Historical sexual assault allegations against RCMP officers and Manitoba Hydro employees and contractors in the Gillam area during construction of hydroelectric dams are being investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Independent Investigations Unit (IIU) of Manitoba.
Criminal allegations involving RCMP officers in the Gillam area will be investigated by the IIU, the police watchdog agency that investigates serious incidents involving on- and off-duty police in Manitoba.
The allegations came to light when the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission published a report on the Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment conducted by Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro for the Nelson, Burntwood, and Churchill river system. The commission heard allegations of sexual assault dating back to the 1960s from members of Fox Lake Cree Nation during public hearings as part of the assessment process.
“Although these incidents are not subject to mandatory investigations under the Police Services Act, the civilian director has deemed it to be in the public interest for the IIU to investigate.” said an IIU news release. “In accordance with its mandate, the IIU investigation will focus on the actions of RCMP officers. Witnesses or other individuals who have information that may assist this investigation are asked to contact the IIU toll free at 1-844-667-6060.”
RCMP said they will continue to investigate all ongoing and new investigations of sexual assault and other criminal matters in Gillam and the surrounding area.
Historical criminal allegations against Manitoba Hydro employees or contractors will be investigated by the OPP.
“This was required as there were criminal allegations where both Manitoba Hydro employees and RCMP members may have been present,” said a Manitoba RCMP news release. “Determining the scope of the investigation will be the responsibility of the respective investigative agencies. Any new reports made to the RCMP that may fall within the mandate of either the IIU and OPP investigations will be referred as required.”
York Factory First Nation Chief Leroy Constant said Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister should order an inquiry into the Crown corporation Manitoba Hydro at a press conference in Winnipeg Sept. 7.
“They need to acknowledge the collective and individual trauma that has been occurring through northern hydroelectric development in the province,” he was quoted as saying by the Canadian Press.
Manitoba Keewatinook Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Garrison Settee supported Constant’s demand in a Sept. 14 statement.
“MKO supports the York Factory First Nation in the call for a commission of inquiry into the acts of racism, harassment, discrimination and sexual violence experienced by Indigenous Peoples in northern hydroelectric development in Manitoba,” Settee said. “MKO welcomes the Independent Investigation Unit and Ontario Provincial Police’s efforts in conducting the investigation into historical criminal allegations raised during the Clean Environment Commission report and the ‘Review of the Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment’ report.”