Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic May 20, 2014 - 6:05 am

RCMP report: Aboriginal women at higher risk of violence

Most disproportionate numbers of missing, murdered Aboriginal women found in the North, Manitoba, Saskatchewan

PETER VARGA
This chart from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, released May 16 as part of its report on missing and murdered aboriginal women, compares some of the factors lying behind murdered aboriginal and non-aboriginal women in Canada, between1980 and 2012, based on files from police services across the country. (IMAGE COURTESY OF RCMP)
This chart from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, released May 16 as part of its report on missing and murdered aboriginal women, compares some of the factors lying behind murdered aboriginal and non-aboriginal women in Canada, between1980 and 2012, based on files from police services across the country. (IMAGE COURTESY OF RCMP)

A landmark RCMP study released May 16 confirms that aboriginal women in Canada suffer much higher rates of violent crime than non-aboriginals.

And although overall rates of missing and murdered women have declined in Canada since 1980, rates among aboriginal women have changed little.

“Consequently, we have an increasing proportion of total homicides that are aboriginal victims,” RCMP Supt. Tyler Bates said at the release of the report, in Winnipeg.

“It is hoped that it will contribute to the Canadian conversation on this very important subject,” RCMP Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong said at the Winnipeg news conference.

The 22-page “National Operational Overview” found a total of 1,181 aboriginal women who were murdered or reported missing between 1980 and 2012.

Of these, 1,017 were murdered and 164 missing.

Even though aboriginal people represent just 4.3 per cent of the population, aboriginal women account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women in the country.

These figures confirm a “significant over-representation of aboriginal women as victims going missing or as victims of homicide,” said Supt. Bates, which “speaks to a sad reality that we’re challenged with.”

The proportion of female victims is particularly high in Nunavut, as well as other territories and provinces where indigenous peoples make up the biggest share of the population.

In Nunavut, all 20 female victims of homicide reported for the period 1980 to 2012 were aboriginal. Northwest Territories reported the second highest rate of aboriginal homicides in its female population, at 92 per cent.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba had the most disproportionate numbers Aboriginal women accounted for 55 and 49 per cent of females murdered within those provinces, respectively.

Even though homicide rates are higher among aboriginal women, the report says police solve “almost nine out of ten” homicides in both aboriginal and non-aboriginal populations.

Cases are also solved in “roughly the same amount of time” for both populations, the report says.

The RCMP report says 89 per cent of offenders accused in aboriginal and non-aboriginal female homicides are men.

“The perpetrators of aboriginal female homicides are typically less employed, they have increased use of intoxicants, and more frequently on social assistance,” Bates said.

“An increased percentage of them have criminal records, as well as a history of violence with the victim that they killed.”

In more than 90 per cent of all cases of homicides, the offender is known to the victim through a prior relationship — either as a spouse, relative, or acquaintance, Bates said. Only eight per cent of murders are perpetrated by strangers, he added.

“The reality is that there are difficult social and economic circumstances that need to be considered as we move forward with the prevention work that do in our communities,” Bates said.

“Employment is a challenge. You’ll note the lower employment rate for the aboriginal victims.”

Only 16 per cent of aboriginal victims were employed, versus 40 per cent among non-aboriginal murder victims.

“When you’re challenged economically, increased involvement in illegal activities is also higher,” Bates said, which puts aboriginal women at greater risk.

Initiated by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson in October 2013, the report draws on the files of almost 300 police services across the country, Armstrong said.

“As Canada’s national police force, I believe there is an expectation, and a responsibility for the RCMP to take a leadership role in these national issues of concern, especially when they impact the aboriginal communities we serve,” the deputy commissioner said.

The report “will help guide our future intervention, prevention and enforcement initiatives,” she said.

The national police force will soon implement a “national missing persons’ strategy,” she said, and refocus its prevention initiatives “to communities at risk.”

“The police are only one part of the solution,” Armstrong said. “It’s going to take a concerted effort on behalf of all our partners, working hand in hand with all our aboriginal communities to truly make a difference.”

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