Aboriginal women are “overrepresented” among totals of murdered and missing women in Canada, accounting for 16 percent of female homicide victims while comprising just 4.3 percent of the female population in the country, an official police tally has revealed.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Friday May 16 released its National Operational Overview on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women report on aboriginal women and violence, and the numbers paint an even starker picture than advocate estimates had.
Moreover, the report found, aboriginal women account for 11.3 percent of missing-women cases, the RCMP said in the comprehensive, final report whose preliminary results had been released earlier in the month.
“This report concludes that the total number of murdered and missing Aboriginal females exceeds previous public estimates,” the RCMP said in a statement. “This total significantly contributes to the RCMP’s understanding of this challenge, but it represents only a first step.”
In total, the RCMP tallied, 1,181 incidents of indigenous female homicides and unresolved missing women cases, 164 of those disappeared and 1,017 murdered. A good 225 cases are still unsolved, including 105 women missing for more than 30 days as of November 4, 2013, with their cause of disappearance characterized as unknown or of suspected foul play. Also unsolved are 120 homicides, the RCMP said. The report covered the period from 1980 through 2012.
“The total indicates that Aboriginal women are over-represented among Canada's murdered and missing women,” the RCMP said. “There are similarities across all female homicides. Most homicides were committed by men and most of the perpetrators knew their victims—whether as an acquaintance or a spouse.”
About 90 percent of both aboriginal and non-aboriginal victims’ cases have been solved, the RCMP said.
Strong reaction poured in, with renewed calls for a national inquiry into the issue.
“Today’s RCMP report reaffirms the magnitude of the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and clearly indicates the urgent need for action by many different players, including First Nations, governments, police services and others,” said Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief for Alberta Cameron Alexis, who leads the organization’s work in justice and policing.
“A national shame and a national tragedy, Indigenous women are vastly over-represented in the numbers of missing and murdered women and girls,” Alexis said in a statement. “We are demanding immediate action based on these concrete facts and numbers so that not one more woman or girl is victimized and that no family member has to spend another day without answers. Ending violence against Indigenous women is an urgent priority for First Nations across the country and today’s report should compel all Canadians and the federal government to support immediate action. The AFN continues the call for a coordinated National Action Plan, including a National Public Commission of Inquiry, as well as immediate direct investments in shelters and preventative support measures to keep the most vulnerable of our citizens safe and secure.”
Just a couple of days earlier, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya had released his final report on Canada’s treatment of its aboriginal population and found it to be wanting. He too called for a national inquiry into the numbers of missing and murdered women. The Canadian government has consistently refused to convene one.
The AFN outlined what is needed, demanding a well laid out national public action plan; increasing investment immediately into shelters and other support both on and off reserve; focusing on prevention among youth stretching from urban centers to remote communities, and allocating adequate resources following the recommendations for policing services given by First Nations.
The RCMP vowed to get to the bottom of the matter, urged on by Canada’s own Minister of Justice,
"Some 40 studies have already been completed over the years dealing with the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women,” MacKay said in a statement quoted by CBC News. “We must continue to take concrete action now, not just continue to study the issue.”