Police board settled human rights complaint with officer alleging sexual assault

·4 min read
The officer's 45-page human rights complaint named nearly two dozen Ottawa Police Service and detailed not only an alleged off-duty sexual assault but years of systemic sexism that began when she was just months into the job. (Hugo Belanger/CBC - image credit)
The officer's 45-page human rights complaint named nearly two dozen Ottawa Police Service and detailed not only an alleged off-duty sexual assault but years of systemic sexism that began when she was just months into the job. (Hugo Belanger/CBC - image credit)

WARNING: This article details allegations of sexual assault and may affect those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone affected by it.

The Ottawa Police Services Board has reached a confidential settlement with an officer who alleged in a 2019 human rights complaint she was raped, stalked, and repeatedly propositioned by her fellow officers.

The 45-page human rights complaint, which named nearly two dozen Ottawa Police Service (OPS) employees, detailed not only an alleged off-duty sexual assault but years of systemic sexism that began when she was just months into the job.

The officer was a rookie in 2011 when she accepted a ride home from a fellow patrol constable after a night out at a bar. She alleged that instead of taking her home, the constable detoured to his own house, where he gave her a "fizzy" drink and then sexually assaulted her.

CBC News is not naming the woman because she is a complainant of sexual assault. But in a Fifth Estate investigation into sexism at the force, the woman was identified by the pseudonym "Anne."

In the complaint, the woman also alleged a staff sergeant once said he would give her time off to get "a boob job," and that male constables told her she made "everyone's short list" of female officers they wanted to have sex with.

After a romantic relationship with another police officer, the woman alleged he stalked her. When she brought it up to others, they dismissed her safety concerns, she said in the complaint.

The settlement was reached in April 2021, police board chair Coun. Diane Deans confirmed this week.

"I can confirm that the parties reached a resolution of the complaint in April 2021. However the terms of that resolution are confidential between the parties," Deans said in a statement.

Laura Osman/CBC
Laura Osman/CBC

The woman's lawyer, Paul Champ, also confirmed the settlement, but would not comment beyond that, also citing its confidential nature.

When the complaint was first filed, the woman sought $805,000 in damages for harm to dignity and self-respect, loss of income and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

She also asked the service to hire an external consultant to provide education and training on gender-based discrimination and distribute a copy of the tribunal's decision to all women applying for jobs at the OPS.

Deans did not answer whether any policy changes were recommended or instituted at the OPS because of the settlement.

Board, force told to settle outstanding legal disputes

Last week, the OPS released the results of an independent assessment of the force's workplace culture and how employees feel about its handling of workplace harassment and sexual violence.

Employees told an independent investigator that they continue to be penalized for reporting their colleagues' bad behaviour. They said women are sexually objectified and that racialized officers are unfairly scrutinized for the same behaviour of their white counterparts.

The workplace assessment was part a project by the force and the board to tackle workplace sexual violence, launched in 2020 after one of the service's own deputy chiefs was charged with sexual misconduct.

Among its 18 recommendations, all of which were accepted by both the service and the board, was that the board settle any outstanding workplace harassment legal disputes to the best of their abilities.

Q3 studios/Hoopstars
Q3 studios/Hoopstars

Male officer awaits misconduct hearing in February

One officer named in the woman's complaint, Const. Kevin Benloss, whom she alleges sexually assaulted her, has been investigated both criminally and the by Ottawa police's misconduct unit.

No criminal charges were ever laid against him, despite the Ontario Provincial Police believing there were grounds to do so.

Benloss was charged by Ottawa police in November 2020 with disciplinary offences under the Police Services Act.

The service alleged that Benloss acted in a manner likely to bring discredit on or harm the reputation of the service when on March 13, 2011, he "engaged in communication and/or physical and/or sexual contact towards a sworn member … that you ought to have known was unwelcome, unwanted, offensive, intimidating, hostile or inappropriate."

Benloss was also charged with one count of insubordination for allegedly breaching the force's respectful workplace policy, which governs how employees must treat each other.

He was suspended with pay in September 2020.

Benloss is scheduled to face a disciplinary hearing at the end of February.

Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.

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