OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the federal government has asked the RCMP complaints commission to evaluate allegations in a scathing report published Wednesday, which suggests police ignored and abused women and girls in northern B.C.
"The allegation we received that's relative to the RCMP is apparently that the RCMP won't investigate something," Harper said during question period Wednesday. "That is why we have given appropriate information to the RCMP complaints commission."
Harper's comments come after Human Rights Watch (HRW) - an independent watchdog organization - released a damning 89-page report documenting allegations of "abusive treatment" from RCMP officers in British Columbia, including physical and sexual assault.
"Human Rights Watch heard disturbing allegations of rape and sexual assault by RCMP officers, including from a woman who described how in July 2012 police officers took her outside of town, raped her, and threatened to kill her if she told anyone," the report noted.
But interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said an outside police force should probe the alleged behaviour, not the outside complaints commission created by Parliament.
"These are not complaints," Rae said. "These are serious allegations of criminal misconduct that have to be investigated independently of the RCMP. It's in the RCMP's own interest to do that."
RCMP Chief Supt. Janice Armstrong told reporters in Surrey, B.C., that management will meet with HRW officials Friday to try to identify and investigate allegations, which Mounties said they didn't know about until now.
The RCMP also said it does not plan to launch a "large-scale inquiry" into the allegations documented in the report, including "ongoing police failures" and "violent behaviour" perpetrated by on-duty police officers.
Armstrong said the province's civilian-led Independent Investigations Office can conduct external investigations into the new allegations.
"It's not fair to the victims that that information was not investigated," Armstrong said. "It's not fair to the RCMP to have those allegations hanging out there."
Federal opposition parties and the Assembly of First Nations, who have long been calling for a public inquiry into the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, cited the HRW report as another reason to launch an outside probe into violence against native women.
The Native Women's Association of Canada estimates there are about 600 murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada.
Marches are set to take place in Canadian cities Thursday, including Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton, to raise awareness about the issues.