There have been more than 300 cases of missing Aboriginal women in Canada that have yet to be discerned. Among those 300 are 37 unresolved cases that have been thrown out of the long queue of other cases to be done, according to CBC News.
However, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have inquired about 1,200 reported cases of missing Indigenous women between 1980 and 2012, while Indigenous women’s groups claim to document the number of missing and murdered to be over 4,000. The reason why the demographics are inconsistent is because of the under-reporting of violence against Indigenous women and girls and the lack of an effective database, as well as the failure to identify such cases by ethnicity.
Statistics Canada has been documenting violence against Indigenous women since the dilemma had commenced, and they reported that Indigenous women 15 years or older were 3.5 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women, according to the 2004 General Social Survey. Furthermore, between 1997 and 2000, the homicide rate for Indigenous women was nearly seven times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous women.
Indigenous women’s groups have long called for action into the deplorable and disproportionate rates of violence and the high numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, but it wasn’t until Dec. 8, 2015 that the government took action.
In response to the calls for action from Indigenous families, a coalition has been established in support of these missing women by the government of Canada. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada has a mission to “to learn the truth by honoring the lives and legacies of Indigenous women, girls and members of the LGBTQ2S community.”
“The Commissioners’ mandate is to examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors [in these cases],” the inquiry added on their website.
These cases involve Aboriginal women with a wide spectrum for ages, with the youngest being 4-year-old Serenity and the eldest being 78-year-old Nancy Dumas.
4-year-old Serenity was merely just a preschooler when she had gone missing. She comes from a central First Nation community in Alberta and was known by its townspeople to be outgoing and loved the outdoors. On Sep. 18, 2014, she was admitted to the hospital, covered in bruises and suffering from a head injury. Just 9 days later, Serenity was taken off life support, weighing just 18 pounds.
Nancy Dumas was 78 years old and the oldest living member of her community. It was on Feb. 28, 1987 when she was last seen in Lynn Lake, Manitoba as she was leaving her daughter’s home. It has been years since Nancy’s family were given any updates from the Lynn Lake RCMP and the investigators assigned to the case.
These Indigenous women and girls were mothers, sisters, grandmothers, wives and friends who have been lost to senseless violence. This tragedy has been going on since settlers have come to Canada and has painfully extended to modern days. Throughout history, Indigenous women were sexualized and held against irreverent cultural outlooks and stereotypes that continue to influence the Canadian society of today.
Violence against Indigenous women and girls cannot be fully understood without dissecting and examining the history of Canada in which most of its unfavorable facets mostly targeted Indigenous women. Legally-sanctioned policies such as the Indian Act and residential schools are only some elements that encourage the violence toward Indigenous people.
The Indian Act stimulated social and cultural disruption and human rights violations toward First Nations peoples through the process of restricting their access to their own lands, while residential schools provided the same trauma but mostly targeted the children that went to these schools in the name of forceful, and violent assimilation.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) provides awareness about violence against Indigenous women, funded by their secured funds in 2005 from Status of Women Canada. They established a national database to track these cases which eventually culminated in a final report entitled “What Their Stories Tell Us: Research Findings from the Sisters in Spirit Initiative.”
The report addresses the need for educating Indigenous women and girls on safety issues, as well as the need for police accountability and transparency. NWAC also expressed the need for cultural sensitivity training and for more research and awareness about various forms of violence, particularly violence perpetrated by strangers or acquaintances.
Described by some as a hidden crisis, this tragedy has been tremendously underreported by the media that there are only a handful of Canadian news outlets to gather information from and an even more microscopic amount of demographics. Although the initiative for a national inquiry is to be appreciated, unfortunately, most of these missing cases are still unresolved and are given little to no media attention for a possible resolution.