James Anaya, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, spent nine days visiting different First Nations communities and compiled a report discussing the federal government’s continued foot dragging on a number of issues, including education, environmental issues, treaty negotiations, and general distrust on the part of First Nations communities regarding various levels of government.
This report follows on the heels of another report by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network stating there have been nearly 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women in the span of 1980 to 2012. The report, confirmed by top RCMP brass, leaves little wonder why First Nations communities in Canada have trust issues.
Indigenous women make up four per cent of the population in Canada. They make up 16 per cent of all the murdered females in Canada, and 12 per cent of all missing females on record. There is no denying these numbers are much higher than they should be.
In 2005, the Native Women’s Association of Canada released a companion document regarding a first minister’s meeting held that year, in which they identified some staggering numbers on domestic violence for First Nations women.
The report indicated 75 per cent of indigenous women were victims of family violence, and that the overall mortality rate for First Nations women is three times higher than non-indigenous populations. That number balloons to five times higher for First Nations women between the ages of 25 to 44 when compared to non-indigenous women of the same age.
While the federal government has long claimed tackling crime is a top priority for them, including violence against women, one can not help but be awed by the number of dead and missing indigenous women, and wonder how this has been allowed to go on without further efforts to stem the tide of death. They have gone on record saying there was no need for inquiries when pressed by federal opposition Liberals and NDP members.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has been quoted in the media as saying while the numbers for missing and murdered First Nations women are high, 88 per cent of those murders have been solved, which is about the same rate one would expect to find in non-indigenous groups. Also, in the number of cases where women were declared missing, foul play is suspected in two-thirds of the cases, while the remaining cases are listed under “missing – unknown reasons.”
B.C.’s infamous Highway of Tears – a 700 kilometre stretch of the Yellowhead Highway which has been attributed to anywhere from 18 to 45 murders and disappearances of mostly indigenous women, depending on who you ask – seems to be stretching much further than anyone originally thought. Judging from these numbers, one might as well dub the Trans Canada Highway the new Highway of Tears, as these crimes are happening across the country, and crossing all kinds of political, racial, and economic boundaries in the process.
It’s clear that there is a problem with the protection of First Nations women in Canada, and the federal government is right if they believe now is not the time for more studies or inquiries. In fact, now is the time for concrete action to stem the rising tide of blood washing away Canada’s indigenous peoples.