This blog represents my own personal opinions, thoughts and ideas, and should never be relied on as legal advice. My goal is have a national discussion with the grass roots citizens to see where we can affect the changes we want for our families, communities, and Nations. We owe it to our ancestors to protect our cultures and territories for our future generations.
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RCMP Report on Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women is Statistically Skewed
In 2014, the RCMP released a report on their "National
Operational Review" on the issue of "Missing and Murdered Aboriginal
Women" which amounted to 1181 women total - 164 missing and 1017 murdered.
The core conclusion of the report was
that "Aboriginal women"* were over-represented in the numbers of
murdered and missing. They cautioned readers that their report contained a
certain amount of "error and imprecision" given the thirty year
period of review, the human error of investigators, inconsistency of collection,
and definitional issues.
Let's look at that caveat a little closer. The RCMP had
to "limit" their file review to missing women who had been identified
by RCMP on CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) as "non-white"
female or "blank". The category of "Aboriginal origin" was
only recently added to CPIC and so could not possibly capture all Aboriginal persons.
Similarly, the numbers do not include Aboriginal women who were mistakenly
recorded as "white" or Aboriginal women who were reported missing but
were never recorded. Given the high level of overt and systemic racism in policing as confirmed in the Donald Marshall Jr., Manitoba Justice, Ipperwash, and Pickton inquiries, the numbers of those missing never recorded could be extremely high.
Now, let's look at how the RCMP or other jurisdictions determine
who is "Aboriginal". The RCMP report notes that they used
"perception-based assessment". In other words, "how a police
officer defines how an individual looks in terms of complexion and/or
ancestry". However, even this determination is not consistent across
jurisdictions. Any number of jurisdictions use the following to identify
officer discretion; and
Based on the above, it would seem logical that the RCMP
would miss identifying a large portion or even majority of Aboriginal persons. In the first methodology, I
presume they meant to say "Indian status" or "Indian
registration" because there is no formal or official "Aboriginal
status". I hope the RCMP know at least this much about the legislated
identity of Indigenous peoples in Canada (hint: it's in the Indian Act). For
those that only use "Indian status", that would exclude all the
non-status Indians, Métis, and Inuit individuals in Canada. The most recent National
Household Survey indicated that there were 1,400,685 Aboriginal people in
Canada and only 637,660 of them were registered Indians. That leaves 763,025 individuals (more than half the Aboriginal population) excluded from possible
identification as Aboriginal by RCMP standards.
Even those who are identified based on their official
Indian status, the RCMP fails to take into consideration the fact that there
are well over 20,000 people with Indian status who do not descend from nor
identify as "Indian" or "Aboriginal". This is thanks again to the Indian Act which made
non-Indian women and their non-Indian male and female children registered as Indians, despite their lack of Aboriginal ancestry or cultural connection. This equates to
thousands of men with Indian status that are not in fact Aboriginal.
With regards to the second methodology, the RCMP
are identifying Aboriginal peoples based on a racist set of biological and/or
physical characteristics which they unilaterally assign to Aboriginal people. In other words, "Aboriginal people" are treated as one race
of people with certain pre-determined physical characteristics - like hair, eye
or skin colour. They ignore the fact that Indigeneity is social, cultural,
political, legal, territorial, and nation-based - not an identity based on race. This racist methodology would be as useless as trying to identify a
Canadian citizen gone missing in the USA based on skin colour. Clearly, the
RCMP would miss the vast majority of "Aboriginal people" using this kind of methodology.
With regard to the third methodology of self-identification,
the RCMP failed to indicate what percentage of jurisdictions actually rely on
self-identification. This of course would not work in the context of a murdered
or missing Aboriginal woman as she cannot self-identify. It might only work in
the context of the woman's family or friends choosing to identify her as
Aboriginal. It is impossible to know how many people would voluntarily self-identify
given the extent to which every level of the justice system is infected with
overt and systemic racism as per the numerous justice inquiries. Many Aboriginal people have a justified fear of the RCMP stemming from residential school days, Starlight tours, and deaths in police custody - as well as provincial police forces for similar reasons.
So, it is logical to conclude that the RCMP grossly
under-counted the actual numbers of murdered and missing Aboriginal women in
Canada. This conclusion is confirmed by the RCMP's own admission that due to
these methodological problems "a high number of Homicide survey reports
where the identity of the victim (and/or
accused) remained unknown". This admission on their part is
extremely important in understanding the racist dialogue which has recently unfolded at the Ministerial level.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt has been
very vocal in his refusal to conduct a national inquiry into murdered and
missing Indigenous women and little girls. He has publicly stated that part
of the problem is that First Nation men "have a lack of respect for women and
girls on reserve". Aside from the fact that he forgot Métis and Inuit people who don't live on reserves, Valcourt went on to tell Treaty 6
Chiefs that 70% of the cases, Aboriginal women were killed by Aboriginal men. The RCMP refused
to release the statistics on the alleged perpetrators as they claimed a
commitment to "bias-free" policing. That commitment did not last long
as they issued a letter several days later to Treaty 6 Grand Chief seeming to back up
The RCMP's exact words to Treaty 6 Grand Chief Martial were as
"In considering the offender characteristics, a
commonality unrelated to the ethnicity of the victim was the strong nexus to
familial and spousal violence. Aboriginal females were killed by a spouse,
family member or intimate relation in 62% of the cases; similarly,
non-aboriginal females were killed by a spouse, family member or intimate
relation in 74% of occurrences."
This statistic confirms that Canadian women are more often
killed by their spouse or families than Aboriginal women. Yet, in the second
paragraph of this letter, the RCMP explain that despite their bias-free
policing policy and despite their confidentiality agreement with Statistics
Canada, they would release the sensitive information relating to offenders anyway in order to back up
Minister Valcourt's claims that "70% of offenders were of Aboriginal
Some commentators rushed to conclude that the RCMP
statement does in fact support the Minister's claims and (a) that this somehow
reduces Canada's culpability for both creating and refusing to deal with this
crisis; and (b) that, in fact, 70% of offenders were Aboriginal. Neither of
these conclusions are correct. The RCMP's statistics, as noted above, are
extremely skewed and unreliable when it comes to the identification of
Aboriginal people - victims or offenders. It bears repeating that the RCMP's
own assessment of problems in its methodology led them to conclude:
"a high number of Homicide survey reports where the
identity of the victim (and/or
accused) remained unknown".
This means that a high number of the accused in murder
cases have an unknown identity. Therefore, the RCMP's claim that 70% of the
accused are Aboriginal is highly suspect at best and completely inaccurate at worst.
There is also a problem with the assumption that because
64% of Aboriginal women are killed by their spouses or families, that those
offenders were in fact "Aboriginal". Aside from having to make the racist
assumption that Aboriginal people only have relationships with other Aboriginal
people, the statistics do not bear this out. If you look only at the case of First Nations people, the vast majority of First Nations
have out-parenting rates (children with non-Aboriginal people) that are
moderate to high. Specifically, 246 First Nations have an out-parenting rate of
40-60%; 162 First Nations have an out-parenting rate of 60-80%; and 49 First
Nations have an out-parenting rate of 80-100%. It is safe to say that no less
than half of First Nations are in spousal or familial relationships with non-Aboriginal
people. So, even if 64% of Aboriginal women are murdered by their spouses, it
does not follow that those spouses are "Aboriginal". Statistically, they are just
as likely to be non-Aboriginal.
One must also keep in mind that the RCMP did not include
statistics on the number of RCMP and provincial police officers who have been
accused of physically and sexually assaulting, murdering and/or causing to go
missing, Aboriginal women in Canada. Despite a Human Rights Watch report which
details accounts by young Aboriginal women and girls at the hands of the RCMP - the
RCMP has refused to investigate its own members. We know at least one RCMP
officer who lost 7 days pay for violating an Aboriginal women and one
provincial court judge who plead guilty to physically and sexually assaulted Aboriginal girls
as young as 12 years old.
This shell game of numbers and statistics is meant to
blame the victim and deflect attention away from Canada's continued inaction to
address this crisis which the United Nations has called a "grave violation"
of our basic human rights. The crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women
and little girls continues while Canada (through Valcourt) blames
the victim and the RCMP fail to live up to their duty to serve and protect
everyone in Canada.
Shame on them both. Nothing in the RCMP numbers changes
anything. Canada has a crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women and
little girls regardless of who is doing the killing - and we need to address it.
Don't be fooled or distracted by Canada's games.
We should all stay focused on pushing
for both a national inquiry and for an emergency action plan to protect our
women and girls and address the underlying root causes and inequities which
make them vulnerable to begin with.
* I use the term "Aboriginal" in this blog to reflect the terminology of the RCMP report only.
(photo by Michelle Girouard) This
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are just around the corner and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has become
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