On its own, the final report of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls won’t make a difference.
Shocking as the numbers may be-Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or to go missing than any other demographic in Canada-facts and figures won’t create change. While the report brings to light an issue that has largely been swept under the rug, it needs to be Step One in a long list of reform. For this report to have any meaning, it needs to be the much needed catalyst to do something to curtail the disturbing numbers.
Drawing upon numbers from Statistics Canada, the inquiry noted Indigenous women and girls were the victims in close to one quarter of all female homicides in Canada between 2001 and 2015. That was despite the fact as a whole they made up four per cent of Canada’s total population. Compared to white women, an Indigenous woman is 16 more times likely to be slain or go missing.
The report didn’t mince words either, calling the violence shown towards Indigenous women a ‘Canadian genocide’. Not a term to be thrown around lightly, the numbers certainly justify its use. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was noted for not using the word ‘genocide’ it his first appearance to talk of the report, but has done so several times since then.
Despite the numbers, the report went on to say cases involving Indigenous women were often met with indifference within Canada’s legal system. The study further goes on to say negative stereotypes often resulted in investigating officers treating cases involving Indigenous women differently than those of other ethnicities, leading to a much lower solve rate.
Among the many reforms called for in the report is to call upon the government to level stiffer penalties on those found guilty of murder or abuse. Serious jail time won’t completely solve the issue, but it would at least offer more of a deterrent.
The report will come as no surprise to Natives who may not have known exact figures, but have long been calling for action on the issue. Several peaceful marches have been held in this area and across the province attempting to bring attention to an often overlooked epidemic. Tragically, it’s far too late for 1,181 Indigenous women who were reported to have been murdered or gone missing between 1980 and 2012 in a 2014 report put together by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Far more have met a similarly tragic fate since then and continue to do so in 2019.
Now that the three year report has been released, ignorance is no longer an excuse. The reforms suggested in the report need to be taken seriously. Admitting the problem is always the first step. Now that the numbers are known, it’s time for the real work to begin.