Crisis in Canada: Indigenous Women Are Going Missing and Being Murdered at an Alarming Rate

"Activists stand vigil on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, 4 October 2012, to remember the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada." Photo via Susanne Ure/Amnesty International and caption via Amnesty International
“Activists stand vigil on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, 4 October 2012, to remember the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.” Image via Susanne Ure/Amnesty International and caption via Amnesty International

Since the 1980s, almost 1,200 Canadian aboriginal women have been reported either missing or murdered. This data — which was collected by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in 2014 — highlights an important issue that needs to be addressed and fixed: There is an extreme human rights crisis going on in Canada.

Currently, 4.3% of Canada’s population is comprised of aboriginal women. Yet, the RCMP’s report revealed that out of the total number of murders and missing person cases that have occurred over the last three decades, indigenous women make up 16% of the female homicides and 11.3% of missing women. That’s quadruple the amount of their population for murders and almost three times the amount of their population for missing women.

As staggering as these numbers are, the comparison between the likelihood of aboriginal women experiencing violence and the likelihood of non-aboriginal women experiencing violence paints an even more severe picture. According to Amnesty International, “a 2009 government survey of the ten provinces [showed that] Aboriginal women were nearly three times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to report being a victim of a violent crime.” But the statistics get worse: The type of violence indigenous women experience is “more severe” in that “Indigenous women are four times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women.”

The cause of all this violence against aboriginal women is unknown, but the RCMP’s report did find that the majority of murders committed against aboriginal women were committed by acquaintances. The Canadian government has also disclosed that “the violence faced by Indigenous women is rooted in discrimination, impoverishment and inequality.”

Still, the current answers are not enough to end this crisis, which is why people are demanding the launch of a public inquiry — one that is “focused on exposing the nature of this violence and on ensuring government and police accountability for an effective and coordinated response.” However, this past August, Prime Minster Stephen Harper rejected the idea of an inquiry, citing his belief that the acts of violence should not be classified as “sociological phenomenon,” but instead as crimes that law enforcement must handle:

“It is crime, against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such. We brought in laws across this country that I think are having more effect, in terms of crimes of violence against not just aboriginal women, but women and persons more generally. And we remain committed to that course of action.”

This past September, the Minister of Labour and Status of Women, Kellie Leitch, cited similar concerns regarding the launch of a public inquiry. After pointing out that 40 studies have already been conducted on the issue, she stated, “now is not the time for another study, another look by the lawyers. Now is the time for action.”

Leitch did announce that the government has allocated 200 million dollars to implement a series of measures that will address the crisis. The money will be budgeted over a five-year span, with the majority of the money — 158.7 million dollars — is going toward “shelters and family violence prevention activities.” Other governmental plans include “the development of more community safety plans both off and on reserves and projects to break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse” and the creation of a “DNA-based missing persons index.” The government also promises to provide emotional support, both in the form of projects that will “empower Aboriginal women and girls to denounce and prevent violence” and in the development of a “better liaison between police and the families of victims.”

Still, the fear and outrage that has been mounting over the last thirty years continues to grow as citizens and human rights groups demand an answer that will end this crisis. Movements such as Amnesty International’s No More Stolen Sisters hold vigils across the country every October 4, the national day for honoring “the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.”

The group is also hard at work lobbying the Canadian government for a more comprehensive public inquiry, one that is different from studies in the past which have “focused primarily on police tools and powers.” They believe that in order to stop this crisis once and for all, the government needs to “address the discrimination and inequality that puts Indigenous women at risk or denies them adequate protection.”

At least 1,017 aboriginal females have been murdered over the past thirty years, while 164 aboriginal females have gone missing. Losing one life is losing one too many, but the loss of almost 1,200 lives is horrific, heinous, and horrible.

If you would like more information or would like to get involved in the cause, check out the helpful links below:


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