04/01/2014 05:26 EDT | Updated 06/01/2014 05:59 EDT

RCMP in Nova Scotia apologize to woman after voice mail comments about abuse

HALIFAX - The commander of the RCMP in Nova Scotia has issued an apology to a Parrsboro-area woman after a report that a Mountie left a voice mail message on her phone making light of her domestic assault complaint.

RCMP Chief Supt. Brian Brennan said Tuesday the comments were unprofessional and unacceptable.

"The RCMP has zero tolerance for this type of behaviour," Brennan said. "As the commanding officer, I was extremely disappointed."

Brennan said when he heard the comments, his thoughts immediately turned to victims of domestic violence.

"The comments on this recording in no way reflect the core values of the RCMP," he said. "It's not how I want our members to be talking in terms of victims and domestic violence."

CBC Nova Scotia posted on its website what it said was a message left on the woman's voice mail. In it, a man is heard saying, "So did she deserve to get hit?" before laughing.

Brennan said the woman's complaint about domestic abuse stemmed from an incident that occurred after she went to retrieve her cellphone from her partner in the Springhill area. He said she was worried he might make harassing phone calls to her friends and family because the two had a disagreement.

Brennan said the call that was recorded on the woman's voice mail came after her number was inadvertently dialled from a Mountie's phone while it was in his pocket.

"She wasn't home to answer but the voice mail picked up," Brennan said. "That's how the recording happened."

RCMP officers have met with the woman and offered an apology for what happened, he said. An internal investigation has been ordered.

The RCMP have also followed up on the woman's abuse complaint and have charged a man with assault, he added.

Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard, who is also the minister responsible for the Status of Women Act, said the incident appeared to involve "a couple of bad apples."

"It just underscores the need for more cultural change and attitude change within the systems that are set up to help women leaving violence," Bernard said.

She said the provincial government would have to continue efforts to educate professionals who deal with violence against women.

"This is not something that's going to be solved in four years," she said. "Women have been fighting this attitudinal violence for generations."