A renewed cry for a national inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women came after the discovery of 15-year-old Tina Fountaine’s body in a bag beside Winnipeg’s Red River. Unfazed, Prime Minister Stephen Harper again rejected the calls. Fontaine’s murder, he said – and, by inference, the murders of hundreds of other Native women in recent years – should only be viewed as a crime and not a “sociological phenomenon.”
It is often said people at the top grow out of touch with everyday life and common concerns. But it seems that there’s more to it in Harper’s case, an intentional refusal to acknowledge reality. The facts so compelling demand a different response from the way Harper is approaching the issue.
We know that: A) that Aboriginal women account for 16% of female homicides and 11.3% of missing women in Canada when they make up only 2.1% of the population; B) Aboriginal women are twice as likely to suffer domestic violence, more likely to be attacked by strangers, and three times more likely to become the target of violence than non-Aboriginal women; C) that 8% of Aboriginal teenage girls are parents compared to 1.3% of non-Aboriginal girls and twice as many are single parents; D) that household crowding, which is linked to increased family violence, is experienced by 31% of Inuit women and only 3% of non-Aboriginal females; E) that the Institute on Governance found “between 70% of sexually exploited youth and 50% of adult sex workers in Winnipeg are of Aboriginal descent,” when Aboriginals only make up 10% of the city’s population; and F) in 2013, nearly half of the 30,000 children in foster care in Canada under the age of 14 were Aboriginal.
Tina Fontaine was in foster care when she was killed.
It is extremely difficult to understand how these shocking statistics have no relation to the society that produced them. In other words, their sociological causes. Inquiries are not to solve specific crimes but to understand them in order to prevent others.
But prevention seems to hit the back burner where Aboriginal women are concerned. The RCMP won’t disclose information about where they are most likely to be attacked. Explained RCMP Supt. Tyler Bates, Director of National Aboriginal Policing and Crime Prevention Services, said, “We certainly wouldn’t want to cause offence to anyone residing or leadership within those communities.”
Yet police will tell parents where their children may be in danger from predators without worrying about community response. Transparency doesn’t seem to apply to Aboriginal women.
We need to understand why roughly 1300 Native women have disappeared from our communities and our families since the 1980s. To that number, we should add the girls in residential schools who never came home. We need to train police forces near First Nations communities on how to deal with what is happening. More aboriginal officers need to be recruited to those agencies.
But, in the end, we need a national inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women because without an effort to understand this tragedy we accept that their lives are worth less than those of other communities in Canada. In this day and age that is not acceptable. It requires a concrete call for action. Make waves with your elected Member of Parliament. You elected them to represent you so tell them how: by raising the heat on the government. The Conservative government should not get away with ignoring, much less camouflaging, a collective crime with, yes, sociological roots.