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globe editorial

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

Of the convicted serial killers in Canada, there are eight who are known to have collectively murdered 25 people since 1980. Of those 25 victims, 18 were indigenous women.

Indigenous women and girls make up four per cent of the country's female population. If these serial killers' victims were representative of Canada's demographics, only one of the women would have been an indigenous female. Or perhaps two.

But it wasn't one or two or even three. It was 18 out of 25 – a shocking ratio that drives home the extraordinary vulnerability of indigenous women and girls in this country.

That disproportionate vulnerability first entered the public consciousness in 2014, when the RCMP released a report saying that 1,181 indigenous women and girls were killed or went missing between 1980 and 2012. Another 32 were killed in 2013 and 2014.

Overall, an indigenous woman is four times more likely to be murdered than a non-indigenous one. And now, based on data examined by The Globe and Mail, we know that indigenous women are seven times more likely to be preyed on by the kind of killer that doesn't stop with one victim. Men who prey on women. Men who are usually non-indigenous.

It's important to know this. The RCMP has never reported the ethnicity of the perpetrators of solved cases in its report, a common non-bias policy in police forces. The Harper government, however, was quick to claim that 70 per cent of the killers were indigenous themselves. It wrote off this unusual epidemic of deaths as a criminal justice problem similar to anything found in the broader population.

The Globe's findings confirm what most have always felt – that the issue is more complex than that. What is needed now is for the RCMP to release the data it used for its report, so others can study it. The Mounties have yet to do that – the Globe discovered the connection to serial killers using its own database based partly on records collected by outside researchers.

This issue is of too great a public interest for the RCMP to withhold its data. The murder rate of indigenous women is, contrary to Stephen Harper's famous assertion otherwise, a disturbing sociological phenomenon, one that fully merits the inquest promised by the new Liberal government, and a full disclosure from the RCMP.

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