RCMP release study on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

WINNIPEG – After seven months of research, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police released their study on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada today. Over the past seven months, the RCMP collected data and in their final report, stated they had the names of 1,181 Indigenous women and girls who were either murdered or who had disappeared in the time period from 1980-2012.

RCMP Inspector and Director of National Aboriginal Policing & Crime Prevention Services, Tyler Bates said at a press conference held in Winnipeg this morning, “In the past 33 years, there have been 20,313 people in Canada that were murdered and 16% of those were Aboriginal.” First Nations people make up only 3% of the overall population in Canada, meaning that according to Bates, “Aboriginal women are 4 times more likely to be murdered.”

According to the RCMP’s research “89% of the perpetrators are male. Furthermore, many men have a history of violence with the women they kill,” suggesting that many First Nations women who die as a result of violence, know who their perpetrators are. “In over 90% of the cases, the offender has or had some sort of relationship with the victim,” stated Bates.

But Indigenous women are also targets of what is known as ‘stranger violence.’ “In 8% of homicides of Aboriginal women, the women did not know the perpetrator.” Bates stated that there is an over-representation of Native women in the sex trade, particularly in the western provinces where the homicide and disappearance rates of Native women are significantly higher. Aboriginal women in the sex trade, said Bates, have an increased risk of becoming targets for sexual violence, which often times results in the death or disappearance of the victim. “12% of Aboriginal female victims in our study had some sort of involvement with the sex trade,” said Bates.

Bates explained that vulnerability factors of Indigenous women were also analyzed and stated, “There are certain social and economic circumstances that need to be considered when we look at the causes of violence against Aboriginal women. For example, employment is a challenge for Aboriginal women. They also tend to have a criminal record and substance abuse problems.”

In his closing comments, the RCMP stated that, “Intervention, prevention and enforcement initiatives,” is what their main focus will be, “and we will also be focusing on the unsolved files. We remain committed to reducing the violence against Aboriginal women and policing is only a small part of the solution. We want the families to know we are committed to taking this data and moving forward.”

In an interview with the Two Row Times following the press conference today, Bates explained the reason as to why the RCMP decided to conduct their own research on missing and murdered Indigenous women. “The federal government had no involvement in our research. We had seen what was being released publicly such as the research done by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the more recent research done by Maryanne Pearce.” Pearce recently released her findings after doing research on missing and murdered women and found that over 824 Indigenous women had been murdered or had disappeared over the past few decades. That is 242 more women then what NWAC published in 2010.

It is because of the research done by NWAC and Pearce and the overall awareness of the issue being raised by various First Nations organizations, communities and people that the RCMP was prompted to conduct their own investigation into the issue. Bates stated that in order to validate and corroborate the existing databases done on missing and murdered Indigenous women, they conducted their own research with the help of over 300 police agencies from across Canada.

Asked whether the new RCMP database on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls will be released to the public, Bates stated that, “Concerning information sharing, it is not our data. We are not the owners. The data belongs to other police agencies across Canada and so we are not able to share their data.”

Bates told the Two Row Times that their research began in October of 2013 under the direction of the Commissioner of the RCMP in order to ‘define the scope of this issue.’ The purpose was also to, ‘qualify and validate the existing data and define areas of vulnerability.’

To read the RCMP report that was released today, follow the link: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/mmaw-faapd-eng.pdf

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