A Special to Niagara At Large from Karl Dockstader
With the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls being in the spotlight this year the police have mobilized to start trying to address the mounting public concern over this under-addressed issue.
After the Native Womens Association of Canada released a report showing that over 500 Indigenous women and girls were victimized, and Maryanne Pearce released a report with a higher number of victims at 824, on May 16th the RCMP issued a report with even more staggering numbers:
- Between 1980 and 2013 1181 Indigenous women or girls are missing, or in most cases, have been murdered
- Since 1980, homicide has decreased for non-aboriginal women and increased for indigenous women
- Solve rates are comparable for either Indigenous or non-Indigenous women
- Aboriginal women are 4 times more likely to be murdered than non-Aboriginal women
The report was conducted with the help of over 300 separate police agencies from across Canada, and confirms much of the information that has been made widely available over the past few months is just the tip of the iceberg.
This report from the RCMP was prepared in line with an order to all RCMP divisions to review all unresolved missing and murder cases involving aboriginal women and to report back those results in six months.
This comes on the heels of a May 12th recommendation by the United Nations special rapporteur James Anaya that Canada needs to take urgent and immediate action on a number of First Nations issues. His report included highlighting the need for a national inquiry into missing and murdered women.
Members of the Niagara First Nations community did contact Rick Dykstra’s office and Mr. Dykstra and MP Rob Clarke were quite accommodating in their efforts to reach out to the Native community and to host a meeting with the small contingent. While the government is holding firm that an inquiry is “the wrong approach,” they worked with the small group of representatives to highlight their efforts stemming from the special committee report to address the issue that was issued this past March in 2014. (The report’s recommendations are included after this piece for review)
Of the fifteen recommendations in the “Call to Action” only a handful were for creating preventative suggestions to try to fix the chasm in society that had led these forgotten souls down the path to their disappearance. The recommendation that were preventative echo key tenants of government policy that have been met with at best mixed results by aboriginal leadership.
The 5th recommendation to strengthen education, the 7th recommendation to increase economic participation in the Canadian economy by First Nations people, the 8th vague recommendation to increase supports for shelters, and the 9th recommendation for effective and accountable child care agencies are all intertwined with practices and policies that have been construed as being dictated too and not dialogued with aboriginal communities and leadership.
The report is a start, but it was dead in the water all the way back in March because it is not what aboriginal leadership, sympathetic organizations and most recently the UN special rapporteur were requesting. It was not an inquiry.
An Inquiry has the strength to mandate change. The 15 suggestions below are all keen in their own right, but lack the “teeth” to require any follow through. It has been made clear that Harper government wants to build more prisons, “punish” offenders, and strengthen “victim’s rights” but how many community centers are they going to close to pay for those prisons? Pulling money from community centres to build prisons is not going to strengthen society.
I commend the RCMP and I commend Rick Dykstra’s office for trying something, but ultimately I am afraid that the government of Canada is missing the point and the clear requests of the aboriginal community. First Nations are all calling for an Inquiry, including leadership from key Niagara area aboriginal organizations, the provincial Native Women’s Association and Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres and the 600+ First Nations communities across Canada.
With election strategizing already on the horizon on a federal level I am afraid that this issue will fall to back pages of press clippings. Society will trudge along with the pleas of the Native leadership continuing to fall on deaf ears more concerned with extraction, the economy and prosperity.
While all this is happening, one by one, our sisters will continue to be stolen.
Karl Dockstader is a Niagara, Turtle Island resident an, is member of the Oneida Nation First Nation, and a volunteer Director of the Niagara Regional Native Centre, though his views don’t necessarily reflect the views of either.
Recommendations from INVISIBLE WOMEN: A CALL TO ACTION
A Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada:
That the federal government learn from the stories of the families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls and work with the provinces, territories and municipalities to create a public awareness and prevention campaign focusing on violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.
Support for the family of victims
That the federal government continue strengthening the criminal justice system to ensure, among other things, that violent and repeat offenders serve appropriate sentences.
That the federal government maintain its commitment to develop the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights including initiatives aimed at making the criminal justice system more responsive to the needs of victims, such as keeping them informed and providing them with appropriate standing, access and assistance throughout the process.
That the federal government implement a national DNA-based missing person’s index
Support for communities
That the federal government continue to support K-12 education on reserve as an important tool in combating the root causes of violence against Aboriginal women and girls.
That the federal government continue to support programming and legislation that allow Aboriginal communities to respond to violence.
That the federal government examine options to address poverty as a root cause of violence against Aboriginal women and girls by empowering Aboriginal people through economic development opportunities and jobs and skills training.
That the federal government engage First Nation communities to examine how to improve supports for shelters and front-line services on reserve for victims of violence.
That the federal government support provincial, territorial and First Nation childcare agencies in their responsibility to ensure effective and accountable service delivery.
That the federal government in cooperation with municipal, provincial and territorial governments examine the possibility of collecting police data on violence against Aboriginal women and girls that includes an ethnicity variable.
That the federal government engage Aboriginal communities and municipal, provincial, and territorial governments to examine options to improving procedures among police services to facilitate multipartite investigations.
That the federal government encourage Aboriginal organizations, the Canadian Police College and municipal, provincial and territorial governments to improve police officer training, including continuing education, to foster cultural understanding and sensitivity.
Violence against women and girls
That the federal government continue to take appropriate action to reduce human trafficking and to reduce the violence and harm associated with prostitution.
That in implementing the public awareness strategy on substance abuse, the federal government target support to Aboriginal communities.
That the federal government examine opportunities to improve the incorporation of best practices into existing programs and services available to Aboriginal women and girls.
Moving to action
That the federal government implement all of the recommendations above in a coordinated action plan.
Please also check out this moving video if you are still with us on this issue –
(NOW IT IS YOUR TURN. Niagara At Large encourages you to share your views on this post. A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who share their first and last name with them.)