According to a Canadian government statistic, young Indigenous women are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as the result of violence.
Indigenous women have long struggled to draw attention to violence within their own families and communities. Canadian police and public officials have also long been aware of a pattern of racist violence against Indigenous women in Canadian cities – but have done little to prevent it.
The pattern looks like this:
- Racist and sexist stereotypes deny the dignity and worth of Indigenous women, encouraging some men to feel they can get away with acts of hatred against them.
- Decades of government policy have impoverished and broken apart Indigenous families and communities, leaving many Indigenous women and girls extremely vulnerable to exploitation and attack.
- Many police forces have failed to institute necessary measures – such as training, protocols and accountability mechanisms – to ensure that officers understand and respect the Indigenous communities they serve. Without such measures, police too often fail to do all they can to ensure the safety of Indigenous women and girls whose lives are in danger.
As of July 2011 the federal government has:
- Dedicated $10 million over five years to address violence against Aboriginal women and girls. In actuality, much of the the money is going toward police initiatives that track missing persons, but do not specifically focus on patterns of violence against Indigenous women. Even this initiative is undermined by the fact that police are still not required, or provided training and support, to ensure that police reports consistently and accurately record whether or not victims of crime and missing persons are Aboriginal. As a result, the true extent and nature of violence against Indigenous women will continue to be obscured.
- Delayed funding to the Native Women’s Associations of Canada’s “Sisters in Spirit” initiative, important research and advocacy work that the government itself has said has been vital in drawing attention to violence against Aboriginal women.
- Failed to implement a comprehensive national plan on stopping violence against Aboriginal women and girls. Instead, in July 2011 Federal Minister Rona Ambrose said, “I believe that the call for action on this that has happened in the last few years truly has been answered by the federal and provincial orders of government.”