Montreal police took too long to respond to homeless woman's sexual assault complaint, shelter director says

Montreal police took too long to respond to homeless woman's sexual assault complaint, shelter director says

The head of a Montreal homeless centre says police didn't act fast enough after he called 911 to report a client said she'd been sexually assaulted.

David Chapman, acting director of the Open Door, says it took Montreal police two hours to show up at the shelter to talk to the young Indigenous woman, who he said had been wary about making a complaint in the first place.

The incident points to a need for police to better deal with Montreal's homeless population, he said. 

"When you are dealing with someone from a vulnerable people group, who, no doubt has experienced numerous traumas in their life and who needs to learn some confidence in police, certainly the way to bring confidence is not to leave them hanging a couple of hours before they tell a very difficult story of exactly how they've been raped," Chapman said.

Chapman says he first called 911 at around 8:30 a.m. Thursday, after the woman told him she'd been sexually assaulted the previous day.

After waiting an hour for officers to arrive, he called again. He then tried once more another 20 minutes later, to ask why it was taking so long.

Chapman says police finally arrived just before 10:30.

Police dispute lag time

Montreal police dispute the timing of the 911 calls. 

Const. Jean-Pierre Brabant said the first call came in at 8:28 a.m., and Chapman called back less than half an hour later.

He said an officer at Westmount's Station 12 then called Chapman to explain there would be a delay because the two police cruisers on patrol were dealing with situations in which someone's life was in danger.

Officers were then sent to Open Door at 10:10, he said.

Adapting to vulnerable population

Chapman said the woman's experience suggests police officers sometimes need to use a different approach with the city's most vulnerable.

"You can't simply assume that every citizen is simply dying to go and pound down the front door of a police station to demand their rights," he said.

"They need to adapt their approach to a vulnerable population."

Chapman said luckily, there were enough counsellors at the shelter on Thursday that someone was available to sit with the woman and help calm her as she waited.

He conceded that once the police arrived and sat down with the woman, everything went smoothly. 

Still, the slow police response time left Chapman with the sense that, had he not been so persistent, "this would have been a situation where no report would have been made because other priorities were more important than a raped Indigenous woman."