Aboriginal women more prone to violent death, but RCMP solving cases: report

By on May 17, 2014

Photo by Nina Henry / Shutterstock
Photo by Nina Henry / Shutterstock

WINNIPEG—An RCMP report says aboriginal women have been much more prone to violent death than non-natives, but police have solved cases involving both groups at almost the same rate.

The report says there have been 1,181 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women since 1980.

That number is considerably higher than earlier estimates, and the Mounties say they are taking steps to try to solve more cases.

The “operational overview” reveals that missing and murdered aboriginal women are over-represented, given their numbers in the Canadian population. They make up for 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, and yet account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.

“Every file we reviewed represents a mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt or friend,” Bob Paulson, commissioner of the RCMP, said in a statement. “We cannot lose sight of the human aspect of these incidents and we call upon partners and communities to work together to find solutions to this issue.”

The report says police forces across Canada have solved 88 per cent of aboriginal female homicides since 1980 and 89 per cent of cases involving non-natives.

There are stark differences, however, in how aboriginal women fall victim to violence.

The report says they are more likely to be killed by an acquaintance and are less likely to be killed by a spouse.

They are also more likely to be killed by someone with a criminal record, someone on social assistance or someone with a history of family violence.

The RCMP also say murdered aboriginal women were more likely to have a criminal record, to be unemployed and to have consumed intoxicants just before their deaths.

The force points out that a small number of victims, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, had worked in the sex trade.

The Mounties say they are sharing the data with other police forces and have directed their own divisions to review all outstanding cases.

They are also promising to add resources to investigative units where needed.

There have been several calls for a national inquiry, including from aboriginal groups, but the federal government has so far resisted, saying the issue has been studied enough and it’s time for action.

A United Nations official who spent nine days in Canada last year studying aboriginal issues is among those who have called for an inquiry.

James Anaya said Monday that even though some steps have been taken, an investigation into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls is still necessary.

Earlier this month, Metis actor and singer Tom Jackson added his voice to calls for an inquest.

“If we don’t protect the people who live around us, what does that say about us as a society?” Jackson said May 8 on Parliament Hill.