On Thursday, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) leaked an RCMP project which stated there are about 1,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Later in the day, that number jumped to almost 1,200. In a 30 year span, 1,026 women and girls were murdered and 160 are missing. This is the highest count Canada has ever compiled. A popular report from NWAC only counted over 600 women and girls.
It’s all quite bittersweet. The government finally admitting that Canada needs this information is huge. But the numbers are painful. RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told a parliamentary committee that the findings were a “surprise.” To whom, I wonder? Definitely not to the familes, friends, and communities of these missing women and girls. But I digress.
“What we can say is that there is a misrepresentation, or overrepresentation, within the aboriginal community of missing and murdered women,” he announced. “There are 4 percent aboriginal women in Canada—I think there are 16 percent of the murdered women who are aboriginal, 12 percent of the missing women are aboriginal.”
I suppose this is why he is surprised. But it still hasn’t occurred to the government and law enforcement to listen to these peoples. As wonderful as the official report is, this still must be painful to many families who did research that was deemed invalid.
APTN reported the RCMP requested a small look at files from 200 different police forces across Canada to collect data. And it has the ability to be useful.
“This initiative will help the RCMP and its partners identify the risk and vulnerability factors associated with missing and murdered aboriginal women to guide us in the development of future prevention, intervention and enforcement policies and initiatives with the intent of reducing violence against aboriginal women and girls,” Sergeant Julie Gagnon said in an email to the Globe and Mail.
RCMP may finally view aboriginal peoples lives as important enough to look into their deaths, despite criticizing the NWAC for its numbers in the past and politicians spitting in the face of such inquiries.
Yet the stance on inquiries themselves has not changed. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney rejected the calls from opposition at least four times. In the same breath, Blaney announced that foul play is suspected in two-thirds of those 160 missing cases, while the rest are for unknown reasons. His rejection and this data seem to counteract each other.
Blaney also said that it was a time for action instead of more paperwork. But, in March, during the horrible time when Loretta Saunders was found dead and another inquiry request was tabled, Claudette Dumont-Smith, executive director of NWAC, explained the importance of an inquiry.
The Globe and Mail explained Dumont-Smith’s stance like this: “an inquiry would study every angle of the problem in a way that has not been done before, and could compel people who have important information to testify.”
If Canada does not begin asking marginalized groups’ for input, we will be in a perpetual state of oppressor-oppressed. Most of us are taking the right steps forward. To avoid taking five steps back, government and law officials must become willing to learn from those they previously called irrational, because it turns out they were right.