Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran. (File)

Sexual assault survivor confronts Kelowna mayor at council meeting

After the council meeting, Heather Friesen had an item of her own to add to the agenda

A sexual assault survivor confronted Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran about his confidence in the local RCMP during a city council meeting on Monday night.

Heather Friesen, who was allegedly raped when she was 15 years old, has been extremely vocal about her disdain for the RCMP and the mayor after Statistics Canada revealed the city’s police force deemed almost 40 per cent of sexual assault reports as “unfounded” in 2018.

“The survivors in this community who are too afraid to report because of the reputation of the RCMP in this community are not just anyone,” Friesen yelled at the mayor and councillors after the meeting ended.

“I had the courage to stand in front of your office and call you out by name. And, when you apologize, all you say is anyone.”

The mayor tried to offer Friesen a meeting, saying he’d be glad to meet in his office, however the offer was drowned out by Friesen who continued to yell.

“You know where I live, you know who I am,” she said while making her way out of the room.

“Have the courage to come to me. I shouldn’t have to beg you.”

READ MORE: Protest planned against Kelowna RCMP’s high unfounded sexual assault numbers

READ MORE: ‘Steeped in rape culture’: Sexual assault survivor speaks out against Kelowna RCMP

Last week the mayor issued an apology to “anyone offended or hurt” by his initial reaction to the statistics.

“The number of local sex assault complaints deemed to be unfounded is deeply concerning and I know the local detachment is taking this matter seriously,” wrote Basran in a Nov. 15 statement.

“In retrospect, I should have waited for the results of an investigation into the matter before expressing my opinion.”

Basran said that while the RCMP operates independently, it is the city’s responsibility to ensure matters concerning citizens are being addressed.

He has also directed staff to stay in close contact with the RCMP on the issue until a review is completed.

“I support what the Kelowna RCMP has done in response to this new information from Statistics Canada – starting with an internal review and a subsequent request to have the RCMP’s Sexual Assault Review Team at national headquarters review the 2018 and 2019 files. That review will determine RCMP next steps,” wrote Basran.

“It’s my understanding that the RCMP will report out once the investigation is complete and I’ll wait until that happens before commenting further.”

READ MORE: ‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

For Friesen, the mayor’s apology — while a start — was not enough.

“Apologies are not sincere when you apologize for an offence given and you don’t recognize why they are offensive,” Friesen said in an interview last Friday.

“Again, Mayor Colin Basran’s privilege is keeping him from recognizing why his comments are so offensive to survivors of sexual assault.”

She said she hoped he would be willing to meet with survivors of sexual assualt and discuss the larger issues at hand.

“Rape culture is a driving force in Kelowna by the RCMP, the community at large, and by him. We need to start combatting it,” said Friesen.

“He needs to recognize how he contributed to it and how he can help stop it.”

Friesen also made a plea to other sexual assault survivors to come forward.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s in the last two years,” she said.

“If you have been mistreated by the RCMP; if you are part of the 40 per cent — who cares if it was 10 years ago? Start speaking out. Demand better for the next woman. I can’t do this alone.”

Friesen also left a flyer at the council meeting for an upcoming protest against the Kelowna RCMP.

The protest will be held in front of the RCMP deatchment on Richter Street on Saturday, Nov. 23 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.


@michaelrdrguez
michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com

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