Updates on Missing/Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada

Missing Women justice posterNew database lists 824 murdered, missing native women in Canada

By Mary Agnes Welch, Winnipeg Free Press, Jan 24, 2014

Some of the names are familiar, such as Cherisse Houle, the 17-year-old found lying face down in a creek just outside Winnipeg.

Some are forgotten, such as Constance Cameron, whose murder 30 years ago has never been solved.

One name is famous — Helen Betty Osborne, whose death is emblematic of violent racism in Manitoba.

Those names and hundreds more appear on a new public database, the first of its kind, created by an Ottawa researcher. It pegs the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada at 824.

That’s significantly higher than the widely used and often-criticized number of 582, cobbled together by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).

The NWAC’s list was never public and could not be scrutinized or validated, but it helped catapult the issue of violence against indigenous women onto the national agenda.

The new research, which dug deeper into the past and the public record, shows the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Manitoba is 111, up from NWAC’s oft-quoted figure of 79.

“I’m not shocked at the number and I know the community is not going to be shocked at the number because we’ve always said it was more,” said Nahanni Fontaine, the province’s special adviser on aboriginal women’s issues. “And of course, each year, tragically, those numbers go up.”

The new database is the first comprehensive and fully public list of missing and murdered aboriginal women, but activists in Ontario are working on a similar one for that province. The database was created by federal civil servant Maryanne Pearce and forms part of her PhD thesis for the University of Ottawa’s law school.

The thesis, along with the database, were submitted last fall and is available online.

To gather a complete list of names, Pearce spent seven years cross-referencing newspaper articles, police websites and reports, court documents and other public sources, much as the NWAC did.

Pearce identified thousands of missing and murdered women and was able to determine 824 were Inuit, Métis or First Nations. Her list includes 115 Manitoba women, but further research suggests four young women listed as missing have been found, two recently.Missing Murdered Women Task Force poster

Pearce could not be reached for comment this week, but her thesis advisers are two well-regarded experts in aboriginal law and social science research.

When contacted about Pearce’s work, they called it “excellent.”

Among her findings, Pearce found 80 per cent of missing or murdered aboriginal women were not in the sex trade. That’s despite the perception most cases involve prostitutes or women engaged in high-risk behaviour.

The perception that many missing or murdered women put themselves in harm’s way has been used to unfairly discount the problem, said Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Shawna Ferris, a University of Manitoba gender studies professor, agreed, saying much of the reporting on missing and murdered aboriginal women focuses on whether the victims are involved in the sex trade. Mug shots and details of a woman’s street life or addictions don’t help to cultivate public concern.

“Shouldn’t we be aiming for a city where regardless of the trials people are going through, they’re not killed?”

Nepinak said a comprehensive list that can been tested and validated makes it difficult for government, especially Ottawa, to sidestep the issue, and helps bolster the case for a national inquiry into the epidemic of violence against aboriginal women.

“We’ve only scratched the surface of what happened here,” Nepinak said.


Missing, murdered aboriginal women’s cases reviewed

RCMP national probe looking into more than 400 cases

Missing Women Highway of Tears newsThe Canadian Press, Jan 23, 2014

The RCMP says it has completed a “comprehensive file review” of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within Mountie jurisdiction — more than 400 in all — and will continue to pursue outstanding cases.

The national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females, say RCMP briefing notes obtained under the Access to Information Act.

The review represents the latest effort by the Mounties amid public concern about the perils faced by aboriginal women and allegations of police inaction.

A special parliamentary committee is holding hearings on the issue, and calls persist for a full-fledged national inquiry.

Native association working with RCMP

The Native Women’s Association of Canada said Thursday it will give the RCMP its list of aboriginal women who may have met with violence or simply disappeared — but only names gleaned from public sources such as newspapers and posters.

The association is not prepared to provide the Mounties with private details of cases that may have come from family members and friends of the missing.

“We want to be careful in how we do things,” said Claudette Dumont-Smith, executive director of the association.

Drawing on information scattered in often-forgotten public sources, the association spent years compiling a database of 582 cases through the Sisters in Spirit initiative.

The association began working with the RCMP’s National Aboriginal Policing Services branch in 2009 and provided the Mounties with names from its database in cases where there was little information to go on.

The list of 118 names included 60 murdered women or girls, three missing ones and 55 whose status was unknown. Of these, 64 turned up on a police database.

Annual Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women, Vancouver, BC.

Annual Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women, Vancouver, BC.

That prompted the RCMP to ask the native women’s association for all 582 names to see if any others could be found in police files, but confidentiality guarantees to family members have delayed further sharing.

Dumont-Smith said the association recently agreed to give the RCMP names that have already been published elsewhere.

“We haven’t determined how we will do that. We’ve only decided that, yes, we would share the names,” she said in an interview.

“I imagine that we’re not just going to release all our 500-and-some names at once. We’ll do it in a progressive fashion, maybe region by region. But that hasn’t been worked out yet.”

Comprehensive list being compiled

The RCMP and the association are working “to reconcile all available data” pertaining to missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, said Sgt. Greg Cox, an RCMP spokesman. “We have not received all information from NWAC yet, but we expect it shortly.”

Last fall the Mounties shared their figures — 327 murders and 90 missing women — with the native women’s association, Dumont-Smith said.

“They showed us how they got to these numbers. They were very — I found— transparent.”

The RCMP has responsibility for day-to-day policing in only parts of the country, which may account for the discrepancy in the two organizations’ numbers, she said.

She is keen to know more about the RCMP’s list of 90 missing women.

“Are they the same as ours — are they the same names? I think that will be an interesting find, if we both work together on this. That’s what I think will come out of that.”

Cox said Thursday the RCMP’s file review was intended “to capture a statistical snapshot in time” — not uncover new leads or result in investigations.

“Ongoing investigations continue to be carried out by our operational units across Canada.”

The RCMP briefing note, prepared last July, says the force “will remain vigilant in our efforts to resolve all outstanding cases.”



Posted on January 24, 2014, in Indigenous Women and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. How about investigating the RCMP?

    • Ever since smallpox infected blankets and scalping laws, Canada seems intent on native genocide. Shame shame!

      • The white man wants to control everything. They think thier race is superior.

      • White supremacy is a big part of the problem in regards to European colonization of the Americas and the societies that have emerged from this process. Along with patriarchy, white supremacist beliefs have been the pillars upon which European settler states such as Canada have been built. The Christian religion played a big part of this for the first few hundred years of the colonization of the Americas. One of the things we should remember about white supremacy is that it is a belief system, and that it’s ideology has changed over the centuries to respond to changing social conditions. At one time, Italians, Irish, Polish, Ukrainians, and other East Europeans were not even considered “white.” But under colonialism, which needed growing numbers of shock troops loyal to the empire in order to garrison the colonies, white solidarity was extended to unify the settler population. But today’s descendents of the early settlers are not as united as their predecessors, and it is in our interests to forge alliances with disaffected members of the settler society whenever possible. Even from the early periods of colonization there were Europeans who escaped from their oppressive society and sought refuge amongst Indigenous peoples. Many of these whites were adopted into tribal nations in the Eastern Woodlands region, among whom an adoption ritual was used to integrate non-members into their communities (such as prisoners of war). In regards to the missing/murdered women, white supremacy is an important factor in the targeting of Indigenous women as well as the lack of state response to this issue.

  2. This issue needs immediate attention and resources. All national native leaders should be focusing on this one issue above all else. Without strong and healthy native women who are we? The injustice and neglect of this issue is an atrocity. Where is the money for this? Where is the determination to work with this. We cannot depend on the RCMP or anyone else to resolve this issue. Where are the “warriors” to protect and defend our women? Resources are needed now for these women who are our sisters, mothers, daughters, aunties etc. Action is needed now damn it !!!!

    • Better transportation for them, so they’re not so vulnerable hitching or just walking down the street. Emergency shelters and drop-in centres for the homeless.
      Some money like the money being given to rich countries, like Syria and Israel, could be used to help native Canadians.
      People are dying here.

      • Better transportation? Shall we just all stay in our homeless shelters then until our skin gets pale enough that we can venture out again and be safer? Not all native people are homeless or putting themselves deliberately at risk, unless you count being born native as deliberately putting one’s self at risk. Its not us, it is them, they are out there, predators, they watch, follow us, on the way to work, at the park with the kids, a never ending supply of inappropriate sexual attention and violence. If you are native and female you are targeted because the consequences don’t exist, penalty free crime. And no the rcmp can shuffle all the papers they like, it won’t make a bit of difference, they cannot be trusted and whatever they concoct to cover their asses won’t bring me them back much less ever let us know what became of so many.

        I happen to like walking down the street, and in the woods but along he comes every time, mr colonial canadian with his assumptions and refusal to take no for an answer (I wonder where that came from?). Or an assimilated native who are just as bad if not worse due to the betrayal. Although the majority of the time it is the majority settler male who comes by the attitude honestly at least.

        A lot of the names on that list or missing women aren’t even women, and never will be. Little girls, not even women yet, taken from their mothers, fathers, from their families to sate the perversions of a predator. The never ending tale of colonialism, makes one physically sick. If you want to spend money how about locking the predators up instead of slapping their wrists and setting them free after minimal sentencing, because technically it is the predators and the state who are the cause, it is not like we can change our race, so perhaps chaging the racist system should be explored a bit more seriously and quickly, this is not fun.

  3. Thank you for this sight,Heartbreaking to have to have one necessary,Will have joy to see when locations are made,sorrow when not,,

  4. Should include all women as there are just as many who are killed by their partners, children (grown), or others.

  5. it not just wolves and buffalo… there is an Aboriginal woman hunt…. as long as I know there has always been one… any creep who want to kill a human chooses an Aboriginal woman.

  6. Why does this always turn into a “White” bashing. Yes there are murdered and missing Aboriginal women “but” there are also many women of many races missing also. The fact that women in general are treated this way is the problem. Racism does play a part in this but racism walks both sides of the street.

    • The point is, I believe, that a disproportionate number of the missing and murdered women are Native women, and that it is not just racism in general but a systemic form of racism that is not just on the street but present within institutions of power (including the police and courts). I don’t see how acknowledging this is “White bashing.”

  7. Women don’t seem to matter as much. The majority of crimes are committed against woman, rape, assault, human trafficking,kidnapping, domestic assault,battery, honor killings, the list goes on and on.. There just woman, it’s not like they are real people or anything…..at least that’s what the RCMP seem to think .

  8. My sister is Evelyn Stewart she was murdered on march 20 1998 in manitoba. Her killer still has not been found. Please I am begging anyone who knows anything to get in contact with me or the police. All info can be found at https://www.facebook.com/EvelynStewart1998?ref_type=bookmark All these woman and their families deserve closure. Someone out there has to know something about one of these woman.

    • This message is for the sister of Evelyn Stewart. I was hoping you could get in touch with me. I work for CBC and am trying to get in touch with family for her.

  1. Pingback: Don't Need Saving: Aboriginal Women and Access to Justice

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