Chairperson-Initiated Complaint and Public Interest Investigation into the conduct of a sexual assault investigation and the response to reported concerns about the safety of Susan Butlin prior to her death in Bayhead, Nova Scotia, on September 17, 2017
- News Release
July 19, 2022
Terms of Reference
Chairperson-Initiated Complaint and Public Interest Investigation
As Chairperson of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ("the Commission"), pursuant to subsection 45.59(1) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act (RCMP Act), I am initiating a complaint regarding the RCMP's investigation of an alleged sexual assault and response to reported concerns about the safety of Ms. Susan Butlin prior to her death in Bayhead, Nova Scotia, on September 17, 2017, as well as the RCMP's actions in response to these events.
As I am of the opinion that it would be in the public interest for the Commission to conduct the investigation, I direct that the Commission investigate the complaint pursuant to subsection 45.66(1) of the RCMP Act.
On September 17, 2017, Ms. Butlin was murdered by her neighbour, Ernie Ross "Junior" Duggan. The RCMP arrested Mr. Duggan and charged him with first-degree murder. Mr. Duggan pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He was given a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 20 years.
In the weeks preceding her death, Ms. Butlin contacted the RCMP to report that Mr. Duggan had sexually assaulted her. The RCMP investigated the matter and determined that there were no grounds to lay criminal charges. The RCMP informed Ms. Butlin of the option to apply for a peace bond, which she initiated.
Before the peace bond application hearing took place, Mr. Duggan's wife called 911 to express her concerns about Mr. Duggan's deteriorating behaviour and the safety of Ms. Butlin. Mr. Duggan's wife reported that she thought her husband might seriously harm Ms. Butlin. Ms. Butlin subsequently contacted the RCMP on more than one occasion to report that Mr. Duggan was harassing and intimidating her and that she was concerned for her safety.
Her friends and family have alleged that the RCMP did not provide her with assistance, nor did they intervene in any manner to ensure that she was safe from Mr. Duggan. Four weeks later, Mr. Duggan shot and killed Ms. Butlin inside her residence.
On September 27, 2021, the Commission received a complaint concerning the conduct of the RCMP members involved in the events leading up to Ms. Butlin's death. The Commission requested materials from the RCMP based on the information contained in the complaint.
Upon review of the materials, the Commission identified several areas of concern with respect to the RCMP members' response to Ms. Butlin's complaints about Mr. Duggan, and the events that followed. These also give rise to broader concerns about the adequacy of supervision, policies, procedures, and training pertaining to sexual assault investigations. Accordingly, I believe that it is in the public interest to investigate the conduct of RCMP members, or other persons appointed or employed under Part I of the RCMP Act, in relation to this matter.
The Commission's investigation into my complaint will address the following:
- The circumstances leading up to Ms. Butlin's death, including relevant calls for service to the RCMP;
- Whether the response of the RCMP to Ms. Butlin's complaint of sexual assault was reasonable. In particular, whether sexual assault myths and/or stereotypes influenced the RCMP members' response and whether the RCMP members understood and applied the law of consent during the investigation;
- Whether the conduct of the RCMP members involved in investigating and responding to the threat reported by Mr. Duggan's wife and to Ms. Butlin's concerns about her safety in the period leading up to her death was reasonable;
- Whether current RCMP national and divisional policies, procedures and guidelines pertaining to sexual assault investigations are adequate;
- Whether current RCMP national and divisional training pertaining to sexual assault investigations is adequate;
- Whether the supervision model in "H" Division of general duty RCMP members carrying out sexual assault and other investigations is adequate;
- The actions taken by the RCMP to review Ms. Butlin's case and to identify and remedy any deficiencies in the RCMP's handling of the case; and
- The degree to which the RCMP has implemented various initiatives to improve the quality of sexual assault investigations, including whether those initiatives are sufficient to address any deficiencies identified in Ms. Butlin's case.
The RCMP members' conduct will be assessed in accordance with relevant law and RCMP policy and training in effect at the time of the events.
I will notify the Minister of Public Safety, as well as the RCMP Commissioner, of my decision to initiate this complaint and for the Commission to conduct the investigation.
- Date modified: