Canada police vow to do more to curb murders of aboriginal women

by Reuters
Friday, 16 May 2014 18:51 GMT

Sheila Poitras (R) and JoAnne Makokis from Saddle Lake, Alberta, take a break after setting up tepees at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference west of Morley, Alberta, August 5, 2002. REUTERS/Patrick Price

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Report by Canadian Mounted Police finds disproportionate number of native women victims of crime

OTTAWA, May 16 (Reuters) - Canadian police said Friday new research into a high number of murdered and missing aboriginal women would lead to more resources being dedicated toward high-risk native communities and would improve investigations of missing persons cases.

The report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said there were 1,181 murders and disappearances of aboriginal women between 1980 and 2012 and that a disproportionate number of native women were victims of violent crime.

The research followed a public outcry over a high number of unsolved cases involving women and girls in Canada's 1.4-million-strong aboriginal population, many of whom live in dire poverty, with sub-standard housing and education.

"We are certainly going to re-dedicate resources where we can be most effective. We're in the process of identifying high-risk communities and through the data set ... we'll be able to better focus our efforts and be more effective in that regard," said Janice Armstrong, an RCMP deputy commissioner involved in aboriginal policing.

While the broad numbers of crimes against indigenous women had been previously reported, the official report provided more detailed statistics on the types of crimes, the characteristics of the perpetrators and victims and the locations.

Those details help mount pressure on the Conservative government to call a public enquiry into the matter.

Armed with the new data, the RCMP pledged to develop a national missing persons strategy, to identify the aboriginal communities most at risk of violence against women and to start crime-prevention programs focused on them.

Still, Liberal lawmaker Wayne Easter said that was not enough. He slammed the government for refusing to order an enquiry that would look into the violence in a more public forum.

"The government and the prime minister are on the wrong side of history," Easter said in Parliament.

In its response to the RCMP report, the government focused on one finding that showed 62 percent of aboriginal women who were killed by a family member had suffered abuse from that person before, against 43 percent for non-aboriginal women.

It pointed to new funding announced in 2013 to a family violence-prevention program.

"There's not a need for more study. What there is a need for is action and our government is taking action," said Conservative legislator Bob Dechert.

The RCMP's Armstrong suggested that more work and discussion was needed on the issue.

"I don't think we have all the answers that we need right now," she told reporters.

"I think this is the beginning of a process for us. We still have a lot of unanswered questions ... and we've posed them, important questions that have yet to be answered." (Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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