OTTAWA — Ottawa is asking the Mexican government to “get to the bottom” of allegations a Canadian tourist was gang-raped and robbed by Mexican police on New Year’s Eve.
“We have asked the Mexican ambassador not only to look at (this case) but we’ve asked him to set an inquiry in place,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Tuesday.
“We take these allegations very seriously.”
Rebecca Rutland, 41, a social worker doing her thesis in Thunder Bay, Ont., told the CBC she was on vacation in the resort town of Playa del Carmen over the holidays when a confrontation broke out between Mexican officers and her fiance.
Rutland said she was taken to the police station and raped by two officers while a supervisor looked on.
The couple was robbed of jewelry and hundreds of dollars, she said.
Mexican authorities said in a release Tuesday that Rutland and Richard Coleman, 51, were intoxicated and “started a fight and attacked each other.”
“During the brawl, they hit a car whose driver requested the assistance of the police,” the Embassy of Mexico in Canada said in a release.
The couple was released on the afternoon of same day, the embassy release said, and upon arriving at their hotel, they requested assistance in filing a complaint at the district attorney’s office.
A formal investigation based on Rutland’s complaint “immediately began,” the embassy said.
“An investigation by the authorities of Quintana Roo state is ongoing in order to determine whether a crime was committed and, if it is the case, prosecute and punish whoever is responsible.”
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs said the ministry is “very concerned” about the allegations.
“We welcome the government of Mexico’s investigation into these allegations, and we expect a thorough and transparent investigation and a timely resolution to this case,” Alain Cacchione said Tuesday in an email.
The website warns travellers to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to Mexico, due to high levels of drug-fuelled violence and deteriorating security.
While most tourist areas have not been affected by the violence, the ministry warns Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to the Mexico-United States border.
The site also says that there have been reports of Mexican police officers arresting tourists for minor violations or unlawfully taking their money.
Liberal consular affairs critic Dan McTeague called the allegations “highly serious and unusual,” adding that they “could produce some unintended results for all of us.”
“The concern here is to get to the bottom of what transpired and to ensure that the investigation is thorough,” said McTeague.
McTeague also urged the Mexican government to consider inviting the RCMP into the investigation.
The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between Canada and Mexico states that Canada can co-operate in criminal investigations if invited to do so.
“There is obviously an interest between the two nations given the large number of Canadians who travel there,” McTeague said.
“Mexico is one of our most significant trade partners, so there is a lot to be considered here.”