Sooke crime victims left in the lurch

Controversy swirls around hiring of new coordinator in what Mounties call ‘philosophical differences’

Jeff McArthur

Jeff McArthur

“Philosophical differences” between the RCMP and the Sooke Transition House Society has led to a nine-month delay in filling the victim services coordinator position in Sooke.

The discord has resulted in serious crime victims not getting help in a timely fashion, and Sooke Mounties calling on other victim services counsellors for help. Victims of lower level crime, such as property theft, have slipped through the cracks.

“We want people to be looked after because it is the right thing to do,” said Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur, commander of the Sooke RCMP detachment.

“[Victim services] is a great assistance to our investigators, and helps victims speed up their recovery.”

Victim services are available to anyone who has been a victim of crime in B.C. It’s not necessary to report a crime to access services; it’s mandated by provincial law.

In most B.C. communities, victim services is an RCMP-based program operated by a non-profit organization. The in-house employee works closely with police officers, providing service and referrals to victims of crime.

The Sooke Transition House Society took over the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General contract from Sooke Residents in Need Society last year, and that’s where cracks appeared in the relationship, in what McArthur calls “philosophical differences.”

The RCMP and Sooke Transition Society grappled over hiring practices and job description.

The victim services coordinators job was vacant July 1 and the position was filled by the end of August, but the RCMP didn’t sign off on the position until Nov. 23.

Due to the time needed to obtain an enhanced RCMP security clearance, the new coordinator Jacqueline Couch was not able to start until April 3.

“The society is required by contract with the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General to hire an RCMP-based victim services worker. Because the victim services worker works out of the RCMP detachment, we seek cooperation from the Sooke RCMP detachment when we are staffing this position,” Arlene Rees, executive director of the Sooke Transition House Society, said in a written statement to the Sooke News Mirror.

“We invited Staff Sgt. McArthur to participate in an interview process prior to hiring Ms. Couch, but due to lack of cooperation, we engaged in the ministry to assist us in ensuring that we had selected the best qualified and most experienced candidate for the position,” Rees said.

Both McArthur and Rees said Couch has “stellar qualifications and experience,” but police had difficulties when the job description changed.

A man who had years of experience charged he was overlooked because of his sex.

The male candidate offered to fund victim services around the clock with paid counsellors, and pay for the positions by applying for government grants and fundraising.

“There’s been a lot of bumps in the road. We’re hoping somehow we can straighten out this relationship in the future,” said McArthur in a presentation to district council.

“I don’t think we’ve heard the end of how the process was run by the society.”

•••

The man in the centre of the victim services controversy has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

The man, who did not want to be identified, has spent several years in victim services.

The tribunal enforces the B.C. Human Rights Code and hears complaints, among them race and sex.

A spokesperson for the tribunal said the first course of action is to solve dispute through mediation. If no solution is found, the complaint goes to a hearing.