Halifax Regional Police are investigating "an alarming number" of allegations against a retired doctor accused of sexually assaulting RCMP officers and recruits over two decades.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 12 women have come forward with allegations as part of the investigation launched last Friday, said Const. Carol McIsaac, a Halifax police spokesperson.
"It's our understanding that the incidents occurred while the recruits and/or members were going through physical testing," she said.
McIsaac said police expect more people to come forward.
"That is a very high number and we don't expect it to slow down any time in the near future. We do expect the number to increase. We can't speculate on how many. But yes, it's an alarming number," she said.
McIsaac said all sexual assault investigations are complex, but allegations that go back decades are especially difficult.
"Any investigation that's historical is difficult because you may have witnesses that don't remember or evidence that may no longer be available. But we do everything we can."
Halifax police confirmed the investigation after an internal memo was distributed to RCMP members by the force's acting chief human resources officer, Stephen White.
The memo describes "disturbing information" about a Bedford, N.S., doctor who conducted recruitment medical exams and periodic health assessments in the Atlantic region between 1981 and 2003.
White said the individual has retired from practising medicine.
McIsaac would not comment on the nature of the allegations and said the investigation is still in the early stages to lay charges.
RCMP aware in late November
On Tuesday afternoon, Brian Brennan, the commanding officer for Nova Scotia RCMP, said the force acted quickly to conduct background checks when it first became aware of the sexual assault complaints in late November.
"We had to find out who this individual was. We had to find out the scope of it. We had to find out what services we could provide," he said.
Brennan said more survivors could come forward because the people who came in contact with the doctor were applicants to the RCMP. He said many people who would have encountered the doctor are stationed across Canada.
"I would say we're talking about multiples of dozens in that regard," he said.
Support for survivors
"People new coming in unfamiliar with a desire to get into the RCMP [and] may not have realized what was taking place at the time," he said. "But over the years maturity, exposure to certain things, confidence would make them come forward at this time."
Brennan said the RCMP's main focus now is to provide support for the survivors as Halifax Regional Police conduct its investigation.
In his memo, White urges officers to seek assistance if they need it.
"Please take care of yourself and each other," he wrote.
Both serving and former members have been asked to contact Halifax police at 902-490-5020 if they have any information, McIsaac said.
"Anybody who was a survivor of the sexualized violence, we encourage them to contact us. A patrol member will respond, take the complaint, generate a report and it will be followed up by one of our sexual assault investigators."