The RCMP released new information on Friday about missing and murdered aboriginal women, hundreds of whom have died over the past few decades. (Read Gloria Galloway’s full report here.) Here’s what you need to know to get caught up on the issue.
Counting the missing
In recent years, the RCMP and others have made varied estimates of how many aboriginal women have been killed or gone missing, and how long it’s been going on. In May, 2014, the Mounties released figures that placed the total at 1,181 cases over 30 years.
The federal government has touted a planned DNA data bank, expected to launch in 2017, as a way to solve the cases of missing women. But a Globe and Mail investigation found that the data bank fell short of the U.S. system that experts consider a gold standard.
Placing the blame
Earlier this spring, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt revealed RCMP-collected statistics on violence against native women that found 70 per cent of offenders were aboriginal themselves. RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson confirmed the minister’s assertion. Several chiefs said the minister should be fired for blaming aboriginal men for the tragedy.
Calls for an inquiry
What Ottawa says: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has rejected calls for a national inquiry into the missing and murdered women, saying the cases should be left to police.
What the TRC says: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, tasked with investigating abuses against aboriginal children at residential schools, also looked at the issue of missing women. In its final report issued earlier this month, it drew a connection between violence against native women, residential schools and the “complex interplay of factors” such as poverty and domestic violence. It recommended a commission of inquiry into missing and murdered women.
What the UN says: James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, visited aboriginal communities in six provinces in 2013 to document their living conditions. In May, 2014, he released a report calling for an inquiry into missing and murdered women.
Women in Winnipeg
Calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered women have gained steam in the past year thanks to two high-profile cases in Manitoba: Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl found dead last August, and Rinelle Harper, a 16-year-old who survived a brutal attack last November in which she was left for dead in the Assiniboine River. Rinelle has also supported calls for a national missing-women inquiry.
More on Tina Fontaine:
More on Rinelle Harper: