issue there.

Gragg: Okay, well look – let’s take a break here on Examineradio. When we come back we’re going to speak with Susan Wilson who is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program Coordinator with the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. We’ll be back right after this.

[Break]

Bousquet: I’m joined on the phone with Susan Wilson who is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and Program Coordinator at the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. Hello.

Wilson: Hi Tim.

Bousquet: Did I get all that right?

Wilson: Yes, you did.

Bousquet: Okay. You abbreviate this as S.A.N.E..

Wilson: Correct.

Bousquet: You’ve been busy the last couple days, ever since this judicial ruling came down on the cab driver charged with sexual assault. I wonder what your thoughts are generally on this issue.

Wilson: Well, Tim, I guess I’d like to say that we’re probably as disappointed in the decision and the messaging that’s come out as a result of this as anyone else is out there in the public right now.

Bousquet: What do you see is the message that comes out with this ruling?

Wilson: Well I think there’s multiple messages that come out, but I think the overall message is really that at what point can one consent or remove their ability to consent – and this seemed pretty clear with a lot of things that we don’t typically see, witnessed, blood alcohol level, an expert testimony that were able to speak to her level of consent – witnessed  unconsciousness, I should say. Yet there’s still question about her ability to consent in this case. So we have a sexual assault law and consent is defined within that law, and so we’re struggling to understand how that’s being interpreted by this particular judge.

Bousquet: It seems to me that there probably is at some point some nuance about consent in general, but in this case it was just so egregious and so… I look at it and it seems clear cut. There’s no argument. You know, there’s no nuance in this case. Someone passed out drunk, been picked up 10 minutes earlier, nude and a man buttoning his pants as a cop is watching on. It’s beyond me how anyone – a judge or anyone else – can look at that situation and think that there’s some sort of nuanced conversation about consent going on there. You deal with, obviously, sexual assault victims on a regular basis. How do they – the people you deal with, are they going to the police already on a regular basis or do your clients or the people you deal with avoid the police? What’s their…

Wilson: Well, in general, there is a very, very low reporting rate so I guess it depends on if you’re talking about people who are reporting here for counselling or people who are reporting to the S.A.N.E. program because those rates would be different with in reporting to police. For example, reporting to the S.A.N.E. program we offer different options. It might be somebody who is coming into the hospital to report immediate sexual assault – one that had occurred within five days of the assault. And they have different options that are presented to them with regards to what they’d like to do with regards to medical care, forensic evidence collection, reporting to police immediately, collecting evidence to store that, hold that report until later on should they choose to do that, or not going that route at all. And so what we see is generally about a third to a half of the people that we see would report to police immediately – pretty much about a third, a third, a third, I guess. About a third of those would freeze kits with –and then they have six months to decide if they want to report and release that evidence to police. And then about a third choose not to report at all.

Bousquet: And these are the people who are showing up on their own saying they’ve had a sexual assault, so they’ve already made that affirmative step to come see you.

Wilson: That’s right.

Bousquet: Are you worried that this decision in particular will change the way the sexual assault victims perceive what their options are?

Wilson: Yes, absolutely – greatly concerned. And I should say, too, Tim, that those people who are coming forward to us are the people who would be more likely to be reporting to police. So when we see individuals such as in this particular case that’s before the public right now – when we see a lot of individuals who – within our centre, not necessarily in the S.A.N.E. program – who have no recall of the assault, they’re less likely to report because they don’t have the details to report. But in this case, this was a witnessed event. Overall, within the organization, our reporting rate to police would be much lower – so the S.A.N.E. would see more people reporting to police because that’s part of what we do. We’re a medical forensic service so we kind of bridge that gap between health care and the law.

Bousquet: I see.

Wilson: Overall within our organization, by far the majority of people do not report sexual assault to police and proceed to go through that criminal justice system.

Bousquet: The worry is not so much the people that you see will change how they approach it, but fewer people will show up for services in the first place.

Wilson: Oh they’ll show up for services here for sure – I will just see that reporting rate, which is somewhere between 6 and 10 per cent in some recent research that we did here, a S.A.N.E. evaluation that we just completed in the Fall, we estimated that reporting rate here in the Halifax area to be about 6 per cent of sexual assaults… those who’ve experienced sexual assault who will report to police and go through the criminal justice system.

Bousquet: Just 6 per cent.

Wilson: Just 6 per cent. So then when we see things like this, that gets so much public attention, we know anecdotally, and we know from hearing from our clients that access our services here that people are much less likely to report.

Bousquet: It’s hard to blame them.

Wilson: Absolutely. Our conviction rate is really low. We have, again in that research that we just did, we looked at a 10-year period of all sexual assaults here in the Halifax area, those that were S.A.N.E. cases and those that were not S.A.N.E. over the same 10-year period and that conviction rate is 7 per cent, and that’s a very generous 7 per cent because when I say seven I’m saying that’s a conviction in anything that they were charged with. So if there were multiple charges and they were convicted on any one of those charges, it was counted as a conviction.

Bousquet:  Just to be clear, you’re saying 7 per cent of people charged?

Wilson: Seven per cent of people who reported to police and went through that criminal justice system there was 7 per cent of those individuals were charged. So if we look at just simply the overall criminal justice that comes… for the period 2005 to 2014, and this was all sexual assaults in individuals ages 16 and over that were reported to police in the Halifax region – so that’s Halifax Regional Police, Halifax region RCMP, and our SAIT team – our sexual assault investigative team. So there were 1,918 reports to police. That’s not how many sexual assaults occurred; that’s how many reported. And remember how many I said report – a very, very low percentage. So we had 1,918 reports to police – 1,754 – 91 per cent of those were recorded as a crime. So there was a recent…

Bousquet: Robyn Doolittle who is working the Globe and Mail about the unfounded…

Wilson: That’s right. Our research actually showed different numbers so it showed 9 per cent were unfounded. I think theirs showed 13. We looked at a 10-year period – not a five-year. And we did see some – there were a couple blips within those years so we can see why they would have some different numbers there as well.

Bousquet: Let’s just back up a bit for listeners. The unfounded rate is the percentage of rape allegations reported to police that police do not pursue.

Wilson: Yes, it’s the percentage… No, it’s not the percentage that they don’t pursue – it’s the percentage where they have found that a crime did not occur.

Bousquet: So unfounded allegation.

Wilson: Unfounded allegations. So that doesn’t necessarily mean that police didn’t believe the victim. It may mean that – and we see this in some cases where a victim is not really sure if an assault occurred. So anyway, for whatever reason, they have found that a crime has not occurred. So of those 1,754 cases that were recorded as a crime, charges were laid and 437, or in 23 per cent of that overall number… So there’s a 40 per cent attrition rate in there that we found where charges may have been able to be laid in those 91 per cent of founded cases, but the victim chose to pull out of the system. So that was a real concern for us. Why are victims choosing to report to police and then choosing not to proceed? And so there’s a multitude of reasons. We were able to pull some of that information and Halifax Regional Police and RCMP were very, very good partners in this in that they were – they totally supported the research that we did and helped to pull that research and gather that data and look at this, because they’re committed to also doing better with this – so I should say that very clearly, and they’ve been very clear with us in that, and in trying to improve their services over the years as well. So that 40 per cent attrition rate has us quite concerned – and trying to determine how… why are those… that number of individuals deciding not to proceed after reporting to police. We know some people just report to police and say, I just want it on the record – this happened, this is the individual who did it, I just want you to know, but I don’t want to go to court. And we know that some people start through the process and then decide that it’s not the appropriate time in their life to deal with that and they can’t. And then we know that some people go through the system and feel unsupported by the system and by individuals within the system, and don’t. So lots of things going on there. It was also very clear through our research that there is a lack of trauma informed response, which needs to happen from entry point to exit point, and overall support for the victim throughout – again from that whole process… so an alarming number of individuals who pull out of that on their own. However, we also had a number that did go to trial. So in 23 per cent, charges were laid and they were only convictions and 7 per cent of that overall number, 136 cases over 10 years. And convictions are guilty pleas or, like I said, which could be a plea-down – so it could be pleading guilty to physical assault rather than sexual assault. It could be pleading guilty to robbery, and have a sexual assault charge dropped. Or it could be pleading to… or it could be convicted of sexual assault.

Bousquet: So that 7 per cent of the overall brought to police, but it sounds like even something like a quarter of the percentage that are actually charged. So even if you get to the point of going to court, you’re statistically unlikely to get a conviction.

Wilson: That’s right.

Bousquet: What does that say about the state of our society and how we’re dealing with sexual assault?

Wilson: Well, you know, I think the situation is pretty dire, and I think there’s a lot of complex issues within this particular crime. It’s most often not a witnessed crime and so it often comes down to a consent issue. It either comes down to, ‘wasn’t there, didn’t do it’, in which case DNA would be crucial or it comes down to a consent issue, and then it’s trying to prove that… the very issue that we’re speaking about this week – whether somebody is able to consent – whether they did consent or not. And it’s hard to prove that when there are no witnesses – unless you can look at other things like, what are the elements of consent – how does one consent? And if they’re intoxicated, unconscious, otherwise unable to consent because of other incapacitation.

Bousquet:  Here we have a judge, a judicial ruling, saying that even in this circumstance consent was an issue. I don’t know what kind of message we’re sending – not just to women who are thinking about how to deal with sexual assaults but men who are potential assaulters.

Wilson: Well, and you know the message has to go out both ways for sure. We’re responding reactively here many times to individuals who already experienced sexual assault, but we also need to look at prevention and we need to… You know, I have a son and a daughter at home and my message to them is clear to both – not just about what sexual assault is, but what consent is and what is okay and what’s not okay. And we need to be clear about that. I thought that… This case seems pretty clear to me. Again, this woman gets into a cab and within 10 minutes she’s found unconscious.

Bousquet: And witnessed by a police officer.

Wilson: Witnessed by a police officer. Blood alcohol level, which we – to have all of those elements… witnessed unconsciousness, blood alcohol level, and an expert to testify about that blood alcohol level and her ability to recall… And then that type timeline as well – that 10 minutes between the time she hailed the cab and the time she was found. I struggle to understand it, Tim. I really… I don’t understand it as a medical professional. I don’t understand how a judge can say that somebody can be in that state… She would had to have driven to that area in that cab and have her clothing removed or remove her clothing – however that came to happen. That was all pretty quick.

Bousquet: You obviously deal with the issue on the broad strokes and for the future, but what do you think should be the response to this particular instance now that the judge has made his ruling now that people are very upset about it? What should happen?

Wilson: Well, I’m glad to see what is happening currently in that there is a lot of public response to this. This is something that we see on a daily basis here, but it’s very high profile – this particular case – and because of certain elements… because it was a taxi driver and somebody who was in a position of trust and power again, which is kind of defined under that consent law, so… and all of the other evidence that goes along with it. But we see this happen all the time. Good public attention to address the issue and public pressure is – I’m happy to see that. I’m happy that that supports the victim, the complainant – in this case as well. And you know, I think that we need to address this as a society, as a nation across Canada. Next week I’ll be attending a justice Canada knowledge exchange on the criminal justice system’s responses to sexual assault against adults, which is quite timely. But this needs to happen. Obviously judges interpret consent within the criminal code differently. We know that judges don’t have a good understanding about sexual assault and need more education. We’ve seen that happen across the country. And I don’t know what their educational requirements are, but I know there’s a push for some mandatory education and I certainly support that. And yes, something needs to change for people to feel safe in reporting and going forward. And conviction rates are low, but the number of sexual assaults is not going to decrease. It’s going to increase as we have individuals who continue to be sexually assaulted by offenders who are going to continue to perpetrate this crime – whether it’s reported or not. If they’re not convicted they’re going to continue to. We know that there – in this particular case – there were a couple of reports already of sexual assaults against this individual and no charge laid. So we know that… I think there were two previous. So that’s at least three that were reported.

Bousquet: It strikes me – as you’re talking, it’s strikes me that a lot of things came together to make this particular case public in a way that most cases aren’t. Basically the taxi review issue and that it came before city council, so there was the public spotlight on this. It was rare, I think, in sexual assault cases. I’m wondering how many of these cases are just being missed by reporters and by the public. And what I’m hearing from you is that there are very many of them.

Wilson: Well there are, for sure. We see, those who report to us, just to the S.A.N.E. program for immediate care within five days of the assault, we’re seeing 150-plus individuals a year in hospital plus that same amount that were responding to by phone and providing support over the phone. So about 300-plus responses to immediate sexual assaults here in the Halifax region.

Bousquet: Are you hearing these sort of comments from other judges?

Wilson: Yes, we have – we certainly have over the years. We’ve heard all kinds of similar kinds of comments, and we’ve seen a pattern in different ways that consent is interpreted by judges. And I do think that a different judge may have made a different decision in this case.

Bousquet: This is a very dispiriting conversation, and I don’t know how to wrap it up, other than thanking you for your work and thanking you for your time to come on.

Wilson: Well, thank you Tim. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this further and for putting that out there and, again, putting that message out there and the messages that I want to put out there. Our message is clear. I think this is a really sad time for this particular young woman, and we support her in this and we’re thinking of her and the impact on her and also on the impact of other victims and survivors. We know this is very triggering – and we support them coming forward to seek the supports that they need and the resources they need, whether that’s through Avalon, medical, forensic supports, counselling, navigation – whatever that may be, or whatever supports they have. And reporting and going through that criminal justice process is a very individual decision not everyone makes, but people need to understand that there are other supports that are in place, and reporting to police doesn’t need to happen right away. So even if one has experienced a sexual assault they can report now. There’s no statute of limitations on that. And if they feel that they want to report through the criminal justice system later they can certainly do that.

Bousquet: Let’s leave it there. Thank you for your time. I’ve been speaking with Susan Wilson who is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and Program Coordinator at the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. And we’ll return right after this.

[Break]

Bousquet: That’s a wrap for this week’s Examineradio – the weekly podcast and radio show produced by the Halifax Examiner. I’m Tim Bousquet.

Tailleur: I’m Terra Tailleur.

Gragg: And I’m Russell Gragg. As always, we’d love to know what you think. If you have comments on what you’ve heard or story suggestions for future episodes, please send us an email to: podcast@halifaxexaminer.ca

Bousquet: Until next week, your phrase is, ‘Darrell’s not here!’

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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