Raped Quebec police officer Denise Robinson offered cash in return for resignation

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Denise Robinson was raped on the job.

The 38-year-old has come forward about it because of what her job was — police officer in a remote part of northern Quebec — and who her rapist was, a fellow officer.

But most of all she wants justice from her employer, the Kativik Regional Police Force, which she says abandoned her after she reported the February 2010 attack by Special Constable Joe Willie Saunders.

Robinson, who as a sexual assault victim could remain anonymous, has also spoken out to advocate for more protection for female officers from abuse, harassment and bullying, launching a petition on change.org.

Complaints by women police officers are not taken seriously, she wrote "and often it is the female officer and — not the problem officers — who face punishment and even job loss."

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Saunders was sentenced in August to 18 months in jail, the Nunatsiaq News reported.

The court heard that Robinson was drunk at a house party after finishing her shift in the village of Kuujjuaq. Two on-duty officers, including Saunders, stopped by and later drove Robinson back to the police residence.

According to the Globe and Mail, Robinson recalled passing out and waking up later to see Saunders putting on his pants and heading for the door. She then realized he'd had sex with her without her consent.

Robinson said she agonized for a week before reporting the attack to her superiors. Saunders was suspended for three months but returned to work while the Sûreté du Québec took over the criminal investigation that resulted in the sexual assault charge.

But Robinson was also relieved of duty and said she has not worked since.

"After I reported this case, I was booted out of my residence, I was sent to Montreal and abandoned," she said in her victim-impact statement to the court when Saunders was sentenced, according to the Globe.

"I was suspended from my job, I lost my entire financial support, and now my career is ruined."

But the Kativik police said it is holding out for proof Robinson is psychologically fit to work as a police officer.

"Ms. Robinson was not suspended from her position," spokeswoman Caroline D'Astous said via emailed to the Globe.

Robinson technically remains an employee who "has not submitted information indicating that she is fit to return to work" said D'Astous, but declined to elaborate.

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Robinson said that before Saunders was jailed, she and her psychologists had pressed the police force to transfer her so that she wouldn't have to work alongside her attacker, the Globe reported.

Robinson suggested her attitude didn't endear her to her fellow officers. She investigated several fellow officers, including one young constable she helped arrest during a drunken bar brawl, the Globe said.

Two days after she reported the sexual assault, Robinson received a letter from Kativik Chief Aileen MacKinnon.

The force, said the letter, "must be certain that when you are at work you are at all times able to execute your duties in a manner that does not put yourself, your co-workers or the public at risk," according to the Globe.

It urged Robinson to go to Montreal for an immediate psychiatric exam.

"You will not return to work before your medical evaluation," the letter said. "You are hereby authorized to use vacation days at this time."

Since then, she's been living in Ottawa on her savings and money from a federal crime-victims' fund as she pursues a labour grievance against the force.

Robinson told the Globe that the force is offering her a few months pay in return for her resignation.