Despite 30 women's claims of sexual assault during mandatory physical exams when they were hired by the police force in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there are currently "no grounds" to lay criminal charges against a former RCMP doctor John A. Macdougall, according to the Toronto Police Sex Crimes Investigation Unit.
Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray has commented, "The Toronto Police Service does not dispute that these women felt (and continue to feel) violated." She insisted, however, that investigators reviewed the medical standards at the time of the incidents, and determined there is a lack of evidence that proves there was a "sexual purpose" to the doctor's medical examinations.
Vicki Gravelle, a 911 dispatcher for an Ontario regional police force, responded to the CBC's investigation on the Toronto Police Service's decision with the comment, "I think it's a lot of bullshit. I'm in shock."
Gravelle was one of the three women who approached CBC News in January to report the details of the sexual assault allegations against formed RCMP doctor John A. Macdougall, claiming he inappropriately pinched nipples, conducted invasive vaginal exams (without gloves), caressed their legs, and thrusted his pelvis against their naked posteriors as they were instructed to bend forward during "spinal exams".
At the time, Macdougall explained he selectively chose to perform the lengthy breast exams on new recruits in order to "teach self-examination techniques". Regarding the allegations of unwanted touching and invasive vaginal exams, he kept silent.
The women forwarded complaints to the RCMP, Toronto Police Services, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons at the time of the assaults. Unfortunately, their grievances took the case nowhere. But last year, at the height of the #MeToo movement, dozens of women came forward to allege that they too were assaulted by Macdougall.
Upon receiving the complaints, the RCMP banned all staff physicians from performing gynecological exams, and have extended guidelines on proper breast-exam techniques.
Macdougall, a retired man now in his mid-80s residing in a retirement residence just west of Toronto, has dementia. He recently suffered from a nearly-fatal case of pneumonia. His family has not yet commented on the allegations.
On Tuesday, police told CBC News are confident in their decision not to lay any charges, and have closed the file after the review of the 30 women's statements. They reportedly commented that they "know that many involved in this case are angry and frustrated."
"Our investigative efforts were unbiased and extended beyond these statements to include a review of documentation, consideration for case law and research into what may have been acceptable medical practice at the time," said Gray in her statement.
"We had to determine whether or not grounds existed to prove there was a sexual purpose for the actions that took place. Without those grounds, we simply could not lay charges. … We know that many involved in this case are angry and frustrated but, pending any new information that is brought forward, we are confident in the decisions we have made."
Sylvie Corriveau, one of the three women who complained about Macdougall's inappropriate actions in the 1990s, has responded that she is "disillusioned" by the Toronto police's deicison. "You have 30-odd strangers stating the same thing, and the doctor's word means more," said Corriveau, a senior RCMP employee based in Ottawa. "Many of the victims are still serving peace officers, do their sworn statements not mean anything? If the investigators did in fact state that his techniques were acceptable medical tests back then...I am flabbergasted, because they were not."
Helen Henderson filed a formal complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director to demand a review of the Toronto police investigation. She was compensated in January from an RCMP class action fund for abuse victims the suffering she endured as a result of Macdougall's alleged malpractice.
Enraged by Toronto police's dismissal of victims' claims, she told the CBC. "They didn't do their job." Another woman, Laurel Hodder, will be proceeding with her own lawsuit against Macdougall and the RCMP; she was sent to be examined by Macdougall, despite the fact that RCMP supervisors were made aware of the complaints filed against him.
"It makes you feel like you don't matter," said Hodder.