Heather Friesen has never been one to keep quiet.
Now, with her story and message being broadcast nationwide over various mediums, she is louder than ever.
But despite all of the noise she’s making, she still feels unheard.
As first reported in the Kelowna Capital News on Oct. 25, Statistics Canada data shows the Kelowna RCMP deemed almost 40 per cent of sexual assault reports as “unfounded” in 2018.
Since then, Friesen, who was gang raped when she was 15 year olds, has been on a warpath, saying that both the Kelowna RCMP and the City of Kelowna are “steeped in rape culture.”
In an endeavour to bring the breadth of her disdain to the attention of city officials — specifically Mayor Colin Basran — she staged her own one-person protest in front of city hall on Thursday morning (Nov. 14). She spent the morning leaving fliers on vehicles around city hall which called out the mayor for being a “man who protects rapists because he won’t call out the RCMP.”
In particular, Friesen has taken issue with the mayor’s response to the statistics, in which he cited his confidence in the local RCMP.
“I don’t have anything further to add except that I’m pleased that the RCMP’s Sexual Assault Review Team is taking a further look at all the files to determine if a course correction is needed as it relates to sex-assault complaints,” said Mayor Colin Basran.
“Through these actions, I have complete confidence our detachment is taking this matter seriously. I want to be clear that the RCMP operates independently of the city and this is an RCMP matter. Any further questions should be directed to the RCMP detachment.”
The mayor’s confidence in local RCMP is, in Friesen’s view, a sign of the mayor’s direct support for the officers who asked her if she consented to be raped and another survivor who was asked if she enjoyed it.
“Say that to our faces,” she said.
“I’m just here to protest because I actually want Colin Basran to have the courage to come say to my face that he’s 100 per cent confident in the RCMP. Say that to the 40 per cent.”
According to Friesen, Basran is complicit in the city’s looming rape culture because he doesn’t understand it as he is in a position of privilege.
“Anyone that he knows who gets raped, the RCMP will take it seriously,” she said while standing outside of city hall, still holding about half of the 200 fliers she’d brought with her.
“He’s protected; the people he loves are protected. Those of us who don’t have his privilege won’t get taken seriously.
“He doesn’t want to get it because he’ll lose votes; he’ll lose (the RCMP’s) votes.”
While Basran has expressed his confidence in the RCMP, one of his councillors is less supportive about the situation.
“I have a lot of regard and faith in our local RCMP. Having said that, the stats are very, very worrisome — whichever way you look at it,” said Coun. Mohini Singh.
“I need some clarity, I need some explanation, I need to know why these cases were left unfounded.”
Singh added she has a teenage daughter and she wants to make sure the city is safe for our girls and our boys.
“I want to know why the stats are so high and what the cause is,” she said.
“I’m very worried about the situation.”
Singh said she’s looking forward to a report from the RCMP’s Sexual Assault Review Team to provide clarity on the issue.
In a Nov. 8 statement, the Kelowna RCMP said it could not provide an explanation as to why so many cases were deemed unfounded.
“We understand that there are many questions about the roots of these statistics, and we’re taking immediate steps to get answers,” said Cpl. Meghan Foster.
“The BC RCMP has conducted a preliminary review of these files, but we are currently not in a position to provide specific examples of why any of these investigations were deemed unfounded. For every investigation, there are many variables — each investigation is different and we do not want to deter any other survivors from bravely coming forward to report a sexual assault.”
The RCMP has not given a timeline as to when the Sexual Assault Review Team’s investigation will be completed.