Missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada

February 14 was the National Day of Action organized by No More Silence and the annual rally and march for missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. We’ve compiled a list of research and statistics about violence against Aboriginal women to highlight the issue’s broad scope – there can be no denying of a need for action and greater accountability. We encourage you to check out and share the original links.

Violent victimization of Aboriginal women in the Canadian provinces, 2009 (Shannon Brennan, Statistics Canada)

  • Aboriginal women were almost three times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to report having been a victim of a violent crime. This was true regardless if the violence occurred between strangers or acquaintances, or within a spousal relationship.
  • Many Aboriginal female victims of crime are relatively young and tend to be highly represented as victims of violence. Women aged 15 to 34 represented close to two-thirds (63%) of female Aboriginal victims while they accounted for just under half (47%) of the female Aboriginal population aged 15 or older living in the ten provinces.
  • Many Aboriginal women in Canada have been murdered or have gone missing (Department of Justice 2010). For a number of reasons, these disappearances and homicides have been difficult to quantify through official statistics.
  • Given that the Aboriginal identity of many homicide victims is unknown, it is likely that data from the Homicide Survey undercount the true extent of the homicide of Aboriginal people.

Fact Sheet: Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls (Native Women’s Association of Canada)

The statistics below are based on a database of 582 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls as of March 31, 2010. Of these:

  • 67% are murder cases (death as the result of homicide or negligence)
  • 20% are cases of missing women or girls
  • 4% are cases of suspicious death (deaths regarded as natural or accidental by police, but considered suspicious by family or community members)
  • 9% are cases where the nature of the case is unknown (it is unclear whether the woman was murdered, is missing or died in suspicious circumstances)

Most cases involve young women and girls. Just over half of the cases (55%) involve women and girls under the age of 31, with 17% of women and girls 18 years of age or younger. Only 8% of cases involve women over 45.

Nearly half of these murder cases remain unsolved – only 53% of murder cases involving Aboriginal women and girls have led to charges of homicide, dramatically different from the national clearance rate for homicides in Canada.

Aboriginal women are almost three times more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-Aboriginal women are. Of the murder cases in the database where someone has been charged:

  • 16.5% of offenders are strangers with no prior connection to the woman or girl (in contrast, Statistics Canada reports that, between 1997 and 2004, only 6% of murdered non-Aboriginal women were killed by strangers)
  • 17% of offenders are acquaintances of the woman or girl (a friend, neighbour or someone else known to her)
  • 23% are a current or former partner of the woman or girl

Fact Sheet: Violence Against Aboriginal Women (Native Women’s Association of Canada)

  • Aboriginal women face life-threatening, gender-based violence, and disproportionately experience violent crimes because of hatred and racism.
  • Aboriginal women 15 years and older are 3.5 times more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women.
  • Between 1997 and 2000, homicide rates of Aboriginal females were almost seven times higher than those of non-Aboriginal females.
  • Community-based research has found levels of violence against Aboriginal women to be even higher than those reported by government surveys. There are many limitations to government-collected statistics. Six out of 10 incidents of violent crime against Aboriginal people are thought to go unreported.

The tragedy of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada (Sisterwatch Project, Vancouver Police Department and the Women’s Memorial March Committee)

  • According to research by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, urban areas are the most risky for women and girls, finding that “70 percent of women and girls disappeared from an urban area, and 60 percent were murdered in an urban area.” This may be related to the fact that urban centres tend to have more vulnerable women as well as more predators who can perpetuate their crimes in the anonymity of a big city.
  • While cases of known missing and murdered Aboriginal women are concentrated in the western provinces, no region of Canada is immune. Only Prince Edward Island does not have any cases listed in the Native Women’s Association of Canada website.

No More Stolen Sisters: Justice for the missing and murdered Indigenous women of Canada (Amnesty International)

Canadian police and public officials have also long been aware of a pattern of racist, sexist violence against First Nations, Inuit and Metis women in their homes and on the streets. But government response has been shockingly out of step with the scale and severity this tragedy. The pattern consists of the following:

  • Racist and sexist stereotypes deny the dignity and worth of Indigenous women, encouraging some men to feel they can get away with violent acts of hatred against them.
  • Decades of government policy have impoverished and broken apart Indigenous families and communities, leaving many Indigenous women and girls extremely vulnerable to exploitation and attack.
  • Many police forces have failed to institute necessary measures – such as training, appropriate investigative protocols and accountability mechanisms – to eliminate bias in how they respond to the needs of Indigenous women and their families.

Canada: Investigate Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women (Human Rights Watch)

“Canada’s federal government should establish a national commission of inquiry into the country’s hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. This recommendation follows today’s release by the British Columbian government of the final report from the provincial Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry.”

Missing, murdered aboriginal women in Canada deserve an inquiry (The Toronto Star)

“A public inquiry would unavoidably raise questions about broader socio-economic problems in First Nations communities and the extent to which those are the result of an unresolved history of failed government policies. It would also have to explain why 50 per cent of violent crimes against Aboriginals go unprosecuted, compared to 24 per cent in the general population, likely revealing unpleasant truths about our justice system in the process.”