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Police Say Indigenous Women Are Still Overrepresented in Canadian Murder Statistics

Last year, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police revealed more than 1,000 Aboriginal women had been murdered over three decades, and another 164 were still missing. Police said Friday they have made progress in solving cases, but the numbers have grown.
Elder Barbara Hill drums before the release of the RCMP update on missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Photo by Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Canada's federal police force said on Friday it has made progress in solving cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, but the number of those who have disappeared continues to climb.

Officials with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said that 11 more indigenous women have disappeared since its report in May of last year painted a disturbing picture for Canadians of an issue the RCMP calls "a national tragedy."


And the murder rate for Aboriginal women continues to be disproportionately high, with 17 homicides in 2013 and 15 homicides in 2014.

One of the new cases was Tina Fontaine, who was reported missing last August and was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg on August 17. She had already been reported missing when two police officers stopped her vehicle on August 8, but they failed to take her into custody. The two officers were placed on administrative leave as a result, pending disciplinary action.

The RCMP's 2014 report found 1,017 indigenous women had been murdered across Canada between 1980 and 2012 and another 164 were still missing.

That's nearly 1,200 cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women.

Related: Murdered in Halifax: Before Loretta Saunders, There was Tanya Brooks

At the time of that report, there were 225 unsolved cases — 105 women who had been missing for more than a month, and 120 unsolved homicides.

Now the RCMP says they've reduced the number of unsolved missing and murdered cases from 225 to 204, or 9.3 percent.

"The numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women cannot remain a mere statistic," Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a statement Friday. "It is time for action that shows the lives of indigenous women and girls matter. Today's report is yet another urgent call to action on a national crisis."

Aboriginal women continue to be overrepresented in the numbers, the RCMP said. In 2013, 4.3 percent of Canadian women were Aboriginal, but 16 percent of all female homicide victims were Aboriginal women.


The data disclosed Friday only came from the RCMP. The force did not explain why information from municipal jurisdictions was unavailable.

During a press conference about the report Friday, RCMP Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong said communication between police and families must improve, and officers must make a better effort to inform families.

"In terms of reaching out to families, one of the things that we did as a result of the updated policy and [for our] national strategy is we made it mandatory for police officers to reach out to families, to complainants, to loved ones, in order to establish that communication schedule," Armstrong said. "…So that's mandatory now that we do that."

Armstrong also said the responsibility to protect women and girls goes beyond the RCMP and is shared with Aboriginal communities themselves.

"The safety and protection of those most vulnerable is a responsibility that should be shared by everyone, including of course the communities themselves," Armstrong read from a written statement.

The report states that Aboriginal women are most often killed in rural and isolated areas, and in residences shared with the attackers who killed them. The new data supported this trend from previous years, showing that in all homicides solved by the RCMP in 2013 and 2014, the offender was known to the victim.

The same was true in 93 percent of solved homicides of non-Aboriginal women.


The RCMP still hasn't released information on what part of the country indigenous women are most frequently murdered.

In a statement Friday, the Assembly of First Nations emphasized that there have been 32 new murders of indigenous women since the 2014 report, and said the overrepresentation of these women in the numbers "demands action."

The AFN took the opportunity to repeat a call: "We need a national inquiry to get to the root causes and find long-term solutions, and we need immediate action to ensure they're safe now."

A 2014 Angus Reid poll found three-quarters of Canadians support an inquiry into the issue of indigenous women who disappear and are killed.

This Sunday, citing more than 600 cases of missing and killed indigenous boys and men since the 1950s, activists are holding a "Warriors Walk" in Edmonton.

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter: @hilarybeaumont

Watch the VICE News Documentary, The Murdered Women of the State of Mexico