Canada's Border Agency Isn't Saying Much About Its 15 Employees Accused of Sexual Assault

Exclusive: The CBSA won't say why it still employs five people accused of sexual assault.

by Hilary Beaumont
Aug 31 2016, 5:25pm

Photo by CP/Darryl Dyck

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Fifteen Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) employees have been accused of sexual assault in the last decade through the agency's internal-investigation mechanism, VICE News has learned.

And at least five of those accused employees still work for the CBSA, according to documents obtained through an access to information request.

In the cases included in the access to information request, women and men reported allegations of sexual assault through the agency's internal-investigation mechanism, the security and professional standards analysis section, which looks into the allegations and determines if they are founded, unfounded, or inconclusive. This process doesn't involve police.

In half of the cases identified by VICE News, police were not called in to investigate, even if the accusation was determined by the CBSA to be founded.

In one 2006 case, which was never made public until now, three different women accused a Border Services officer of inappropriate touching on separate occasions, but the CBSA's internal investigators found their complaints inconclusive, the incidents weren't reported to police, and the officer is still employed with the CBSA.

In another case in 2013, a female Border Services officer accused a male Border Services officer of sexual assault, and she filed a complaint with both the CBSA and police. The CBSA says it fully investigated and found the case inconclusive, but police in Quebec found enough evidence to lay charges. Despite the criminal charges, the male officer is still employed by the agency.

Those are just two of four separate cases in which the employees accused of sexual assault are still employed with the CBSA. In the two other cases, involving a total of three employees, the internal investigations determined the allegations to be unfounded, although police were involved in one of the cases.

The CBSA won't explain why it still employs the five accused, or say where in Canada they are working. There are two additional employees who are currently under investigation, but the CBSA refused to disclose their employment status.

The agency has also declined to say where in Canada the incidents allegedly happened, on what dates they allegedly occurred, or which police departments were involved, citing privacy as a reason to withhold the information.

Though the access to information request revealed 14 internal investigations, the actual number of sexual assault allegations against the agency's employees is even higher.

VICE News identified two more cases that were not included in the documents provided by the agency. In 2010, Daniel Greenhalgh was convicted of three counts of sexual assault for taking women to various locations at the CBSA building and conducting inappropriate strip searches. And in another case, an unnamed CBSA officer was sentenced to two years of house arrest after he sexually assaulted and harassed a fellow officer, in one case putting a gun to her head.

These new details come at a time when sexual assault and harassment allegations are emerging at public and private institutions across North America, including at Canadian and US media outlets, inside the RCMP and the Canadian and US militaries, and on university and college campuses in Canada and the US.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Forces released its second progress report on how it's addressing rampant issues of sexual assault in its ranks, declaring some leaders had been stripped of their positions or charged with sexual assault. Since January, six individuals have been convicted of sexual misconduct–related offenses and another 24 received "severe administrative action," according to Chief of Defense Staff General Jonathan Vance.

The CBSA says it automatically launches an internal investigation if an employee is charged with a criminal offense, and its internal investigation runs parallel to the police investigation. When the police investigation concludes, the agency says it will take "appropriate action," which could involve disciplinary measures, including firing that employee.

Pending the result of an internal or external investigation, CBSA managers decide if the accused employee can stay in the workplace, needs to be reassigned to other duties, or has to be removed from the workplace without pay. "If the conclusion is that such a risk exists and cannot be mitigated, then management will consider suspension without pay of the employee, pending the outcome of management's investigation," the agency told VICE News.

In April, Halifax Police charged a Border Services agent with using his position of authority to repeatedly sexually assault a woman who was scheduled to be deported. The alleged incidents date back to 2003, when the agent, Carie Dexter Willis, worked at the Halifax CBSA office. As of April, he was still employed by the CBSA.

That case only became public because the complainant reported it to Halifax Police, who put out a news release, which was picked up by media including VICE News and prompted a request for information about internal complaints. It took five months for the CBSA to release the information in this story.

Though the agency revealed very little information about these cases, the information it did release showed a pattern of mostly female employees reporting allegations of sexual assault against male employees with no concrete resolution. In total, 14 women and two men reported sexual assaults at the hands of CBSA employees, with the number of cases increasing in recent years. It's not clear whether any of the accused officers were fired, although two resigned, and only five of the 14 cases resulted in police charges.

In the most recent case earlier this year, a female recruit with the CBSA accused a male recruit of sexual assault and filed an internal complaint with the agency. The CBSA determined internally that her allegations were founded, and the accused recruit has since left the CBSA, but the incident wasn't reported to police and was never made public.

In another case last year, a police agency (the CBSA won't say which one) charged a male CBSA employee with sexual assault, extortion, and breach of trust after a woman filed a complaint with police. The agency's internal investigation is ongoing, and the CBSA refused to say whether the accused employee is still working for the agency.

The agency would not say whether it suspects more cases of sexual assault are happening but aren't being reported through its internal mechanism.

In a statement to VICE News, the spokesperson said the government agency is "committed to nurturing a culture that is founded on values and ethics of the Public Service of Canada and the CBSA Code of Conduct, and in which all employees conduct themselves in a way that upholds the integrity of CBSA programs and demonstrates professionalism in their day to day activities."

The CBSA says it has "no tolerance" for illegal actions, and its employees are subject to "very strict codes of ethics and behavior." The CBSA takes all allegations of improper or illegal behavior "very seriously" and thoroughly investigates when it learns of these allegations, the spokesperson told VICE News.

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