Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began a study in 2013 of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, due to what Canadians saw as devastating crimes committed in great numbers over the past few decades. The RMCP found that 1,181 female Aboriginals have been reported missing between 1980 and 2012; 1,017 were murdered, and 164 are considered missing – 225 of the missing cases are currently unsolved. This violence against Canadian-aboriginal women spurs Ultius’ commitment to recognizing issues of global importance, and serves as an example of the work our freelance essay writers do day in, and day out.
Missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada
Toronto – Reuters recently published an article which claimed aboriginal women in Canada were four times more likely to be murdered than other women in the country. Who has been murdering these innocent women, and why? Why has it taken so long for a public outcry to build, and why has the government not done something about these deaths and missing persons’ cases until now? This sample essay will look at the background on Canada’s aboriginal communities, who is being murdered and by whom, and what the Canadian government has been doing about the problem.
Canada’s aboriginal communities
According to Statistics Canada, aboriginal people in Canada are made up of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis (descendants of French settlers and native Canadians) peoples, all with unique heritages, cultures, and languages. First Nations make up 851,560 of the overall aboriginal population, with the Métis 451,795, and Inuits at 59,445. More than 1.8 million people report aboriginal ancestry in Canada, equal to more than 4% of the total population (Canadian Encyclopedia).
Of these, 1.4 million identified as aboriginal. As of 2010, there were 615 First Nations communities and 50 nations, eight Métis communities, and 53 Inuit communities – over 60 Aboriginal languages are spoken in Canada, as well. Reuters reported that Canada’s aboriginals have a lower life expectancy than other Canadians; a higher poverty level; and increased levels of addiction, family violence, and violent crime victimization.
As a result of public outcry, the work of organizations such as WHO, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Amnesty International, and the RCMP, the Canadian government has recently been trying to locate the missing women and find out why so many aboriginal women have been and continue to be murdered.
Who are the missing women?
The research shows that it is primarily women who are being murdered in Canada among the aboriginal residents – the RCMP stated that 1,017 of these women were murdered over a period of 22 years beginning in 1980 and ending in 2012. 108 additional Aboriginal women are still missing and may have been murdered, as well. The numbers stack up like this:
Of the 4.3% of Canadian women who are aboriginal, 16% are homicide victims and 11% are missing persons (Reuters of Toronto).
By any measurement, these numbers are unacceptably high, and the fact that these deaths are murders and not just deaths due to accidents or old age is terrifying for women around Canada.
Who authorities think may be behind the murders.
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the violence and murder committee in relationship to the aboriginal women of Canada is usually at the hands of the women’s family or community; domestic violence causes, in other words. Among the organizations and people who may be partially responsible for the deaths and missing persons’ cases of these Aboriginal women are a serial killer named Robert “Willie” Pickton who was tried and found guilty of killing six women in 2007.
Pickton originally faced 26 first-degree murder charges, but only six of his victims’ DNA was found on his farm outside Vancouver, British Columbia. In an undercover police tape transcript, Pickton stated that he
“had planned to kill one more woman before stopping at 50, taking a break and then killing another 25 women”.
The details of Pickton’s murders are very disturbing, and while not the subject of this paper, must be taken into account in the cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. The reason some of the bodies were not found on the farm is because Pickton allegedly fed them to the pigs; much of the evidence was also kept from the jury until the Pickton’s request for a new hearing was declined by the Supreme Court of Canada (Culbert).
According to Culbert, evidence not intoduced in the Pickton case includes the DNA of ten women who he was convicted of murdering or may have murdered. The DNA was found in ground meat, on Pickton’s boots, on a saw, on handcuffs, and in the cistern of the piggery. This man is a monster, and is currently serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole a distant 16 years away. It is important to note that police have been working on the disappearances of women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, an area known for drugs and prostitution, since prior to 1991. In 1995, 1998, 2001 missing women cases spiked — with a list in 2004 including 69 names of missing women (Culbert).
The Cause of marginalization among Canadian aboriginal women
Issues like racism, marginalization, sexism, poverty, and the past unfair and inhumane treatment of aboriginals by Canadian governments have all impacted the current investigation and outcry concerning the missing women of Canada. According to Indigenous Foundations of the University of British Columbia (2009), the rights of the indigenous Canadians were taken through the European Doctrine of Discovery, which allowed a European colonial power to claim title to a newly discovered territory. Just as the Native American Indian populations of the United States found themselves infringed upon, murdered, and marginalized, so did the indigenous people of Canada; the discriminatory Indian Act made indigenous political organization and legal counsel hiring illegal (Indigenous Foundations).
In the BBC’s interactive web presentation called “Red River Women,” the news agency tells the story of the missing and murdered indigenous women through graphics, videos, and text in a provocative manner. The site notes that dozens of indigenous Canadian women are murdered or disappear annually – some found in the Red River which runs through Winnepeg, Manitoba. The city of Winnipeg has the largest aboriginal population in Canada, and is often called Murderpeg, according to the Jolly of the BBC.
Many feel that the death of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl whose body was found in the Red River in August of 2014, was a watershed moment for the Canadian people as they realized how much damage the killings and disappearances had already done. Just after Tina’s death, a 16-year-old girl barely escaped death at the hands of two sadistic young men who assaulted her physically and sexually – twice. She nearly died after they threw her in the river, but survived because the 27-degree water slowed her metabolism.
Rinelle Harper was her name, and she was only the first woman the men attacked that night; she waived her anonymity right in order to speak out for other young women who died in her situation. Bernadette Smith and Kyle Kematch are two Winnepeg residents with missing or murdered family members who believe the Canadian police are not doing enough to find the missing women. Bernadette has lost four teenagers from her family in 1971, 2003, 2009, and Claudette (her half-sister) in 2010.
Nahanni Fontaine of the Manitoba government noted that Canadian government policy allowed discrimination against all aboriginal people for years, particularly women – the government took children from their families and raised them in “often brutal and abusive residential schools;” this practice only ended twenty years ago. Removing the children was supposedly meant as a way to integrate them into the dominant Canadian society, but with no prior context and a completely different way of life, the aboriginal people felt even more isolated, abused, and separated from their culture and that of the dominating society.
Bernadette Smith was a witness to the effect the schooling had on the children of her own family and her parents. Another policy, called the “Sixties Scoop,” led to indigenous children being removed from their families and adopted out into other countries, primarily because it was assumed that the problems aboriginal families had stemmed from their own culture and society. In fact, their problems were always a direct result of unfair, racist, and cruel laws instigated by the Canadian government (BBC). As Fontaine noted on the BBC website,
“Underpinning these policies was the idea that indigenous women aren’t good parents, that they’re not acceptable parents.”
Fontaine cites this idea as the basis for the marginalization, murder, and harassment of aboriginal women, who are then more susceptible to exploitation, sex work, and drugs in the cities of Canada (BBC).
What is Canada doing to solve these murders?
Janice Armstrong, RCMP deputy commissioner, noted in an interview with Reuters that “It is clear that much work remains to be done” in the effort to stop the murders and missing persons’ cases in Canada’s Aboriginal female population. Canada’s former prime minister Stephen Harper stated that the aboriginal call for a national inquiry into the missing and murdered women is unnecessary because the murders are due to crime and not a “sociological phenomenon;” he also stated that the solution rate for the missing women was equal to that of the solution rate for missing non-Aboriginal womens’ cases in Canada.
The Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, spoke at a news conference in Ottawa in February of 2016, stating that the inquiry into the murdered and missing aboriginal women has surpassed 1,200 at this point in time – and that the families of the missing and murdered believe the number to be higher than that (Indian Country Today Media Network Staff). Bennett is in charge of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry, a group dedicated to finding out why the murders continue to occur and how to stop them (ICTMN Staff).
Nahanni Fontaine (not related to Tina) is the special advisor for Manitoba’s government on Aboriginal women’s issues, and helped place the official monument for the province’s missing and murdered women where the Red River and the Assiniboine River meet in Winnipeg (BBC). Fontaine says that many people don’t know that the colonial imperialism upon which Canada was founded was racist and went against the matriarchal societies of the indigenous people who were already living there (BBC). Fontaine cites decades of misogyny and disrespect of indigenous women by Canadian men; this disrespect is common and represented in the treatment of indigenous women all over the world (BBC). Fontaine stated,
“What most people fail to recognize is that the establishment of Canada was actually formed on colonial imperialism, fueled by racism” in the BBC multimedia website.
It is not fair to completely discount the Canadian government in the fight against the disappearances and murder of these Aboriginal women; “Generous government support” has been applied in an attempt to assuage the pain of the people who have suffered so much loss. Like reservations for Native Americans, treaties have been established in order to compensate them for their loss of land and mineral wealth; unfortunately, these treaties are unable to bring back the respect they once had, or the women who have already been killed (BBC).
In the BBC presentation, Thelma Favel stated her belief that residential schools and government policies have become a crutch upon which many aboriginal people lean on in order to continue drug and alcohol abuse. Fontaine noted that the discussion needs to move away from the women to the men who are committing these atrocious crimes if any sort of solution is to be found. According to Fontaine, these men are “psychopaths” who are allowed by society’s lack of action to continue the unspeakable abuse and assault that they continue to unleash upon Canada’s Aboriginal female population (BBC).
Indian Country Today Media Network Staff. “Missing and Murdered Women Scope Surpasses the 1,200 Estimated Victims: Government.” Indian Country Today Media Network. Indian Country Today Media Network, LLC, 2016. Web. 21 March 2016.
Reuters in Toronto. “Canadian Aboriginal Women Four Times More Likely to be Murdered, Police Say.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 2016. Web. 21 March 2016.
Associated Press. “Canadian Pig Farmer Accused of Serial Killings Found Guilty of Murder.” Fox News. Fox News Network, LLC, 2007. Web. 28 March 2016.
Culbert, Lori. “Pickton Murders: Explosive Evidence the Jury Never Heard.” The Vancouver Sun. Postmedia Network Inc., 2010. Web. 28 March 2016.
Indigenous Foundations. “Aboriginal Rights.” University of Columbia. University of Columbia, 2009. Web. 29 March 2016.
Jolly, Joanna. “Red River Women.” BBC News. BBC, 2016. Web. 21 March 2016.
Amnesty International. “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: Understanding the Numbers.” Amnesty International Canada. Amnesty International Canada. Web. 21 March 2016.
Statistics Canada. “Aboriginal Peoples.” Statistics Canada. Government of Canada, 2016. Web. 28 March 2016.
Canadian Encyclopedia. “Demography of Aboriginal People.” Canadian Encyclopedia. Canadian Encyclopedia, 2011. Web. 28 March 2016.
Government of Canada. “National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.” Government of Canada. Government of Canada, 2016. Web. 28 March 2016.