Aboriginal women more prone to violent death: RCMP report
A disproportionate number of women whose lives end in violence are aboriginal, according to a new RCMP report.
The 22-page report, released Friday, says aboriginal women have been much more prone to violent deaths than non-native women in Canada. However, the RCMP say there’s virtually no discrepancy between the two groups when it comes to solving cases.
Between 1980 and 2012, 1017 aboriginal women were murdered, the report says. Another 164 native women had gone missing during that time period.
The report found that aboriginal women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, yet account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.
The report found that aboriginal women 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 (71 per cent versus 45 per cent) and someone on social assistance (24 per cent versus 10 per cent).
According to the RCMP, murdered aboriginal women were more likely to have a criminal record, and to be unemployed. They were also much more likely to have consumed intoxicants just before their deaths.
The report also says that a small percentage (12 per cent) of missing and murdered aboriginal women had been involved in the sex trade.
"We still have a lot of unanswered questions ... but I think this research project, this operational overview, is an excellent first step in that direction from a policing community," Janice Armstrong, the RCMP's deputy commissioner for contract and aboriginal policing, told a news conference in Winnipeg.
"It's my hope ... that it will contribute to that larger Canadian conversation."
Today, 225 cases remain unsolved. Many of them are in Manitoba, where the family of Jennifer Catcheway is still waiting for answers.
The teenager went missing six years ago. Her mother, Bernice Catcheway, said many more questions remain in the wake of the RCMP’s report.
“Now what? Where do we go from here?” she said. “We have the numbers and they just keep rising. When is it going to stop?”
The Assembly of First Nations said the report “reaffirms the magnitude of the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada,” and reiterated its call for a national inquiry.
Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis welcomed the RCMP’s work and said the report was “long overdue.”
He told CTV’s Power Play Friday that he hopes Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government will be spurred into action.
Alexis said that “cohesive, preventative” programs are needed involving youth, the corrections system and police services, especially since policing efforts in First Nations communities are vastly underfunded.
In a statement, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said he was “encouraged” by the rate at which police have been able to solve the crimes involving both aboriginal and non-native women.
Although the RCMP and other police forces have been accused of handling First Nations cases differently, the Mounties say the "solve" rates are almost identical at 88 per cent for aboriginal women and 89 per cent for others.
MacKay said the latest report “will help further inform the actions the government is taking in our efforts to keep our streets and communities safe.
“We must continue to take concrete action now, not just continue to study the issue,” he added, listing some of Ottawa’s financial contributions to addressing the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
But critics say the federal government has not done enough.
“What is very clear from this report is that we are talking about a systemic issue, a societal issue as the RCMP called it, and this requires national action,” Niki Ashton, NDP’s critic for status of women, told CTV’s News Channel Friday.
“The federal government needs to step up, needs to recognize that this is a result of systemic discrimination that indigenous women face in our country.”
She said the situation and the government’s response are “unacceptable” and a national inquiry must take place.
The Conservative government has resisted calls for such an inquiry.
“I think the inquiry has been done,” MacKay’s parliamentary secretary, Bob Dechert, told Power Play. “This is now at least the 41st report that’s been done on this issue. We know what the root causes are.
“Why wait three, four years, spend 40-plus million dollars to essentially come to the same conclusions that we have in this report today?”
The Mounties said Friday they are sharing their data with other police forces in hopes that it can help resolve unsolved cases.
Dechert said the government has already taken steps to address the problem of domestic violence by setting aside money in the 2013 budget for shelters on First Nations reserves and other initiatives.
With files from The Canadian Press and a report from CTV’s Winnipeg Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon