Apr 10 2015
OTTAWA - Seventy per cent of the perpetrators in Canada's cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women are indigenous, the RCMP commissioner has confirmed.
The suggestion was first made last month by Bernard Valcourt, the aboriginal affairs minister, in a private meeting with First Nations chiefs in Alberta. Aboriginal leaders questioned the veracity of the number because a report last year from the RCMP about those cases did not specify perpetrators' ethnicity.
But in a letter made public Thursday, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said data obtained from 300 police agencies "has confirmed that 70 per cent of the offenders were of aboriginal origin."
However, the letter, addressed to Bernice Martial, grand chief of the Treaty No. 6 First Nations, stressed that it is not the ethnicity of offenders that is relevant to investigators, "but rather the relationship between victim and offender that guides our focus with respect to prevention."
Paulson said that the force previously chose not to disclose this data "in the spirit of bias-free policing" and because such disclosure had the potential to "stigmatize and marginalize vulnerable populations."
The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network first reported last month that Valcourt had shared the unpublished information during a March 20 private meeting in Calgary with First Nations chiefs.
"I will tell you, because there is no media in the room, that the RCMP report states that up to 70 per cent of the murdered and missing indigenous women issue stems from their own communities," Valcourt reportedly said, according to a news release issued later by the Treaty No. 6 First Nations.
Aboriginal leaders accused the minister of being disrespectful and called on the RCMP and Valcourt to share what more information they had.
A report released last May by the RCMP stated that 1,181 aboriginal women and girls were murdered or went missing between 1980 and 2012. The report said that 62 per cent of homicide victims were killed by a spouse, family member or someone they were intimate with. However, it did not delve into the ethnicity of offenders.
"We had never intended to publicly discuss the ethnicity of the offenders. Rather our focus has been on the relationship between the victim and offender, which has pointed our prevention efforts to familial and spousal violence," Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong said in an email to the National Post earlier this month.
The RCMP is scheduled to release a follow-up report at the end of May, which will include updated statistics and a review of actions taken since the first report, Armstrong said.
Following the release of the first report, all RCMP divisions were asked to look at outstanding cases to ensure all investigative avenues had been explored. The RCMP said it would also use the data to identify communities most at risk of violence against women and develop prevention strategies.