RCMP beefs up oversight in sexual assault case

A former policeman has been hired to look for potential conflicts of interest among Yukon cops. This is to ensure public trust after RCMP charged two off-duty officers with sexual assault, said a police spokesperson. On Monday,

A former policeman has been hired to look for potential conflicts of interest among Yukon cops. This is to ensure public trust after RCMP charged two off-duty officers with sexual assault, said a police spokesperson.

On Monday, Graham Belak, 29, and Shawn McLaughlin, 32, were charged after a Watson Lake woman reported a sexual assault on Sunday morning.

The Whitehorse-based major crimes unit is still investigating the incident.

Belak used to live in Whitehorse where he volunteered as a hockey coach. An observer from the Committee for Public Complaints Against the RCMP will be looking at whether Belak has maintained ties with police officers in Whitehorse.

“It’s looking at the six degrees of separation,” said Nelson Kalil, a committee spokesperson. “What are some of the perceived conflicts of interest that may exist between the investigation team and the people who are subject to investigation?”

“Did they go to depot together? Do they play hockey together? Do their girlfriends hang out? Did they work together in the past? There’s a litany of things that could contribute to a perceived conflict of interest,” he said.

The observer won’t deal with the fairness of the investigation or the subsequent charges, but rather their context.

“(The observers don’t) look at the investigation itself, but just the impartiality of the people who conducted the investigation,” he said.

The observer, who the commission will not name citing privacy concerns, arrived in Whitehorse Tuesday, said Kalil.

He’s a former policeman from Vancouver, he said.

The observer program is only used in British Columbia and the Yukon. It began as a pilot project in 2007 after multiple police-on-police investigations in the province drew suspicion from victims and civil liberty groups.

“It’s only enforced in British Columbia,” said Kalil. “It’s a collaborative effort between the “E” Division, which is the RCMP in British Columbia and the (commission).”

The head of “E” Division is also responsible for the Pacific region, which includes the Yukon, said Kalil.

“It makes for a natural fit that an observer be used in the Yukon as well,” he said.

An observer was also assigned for the in-custody death of Raymond Silverfox in December 2008.

There are no immediate plans to expand the program to the rest of the country.

“For now it’s particularly BC that we’re focused on,” said Kalil. “A lot of what we do initiates out of BC simply because of the volume of the work we do there. It’s logical that we test things out in our largest market.”

BC is one of the most populous provinces and it doesn’t have its own provincial police force.

Following the charges, both Watson Lake officers have been suspended with pay. They are scheduled to appear in court on April 6.

Belak was once drafted by the Colorado Avalanche and his brother, Wade, plays for the Nashville Predators.

Normally, the commission looks at suspicious investigations and deploys an observer as it sees fit. But this time, the observer was requested by Chief Superintendent Barry Harvie, head of “M” Division.

“It’s invoked when there are serious incidents like in-custody deaths, Tasering, serious assault,” said Kalil. “When the investigation is launched, we try to evaluate whether or not we should send someone to monitor the impartiality of the investigators in the first instance.”

It’s a pro-active approach meant to be deployed early, he said.

A police officer from the Edmonton Police Service will review the investigation to ensure the RCMP behaved properly, but this case is unique because of how quickly the officers were charged.

“The charges have been laid,” said Kalil. “So in many ways, the impartiality aspect probably isn’t as vital as in another case where charged haven’t been laid.

“In this case, charges have been laid, so the most important aspect has already been accomplished,” he said.

Contact James Munson at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Then Old Crow MLA Darius Elias speak’s in the community centre in Old Crow in 2016. Elias died in Whitehorse on Feb. 17. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News file)
Condolences shared for former Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias

Elias is remembered as a proud parent, hockey fan and politican

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

History Hunter: Kwanlin Dün — a book of history, hardship and hope

Dǎ Kwǎndur Ghày Ghàkwadîndur: Our Story in Our Words is published by… Continue reading

(File photo)
RCMP arrest Saskatchewan murder suspect

Yukon RCMP have arrested a man suspected of attempted murder from outside… Continue reading

Most Read