Committee of MLAs may question Charlottetown police about drink-tampering investigations

·3 min read
The P.E.I. Police Commissioner's Office confirms it recently received a complaint about how an allegation of drink tampering was investigated.  (CBC - image credit)
The P.E.I. Police Commissioner's Office confirms it recently received a complaint about how an allegation of drink tampering was investigated. (CBC - image credit)

MLA Lynne Lund wants Charlottetown Police Services representatives to brief a legislative committee on how the force responds to complaints involving drink-spiking with the potential to lead to sexual assault.

The Green MLA has sent a request to the chair of P.E.I.'s standing committee on health and social development to ask staff from the capital city's police force to appear. Her request comes two days after a CBC Investigates report raised concerns over how Charlottetown police have dealt with such cases over the past decade.

The health committee is also responsible for oversight of justice issues in the province.

"This is a serious matter that has had profound impacts on those affected and their families, friends and supporters," Lund said Thursday in a letter to MLA Gord McNeilly, the committee's chair.

"These Islanders deserve accountability," Lund wrote. "They deserve clearer answers on why their complaints have not been satisfactorily resolved, and they deserve a better understanding of the actions police are taking to ensure Islanders can be safe in their communities."

McNeilly said that since the issue "is a very important and serious matter," he was reaching out to committee members to schedule a meeting to make the request a priority.

The CBC News story that aired Tuesday outlined how a local advocate gathered 17 allegations involving possible drink-tampering, many from 2010 and 2011, and took the accounts to Charlottetown police this past June. Kinley Dowling was told it would be difficult to gather any evidence of a crime being committed after so much time had elapsed.

Isabella Zavarise/CBC
Isabella Zavarise/CBC

Acting Deputy Chief Jennifer McCarron later told CBC that since 2001, there have been 16 complaints involving "administering a noxious substance" but no charges were ever laid.

On Nov. 5, Charlottetown Police Services said it was investigating two separate reports of women who consumed drinks spiked with something while out at downtown bars in October.

In one of the instances, police said toxicology testing confirmed the presence of a benzodiazepine — a class of drugs that includes Rohypnol, also known as "roofies" or date-rape drugs.

Complaint to police commissioner

Also on Thursday, the Office of the Police Commissioner on P.E.I. said it has received one complaint from the public regarding the Charlottetown Police Service's handling of a case involving allegations of drink tampering.

The complaint was filed in October, the office confirmed to CBC News.

The Charlottetown police force has been given 90 days to investigate its handling of the case.

If the complainant isn't satisfied with the results of that investigation, that person can then appeal to the commissioner.

Meanwhile, the executive director of the P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre said the organization is involved in discussions with Charlottetown Police Services around the issue.

Rachael Crowder said she met with police Chief Brad MacConnell on Wednesday.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"He expressed interest in developing a collaborative relationship with P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre to address the concerns of survivors of sexual violence that have been raised recently in regards to the reporting of drugging-related sexual assaults, as well as other reporting concerns in the past," Crowder said via email.

MacConnell said it was "premature" to share any more details of those discussions with the public, and would not grant an interview.

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