Though the case of Angela Cardinal, first reported by the CBC on Monday, appears to be rare, it has sparked public outcry, with the provincial justice minister wondering if this would have happened to a white woman.
“Aren’t you supposed to commit a crime to go to jail?”
A new document released on Tuesday by Statistics Canada underscores the issue, noting that in 2014, Indigenous women were 2.7 times more likely to have reported experiencing violent victimization than non-Indigenous women. The reported sexual assault rate was nearly three times higher among Aboriginal people, compared to non-Aboriginal people.StatsCan notes that while the number of non-Aboriginal female victims has declined over the last few decades, for Indigenous women, it has gone up. “Aboriginal females account for an increasing proportion of female homicide victims, rising from one-tenth of all female homicide victims in 1980 to one-quarter in 2015,” the authors note.
The reported sexual assault rate was nearly three times higher among Aboriginal people, compared to non-Aboriginal people.
“The facts of this case are disturbing and tragic,” Galey said at a press conference on Monday. “There is plenty of blame to go around.” She stressed that while she hasn’t heard of this happening to anyone else, she wonders if race played a role in the prosecutor and judge’s decision to keep Cardinal in custody under a section of the Criminal Code regarding the detention of uncooperative witnesses.“One of the questions that keeps me up at night is whether it would have been the case, that if this woman was Caucasian, and housed, and not addicted, whether this would have happened to her,” said Galey.Progressive Conservative House Leader Ric McIver echoed her views, and told reporters : “If women of certain race or background are getting treated because of their race or background, that is inexcusable.”Muriel Stanley Venne, the president of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women in Edmonton, told CBC News she was disgusted by the Cardinal case.“This is part of the way Aboriginal women are treated — as less than human beings, and therefore not requiring the respect and dignity that any human being should be receiving in the courts,” she said.When asked about the matter on Tuesday, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said: “Victims of sexual assault and gender-based violence must be accorded the respect and dignity that they deserve.”
“This is part of the way Aboriginal women are treated — as less than human beings.”