A year after the release of a report on 1,181 aboriginal women and girls that have been murdered or gone missing in the last three decades, the RCMP will provide an update on progress made.
First Nations leaders are calling for all the information gathered for the report to be released to the public — a step authorities have so far not agreed to.
The RCMP is not conducting new research for a second report, but they will provide an update in May on the areas listed in their original report, the National Operational Overview on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women, which stunned the nation after police put a figure to what many already knew — First Nations women fall victim to violence far more than non-aboriginals do.
The RCMP update will include progress made on unresolved cases, focusing on prevention, increasing public awareness and making sure the data is accurate and captures women of aboriginal background, according to RCMP Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer.
Many First Nations leaders and aboriginal advocates feel the number of 1,181 murdered and missing is too low and that there are more uncounted cases out there. Of those listed in the RCMP report, 1,017 were murdered and 164 are missing women and girls from 1980 to 2012.
After the report’s initial release, cries for a national inquiry into how to stop the killings have grown louder. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper steadfastly refuses to hold an inquiry. Instead, the provinces have decided to hold a roundtable looking at systemic issues surrounding the issue.
Last month, when Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt commented to First Nations chiefs that 70 per cent of the cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women were perpetrated by indigenous men, community leaders demanded to know what new information the minister has.
It is time for the RCMP to release all the data they have collected so far on the cases so everyone can analyze the wide variety of factors that have led to the systemic problems of murdered and missing women, said Assembly of First Nations Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy.
“Any report will have pros and cons. Depending on what views you are trying to project, you’ll use what works for you. The report should be made available and backed up by scientific research. We are talking about people’s lives,” Beardy said.
In Parliament on Wednesday, Valcourt refused to comment on what was discussed in the meeting with the chiefs on March 20, but he called the session productive.
Valcourt’s office would not answer specific calls from the Star.
But opposition members accused Valcourt in the House of Commons on Wednesday of being discourteous during the meeting and demanded he account for his actions, saying one chief even complained that Valcourt’s “responses and attitude strongly reflects the very same attitude that resulted in Indian residential schools.”
The original RCMP report concluded that 90 per cent of the homicide cases identified had been solved and that this percentage was similar to solved murders of non-First Nations women. Most homicides were committed by men and the report noted most women knew their attackers.
In cities across Canada on Thursday, First Nations people and advocates will march to remember Cindy Gladue, who bled to death from a 11-centimetre wound in her vagina. Gladue was a sex worker.
Bradley Barton, the long-haul trucker accused of killing her, was freed after the mostly white male jury found him not guilty. His defence argued the wound happened during rough sex.
During the criminal trial, Gladue’s body suffered further injustice after her wounded vagina was brought into court as evidence, said Audrey Huntley of Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto. She is one of the organizers of the march to remember Gladue.
“That really shows the level of racism we are dealing with. I think that is one big reason why her case has touched such a nerve,” Huntley said.
“There has been absolutely no justice for her in the courts or from the jury. Because she was a former or current sex worker, does that mean she was allowed to be violated or killed?” she asked.
With files from Joanna Smith
By: Tanya Talaga Staff Reporter, Published on Wed Apr 01 2015