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aboriginal murders

Native protesters rise a banner during a blockade at the VIA train tracks and Wyman's Road near Shannonville, Ont., on Wednesday March 19, 2014. The protesters want justice for murdered and missing indigenous women.Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press

All indigenous women who were murdered over the past two years in the parts of Canada that are policed by the RCMP were acquainted with their killers, says a report released by the Mounties as the Conservative government rebuffs calls for a national inquiry to explore the causes of the tragedy.

The new study, which was released Friday, says the problem of Canada's many missing and murdered aboriginal women is clearly rooted in family violence. It comes several months after Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt angered many indigenous people by saying he knows who is killing aboriginal women – and it is aboriginal men.

Dawn Harvard, the head of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said in a telephone interview on Friday that the majority of all female murder victims – aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike – are killed by someone they know and it is sad that some people have chosen to focus on that aspect of the problem.

"It is completely beside the point," Dr. Harvard said. "The Canadian government has a legal obligation to address the situation, to protect vulnerable populations so they have an obligation to protect indigenous women and girls and to prevent the violence."

The new report is an update of a groundbreaking study the force released last spring, which said aboriginal women are far more likely than other Canadian women to fall victim to violence. While the homicide rates for Canadian women have decreased over the past 30 years, the rate for indigenous women has increased.

In this year's report, the RCMP say the offenders were known to their victims in 100 per cent of solved homicide cases of aboriginal women, and in 93 per cent of solved homicide cases of non-aboriginal women, in RCMP jurisdictions in 2013 and 2014.

Regardless of who is committing the crimes, the safety of aboriginal women and girls, "is a responsibility that should be shared by everyone including, of course, the communities themselves," RCMP Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong told a news conference.

Last year's report found there were 1,181 police-recorded cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women from 1980 to 2012 – 164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims.

The new report says there were 32 additional murders of aboriginal women in 2013 and 2014 in jurisdictions under the control of the RCMP, which is consistent with levels of the past decade. And, although more than 80 per cent of the crimes are solved, there are still 225 unsolved cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women across Canada.

Indigenous leaders have been demanding a national inquiry to examine the causes of the violence – a call that has been repeatedly rejected by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"The RCMP has said itself in its own study that the vast majority of these cases are addressed and are solved through police investigations," said Andrew McGrath, a spokesman for Kellie Leitch, the Minister for the Status of Women. "We don't need yet another study on top of the some 40 studies that have already been done; we need police to catch those responsible and ensure they're punished. Now isn't the time for more talk; now is the time for action."

But Bernice Martial, the Grand Chief of Treaty 6 in central Saskatchewan and Alberta, said the blood of aboriginal women cries out for justice – and that means a national inquiry.

"Here in Treaty Number 6, of which I am the Grand Chief, we have over 15 indigenous women that were found outside of Edmonton. These are the markings of a serial killer," Ms. Martial said in a statement. "Due to poverty and the marginalization of our people, our women and girls fall prey to this national tragic crisis."

Niki Ashton, the NDP critic for aboriginal affairs, said the important message of the RCMP report is that the murders of aboriginal women is a societal issue. "What I heard in today's report," said Ms. Ashton, "is the need for partners and what's clear to me is that one partner who is not at the table to enact real solutions to this issue is the federal government."

And Carolyn Bennett, the Liberal critic said the statistics "support the overwhelming consensus that we are not going to achieve the comprehensive, co-ordinated and effective response necessary to end this epidemic of violence without a national public inquiry."

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