A former Whitehorse RCMP officer has pled guilty to sexual assault in relation to his on-duty conduct.
Earlier last month, Const. Stephen Knaack entered a guilty plea to one count of sexual assault stemming from an incident where he touched a female RCMP employee without her consent.
The woman’s identity is protected by the court under a publication ban.
According to the agreed facts in the case, Knaack, who was a corporal at the time, was on duty when he visited the woman at her workplace on Jan. 4, 2017.
The two were engaging in a casual conversation when Knaack walked around the woman’s desk in order to give her a hug.
She responded, “Let me stand up so I can give you a real hug,” and stood as Knaack approached.
Knaack told the woman that she was standing so that he could “grab (her) ass” and proceeded to hug her while grabbing her buttocks with his left hand.
The woman responded that there was “lots to grab,” with Knaack replying, “I like big women.”
The woman did not consent to the sexual touching.
The next day, she filed a harassment complaint to the RCMP Line Officer.
According to the Whitehorse RCMP, a criminal investigation was initiated as well as the internal RCMP Conduct process.
On Jan. 6, Knaack sent an unsolicited email to then-Insp. Archie Thompson admitting to the incident.
He wrote that it was “disreputable conduct for a member and supervisor,” adding, “There is no tolerance of this in the workplace. There is no excuse for a man to force himself on a woman.”
Knaack was suspended with pay from the RCMP on Feb. 7. He was formally charged with sexual assault on May 25.
Through his legal counsel, Brendan Miller, Knaack had requested in early June that the matter be resolved through a peace bond. The Crown, however, would not agree.
Knaack made his first appearance on the charge in territorial court in Whitehorse on June 14.
As a result of an internal discipline decision on Aug. 24, Knaack received sanctions.
Those included being demoted to a constable, made ineligible for a promotion for three years, and immediately being transferred to a location outside of the Yukon. He was also required to write an apology to the victim which will remain on his file.
Court documents state that as a result of these sanctions, his financial loss over the next three years will total at least $32,569.80 before taxes.
Knaack has been a member of the RCMP since Feb. 28, 2000. This is his first complaint of any kind by a fellow member or employee of the RCMP.
Knaack is seeking a conditional discharge.
This would mean a period of probation, including assessment and counselling as required by a probation officer. The charge would not remain on his permanent criminal record.
Sentencing in the case has been tentatively scheduled for Jan. 30, and Deputy Judge Richard Schneider from Ontario will preside.
The Crown prosecutor in the case is Benjamin Flight from Nunavut.
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada appointed an independent Crown counsel to avoid any conflict of interest, as Yukon prosecutors work closely with the RCMP.
Yukon judges were also excluded from presiding over the case due to potential conflicts.