Cops: Missing, murdered aboriginal women not just police issue

Canada’s top cops say inquiry would delay action, calling on all levels of government to act

Murdered Teen Inquiry 20140819

VICTORIA — The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are not endorsing a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, saying such an exercise would only delay action.

Instead, the nation’s top cops called on all levels of government Tuesday to take immediate action to address the underlying issues that lead aboriginal women to be vulnerable to crime and violence.

“Yes, a national inquiry may shed some light on this, but as Canadian chiefs, we don’t want to delay action,” Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill, the newly elected president of the organization, said at the group’s annual meeting in Victoria.

“We know what the problems are. The aboriginal population in Canada knows and I think most Canadians know what the issues are. Let’s get on with it.”

Related from Maclean’s:

Aboriginal groups have repeatedly called for a public inquiry for at least a couple of years.

But the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was found Aug. 17 wrapped in a bag and dumped in the Red River in Winnipeg, has become a rallying point.

The teen had run away from foster care, and Weighill said aboriginal girls make up a majority of the females in foster care and group homes.

He said there have already been many studies pointing to the underlying issues of poverty, poor-housing, racism, social challenges and marginalization.

Weighill said the statistics are startling. Studies in his city show aboriginal women are five to six times more likely to be victimized than non-aboriginal women, and aboriginal people account for more than 80 per cent of the population of Canada’s prisons.

“The drivers for this are not a police issue,” he said. “A lot of times it’s a health issue, it’s a housing issue, it’s a poverty issue. They’re issues affecting people that are disadvantaged — that’s what’s driving some of the vulnerability for some of our First Nations women.”

Earlier this year, RCMP released a report that found 1,181 cases of murdered or missing aboriginal women between 1980 and 2012.

The report said women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, but account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.

And it’s not just aboriginal women, Weighill pointed out. Eighty per cent of Canada’s prison populations are First Nations, Inuit and Metis, he said.

“Those within the law enforcement community cannot help but recognize the marginalized conditions that too often face First Nations people,” he said.

“Poverty, poor housing, racism, etc. are pre-conditions to heightened criminal activity and more victimization. We need to work with the federal government on strategies to improve living conditions and prevent recruiting by gangs and enticement towards prostitution and drug abuse.”

The federal government has firmly rejected an inquiry.

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said crimes against aboriginal women should not be viewed as “sociological phenomenon.”

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Peter MacKay issued a statement saying there is no need for another study “on top of the some 40 studies that have already been done.”

“We need police to catch her killer and ensure the perpetrator or perpetrators are punished and face the full force of the law,” the statement said.

Weighill said it’s not just a policing issue.

“It’s a community issue,” he said.

He said the police chiefs’ association wants an action plan that brings together health, social and education services, as well as police.

Michele Audette, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said she was disappointed that the police chiefs did not back a public inquiry.

But given the federal government’s position so far, Audette herself has advocated a roundtable of government agencies and aboriginal leaders to discuss the same issues.

“Yes, dialogue need to happen and they want to be part of it,” she said. “That is good news.”

Several provincial premiers have spoken out in recent days in favour of a public inquiry.

The issue was expected to be on the agenda when premiers and aboriginal leaders meet in Charlottetown on Wednesday at the start of the annual premiers’ conference.




Browse

Cops: Missing, murdered aboriginal women not just police issue

  1. Sad to say but reserves top the charts in sexual abuse, child abuse, alcoholism, drug use and teen suicide. Is it any wonder women leave that situation and become victims? Rather than blaming others perhaps the first step in the process for the native community should be to look in the mirror.

  2. Of course all the usual suspects are calling for an inquiry. They have good reasons; none of which would do a damn thing to help solve the problem. A list.

    Politicians – Of course they want an inquiry. What better way to blame the problems on the current government.
    Aboriginal leadership: Of course they want an inquiry. The less time spent looking at the incompetence and corruption of First nations leaders, and more time spent seeing Aboriginals as victims..the better. They may even be able to squeeze a few more bucks out of our pockets.
    Lawyers: They want an inquiry more than anyone. Average pay of $600 per hour, investigating what has already been investigated…..and spread over 5 to 10 years. YEAH MAN….just imagine the payday!!!

    The problem is not the murder of aboriginal women….the problem is the propensity for aboriginal MEN…to MURDER aboriginal women.

    Start there.

  3. There are no reserves in Nunavut, 2 in the NWT (very small), Yukon may have a few . . . this is not about Reserves! This is about poverty, poor-housing, racism, social challenges and marginalization as stated in the article. Its a shame Canadians are so quick to blame it on reserves and the aboriginals when the reality is many people, right here in Canada, live in third world conditions through no fault of their own. The north is full of housing that has 3 to 4 generations crammed in a small house, astronomical costs for any of the basics, no additional housing available, no banks in many of these isolated communities (again,not reserves) and very little in employment opportunities (yet oil and mining companies will fly people out of Edmonton, although that is thankfully soon changing). I am not making excuses, just an observation of the total ignorance of many Canadians when it comes to our own country, especially the North. People in the North live in communities, many of which are tax based like anywhere else in Canada and it is very insulting to be continually berated and marginalized by Canadians who cannot even bother to educate themselves about their own country and the many diverse cultures that comprise it!

Sign in to comment.