Skip to main content

Globe and Mail Public Editor Sylvia Stead.

The Globe and Mail

Last Thursday, the main story on the top of the newspaper was wrong. It said the RCMP had declined to mount an audit of recent sexual-assault complaints.

Following The Globe's series Unfounded on the high number of sexual assault complaints that are dismissed in some jurisdictions, police departments were being asked if they planned to review previous cases and a number said they would.

For two days, calls were placed to the RCMP. They were asked if they planned "a full review of such cases." The RCMP spokesman didn't answer that question, but rather answered about their processes and policies.

Story continues below advertisement

On Tuesday, the RCMP was asked: "It seems like the OPP will be reviewing all of its Unfounded cases of sexual assault. As you know, we got the Commissioner on this yesterday, but are there any plans for a full review of such cases or anything new on this front?" The next day, the RCMP spokesman responded that the force was "examining those policies and practices to ensure that they are consistently adopted and enforced. As stated by Commissioner [Bob]Paulson this past Monday, the result of an investigation must turn on evidence, and not on opinion."

The reporter then tried Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale asking "have you anything to add in relation to the RCMP statement. Any sense this is going far enough/not far enough?" Mr. Goodale's office said that RCMP policies and training procedures will be updated "if a gap is identified in how sexual assaults are investigated."

Neither the RCMP spokesman nor Mr. Goodale's office had answered the initial question if they were planning a full review. But the problem is, faced with vague answers, the sources were not challenged again to say if they had either decided to or declined to audit the complaints, not just their policies and practices. The main writer on the story was another reporter who pulled together the work of three.

The next morning when the paper landed, at 6:35 a.m., Mr. Paulson asked The Globe reporter in a message "where did you get that we declined? It's not accurate. A review was directed yesterday morning." Both Mr. Paulson and the official spokesman apologized for not being clear about the ordered review of all cases.

The story was quickly updated with the correct information Thursday morning before 8 a.m.

Friday's newspaper story was accurate and played at the top of the page as the initial incorrect story had been, giving it as much prominence as possible, but it should have clearly said the previous day's story was wrong and should have included Mr. Paulson's statement that he made the order Wednesday.

As it was, it looked to some readers as if the RCMP had rejected the idea of an audit, then the next day re-thought the matter and decided it was in fact a good idea.

Story continues below advertisement

Globe Editor-in-Chief David Walmsley said there are lessons to learn from this. "We should have pressed the RCMP for a direct answer to our question and, internally, we should have challenged the basis of the story when their response didn't support it."

The online version and the paper version will be corrected.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.