With the push to get the federal government involved in a national public inquiry, the RCMP have stepped up and with the help of Statistics Canada and close to 300 policing agencies across Canada, released ‘Missing and Murdered Aborginial Women: A National Operational Overview’.
This report, released May 16, 2014, is the most comprehensive account of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada to date and reveals that missing and murdered Aboriginal women are over-represented, accounting for 16 percent of female homicides despite making up merely 4.3 percent of the female population.
“Every file we reviewed represents a mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt or friend,” said RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson in the associated May 16 RCMP press release. “We cannot loose sight of the human aspect of these incidents and we call upon partners and communities to work together to find solutions to this issue.”
Violence against women is a significant societal issue and one that affects one-third of women around the globe, according to the World Health Organization, representing a health problem of “epidemic proportions.”
With the RCMP’s report, spanning the period of 1980 to 2012 in order to align with the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) Sisters in Spirit Initiative, showing 1,017 Aboriginal female homicide victims and 164 missing Aboriginal women, it’s no wonder there have been numerous outcries.
The leading cause of death among Aboriginal female victims noted was physical beating with 32 percent succumbing to their injuries and approximately three quarters of victims were killed in a residence, most often by someone they knew.
The report notes that only two percent of Aboriginal female homicides were linked to the drug trade or gang or organized crime activity with the most frequent motive being “argument or quarrel”, representing 40 percent of all incidents.
Nine out of every ten female homicides is solved, regardless of victim origin, but certain homicides, for example ones involving women caught up in the sex trade, appear to be solved less frequently than homicides overall.
The RCMP note that there are certain factors that will make an individual more susceptible to a violent victimization and that “the presence of these vulnerability factors in the cases of murdered Aboriginal women as opposed to the cases of murdered non-Aboriginal women may help provide some descriptive statistics to inform future social interventions or operational crime prevention planning.”
They go on to list these risk factors as employment status, use of intoxicants and involvement in the sex trade, but the research has done more than just provide numbers, stated Deputy Commissioner, Contract and Aboriginal Policing, Janice Armstrong in the RCMP’s May 16 press release.
“It has identified key vulnerability factors for the victims as well as valuable information on the perpetrators. With this additional information, police and our partners can better focus prevention initiatives in high-risk communities, to help reduce violence against Aboriginal women and girls.”
Focusing prevention efforts was listed as step number two in the RCMP’s detailed ‘next steps’, the other three were enhancing efforts on unresolved cases, increasing public awareness and strengthening the data.
The report in its entirety along with supporting information can be found online at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/mmaw-faapd-eng.htm.