An updated RCMP report came out today in regards to Canada's Missing and Murdered Indigenous women.
I believe this report will have very harmful consequences as the pre-determinants of health are ignored and the blame for a societal issue of violence falls on Aboriginal leaders and communities.
Last years report had the country talking after it showed there were 1,181 police-recorded cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women from 1980 to 2012 – 164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims.
On Friday during the press conferences and in the report itself the major focus is on how all indigenous women who were murdered over the past two years in the parts of Canada that are policed by the RCMP were acquainted with their killers.
“Our 2015 update confirms the unmistakable connection between homicide and family violence, and that aboriginal women continue to be overrepresented among Canada’s missing and murdered women,” RCMP Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong told a news conference.
The new report says all female victims, regardless of ethnicity, are most frequently killed by someone they know – and that also holds true for aboriginal women.
So why am I worried?
Well, with the release of this report I believe that politicians, particularly conservative politicians and our Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt will use the numbers to claim that the issue of MMIW falls to Aboriginal communities and leaders, not all Canadians. The numbers will be used as an argument that it's Aboriginal people causing violence against Aboriginal women, which means that it's a bubble of violence that the larger Canadian society should feel comfortable ignoring.
There is some validation for this concern. Minister Valcourt already used these statistics, before they were released publicly, in a meeting with Chiefs to make that very claim.
That enraged chiefs and the Aboriginal communities, many calling for his resignation.
It also gave bloggers and columnists ammunition to use against a national inquiry, since apparently they already know the cause of MMIW - Aboriginal men.
But the issue, in most murder cases, is much deeper. We cannot ignore the fact that there is a lot of domestic violence which can be linked to surviving residential school. It's more likely if children were abused they will pass that abuse on, and the Truth and Reconciliation's executive summary certainly showed a platform of mass abuse on Aboriginal People across the country for decades.
There is also the issue that "acquainted with" can apply to risky lifestyles. A prostitute is considered acquainted with her John such as in the horrific case of Cindy Gladue.
It's also completely ignoring the fact that in Canada we have a system set up which is linked to poverty, unemployment, poor graduation rates, poor health outcomes, and homelessness when it comes to Aboriginal People. There's even a Human Rights Complaint before the courts about it.
RCMP officers can tell you that poverty is directly linked to crime and high risk lifestyles.
So yes, the RCMP report is accurate in saying that many of the cases of MMIW are linked to familial violence or "acquaintances" but that is still a Canadian problem. It is linked to systemic issues and an inquiry will look into how to stop cycles of violence.
So, Mr. Valcourt, I hope this doesn't give you a reason to celebrate with a fancy scotch tonight, instead I hope it gives you a reason to look deeply at why Aboriginal Affairs spends so much money on legal fees fighting it's obligation and legal responsibility to give Aboriginal People of Canada a fighting chance in this world. Would it not be better spent supplying education, housing, counselling, women's centres, and health care so that less is spent on policing later?
Kelly Geraldine Malone is a freelance journalist, podcaster, and radio producer based out of Manitoba, Canada