The RCMP have released an update on their 2014 report on missing and murdered aboriginal women and concluded that, more often than not, women are being killed by partners, family members or acquaintances.
The new report, released ahead of National Aboriginal Day at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa Friday afternoon, June 19, says that all of the 32 aboriginal women murdered in RCMP jurisdictions over the last two years were acquainted with their killer.
“Our 2015 update confirms the unmistakable connection between homicide and family violence,” says RCMP deputy commissioner Janice Armstrong.
The RCMP’s update to its 2014 report on missing and murdered aboriginal women, says that 81 per cent of the murder cases involving aboriginal women over the last two years have been solved. The other key finding in the report: aboriginal women continue to be over-represented among Canada’s missing and murdered women.
The findings emphasizing family violence as a root cause of murder of aboriginal women raised concerns among native groups, who argue that the question that should be asked is why native women are overwhelmingly being targeted for violence in the first place.
Dawn Lavell-Harvard, interim president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), says the government “is trying to pass off its obligation to act.” She notes that many of the reports on missing and murdered native women “repeatedly concluded the failure on the part of the Canadian government to act was a human rights violation.”
The RCMP have not released information on the ethnicity of the offenders in its latest report. Earlier this year, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Bernard Valcourt, angered native groups with his remarks that most native women are being killed by native men.
But hundreds of cases involving missing or murdered aboriginal women remain unsolved.
The RCMP’s previous report stated that 1,186 native women have either gone missing or been murdered between 1980 and 2012. The report stated that native women, who make up 4.3 per cent of female population in Canada, represent 10 per cent of the missing females in Canada and 16 per cent of female murder victims.
Lavell-Harvard believes that a national inquiry into missing and murdered native women is necessary to understand exactly why native women are over-represented in statistics on violence.
“We want to make sure that we’re addressing the right issues.”
Lavell-Harvard also emphasized the need for programs that work to eliminate patriarchy and misogyny in communities, which she says is part of the lasting legacy of colonialism. The RCMP’s 2014 report called for further research to pinpoint at-risk communities.
There are a number of programs working to address the issues of violence against native women in aboriginal communities. One such project is I am a Kind Man, which helps to rehabilitate, heal and educate men who have been charged with domestic violence.
Rick Dokis, a facilitator for the project in North Bay, explained that the common approach with men has been punishment, but that I am a Kind Man is focused on getting men back into their families. He says the focus is on “returning back to traditional roles,” when women were the leaders of the community and made important decisions.
The program has been running for five years in six locations across Ontario. Dokis hopes that an inquiry would lead to more interest in programs like this.
The RCMP’s update notes that the force has paired with NWAC in a poster campaign “targeting the reduction of family violence, the timely reporting of missing persons cases and the importance of reporting all details/tips in missing persons investigations.” The RCMP have also produced two public service announcements featuring Shania Twain and Inuk NHL player Jordin Tootoo “to raise awareness… about the issue of violence against women.”
Deputy commissioner Armstrong says that the RCMP will increase efforts to communicate with the families of missing and murdered aboriginal women, as well as foster more positive relationships with aboriginal communities. She says addressing issues of violence “is a responsibility that should be shared by everyone.”
Lavell-Harvard says that after the RCMP’s most recent update, she hopes to see acknowledgement from the Harper government of the need for action.
“The Canadian government can no longer pretend or plead a lack of knowledge. This is their own national police force telling them there is a crisis.”
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