A disproportionate number of female homicide victims in Canada are Aboriginal, said a police report released on Friday — just days after a UN watchdog called for an inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) report said Aboriginal women represent 4.3 percent of the total female population, yet 16 percent of all female homicide victims are from First Nations, as Canada’s Aboriginal people are called.
The Mounties reviewed cases from 1980 to last year and found 1,181 Aboriginal women fell into the missing or murdered category — almost double earlier estimates. Of those women, 164 were missing and 1,017 murdered.
That figure, provided by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, is hundreds more than previously believed, and prompted several calls for a national inquiry.
“The rate of victimization among Aboriginal females was close to three times higher than that of non-Aboriginal females,” the report said.
“I can tell you as police officers, we see these tragic circumstances playing out in communities first-hand,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police assistant commissioner Kevin Brosseau said. “While we’ll present our findings in terms of statistics and numbers, we never lose sight of the fact that each and every statistic, each and every number, is an Aboriginal woman, is an Aboriginal girl that is somebody’s mother, somebody’s sister, somebody’s daughter and somebody’s loved one.”
Police said that the victims are more likely to be killed by someone with a criminal record, someone on social assistance or someone with a history of family violence. As a whole, more than 90 percent of Aboriginal female murder victims knew their killer, police said.
As well, murdered Aboriginal women were more likely to have a criminal record, to be unemployed and to have consumed intoxicants just before their deaths.
The RCMP said that a small number of victims, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, had worked in the sex trade.
The police review compiled data from 300 different organizations and also documented risk factors of victims and identities of perpetrators.
Although Aboriginal women are over-represented as victims, the rate at which police solve the homicides of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women is almost the same, with 88 percent of Aboriginal female homicides solved, versus 89 percent for non-Aboriginals.
Canada’s Conservative government has so far resisted calls for a national inquiry, saying the issue has been studied enough and it’s time for action.
James Anaya, the UN’s special rapporteur on indigenous rights, said last week that an inquiry must be conducted to investigate the “disturbing phenomenon” of the high rates of Aboriginal women and girls being murdered and missing. Anaya spent nine days in Canada last year studying Aboriginal issues, meeting with government officials and First Nations representatives.
He said the human rights problems facing Aboriginal people in Canada have reached “crisis proportions” and says the relationship with the federal government is “strained.”
He said Canada faces a continuing crisis when it comes to the situation of Aboriginal people of the country.