Truth Telling: Violence and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in Canada
Canada is home to some of the most unique and diverse Indigenous populations in the world. They are comprised of distinct ethnic cultures called the First Nations, Inuit and Metis. They live in different settings from remote locations in the north to isolated land reserves, on the coasts and also in urban centres across the country. Indigenous peoples comprise approximately 4.3% of Canada's total population and include also 600 First Nations Bands who demonstrate distinct languages, cultures, art and music.
Due to over 500 years of war, repression and assimilation tactics by dominant European cultures, it is now accepted and recognized by the Government of Canada that the Indigenous peoples have suffered physical, biological and cultural genocide as a result of colonization. During the 15th century, the Indigenous flourished and were estimated to have a population of over 500,000 people in the region but due to extensive conflict and the introduction of diseases to their culture, populations were drastically reduced to 102, 538. Today the populations have rebounded and Indigenous peoples are the fastest growing segment representing 1,033,311 people in total with 55, 743 people remain living on reserves in Canada as of the 2011 census.
Despite all this diversity and culture, the Indigenous people of Canada experience persistently high levels of violent crime, victimization, incarceration and socio-economic inequalities. The long effects of colonization efforts that included the confinement of Indigenous children in the more recent Residential Schools across the country compounded intergenerational trauma amongst the population.
Physical, mental and sexual abuses have affected the populations to such a degree that trauma is entrenched in many lives of the Indigenous and their children resulting in social disorder, mental illnesses and addictions issues. Survivors of residential schools and their descendents alike report difficulty forming trusting relationships with their partners and family members. Children growing up without such trusting relationships often develop an inability to respond to stress and therefore resort to coping with external stimuli such as addictions.
Cycles of violence and victimization have been passed down generationally and is directly prevalent among the Indigenous population. Statistics demonstrate perpetrators of violence against Indigenous people are most often other members of the Indigenous community including spouses, relatives, friends and acquaintances. This violence includes domestic abuse, sexual assault and homicides resulting in missing and murdered Indigenous men and women.
Truth be told. The number of homicides of Indigenous men are considerably higher than that of Indigenous women. The issue regarding women, however, is a highly publicized and demonstrated movement fueled by the Indigenous community. National demonstrations have persisted on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women where the federal government has initiated proceedings toward a women's only inquiry that will be led by Indigenous women.
In fact, 2014 police statistics show Indigenous males are 3 times more likely to be homicide victims than Indigenous women (10.86 per 100,000 versus 3.64). Indigenous men are also 7 times more likely to be homicide victims than non- Indigenous men. Indigenous men are also more often murdered by another Indigenous person they knew, but so are women. There is also a lack of acknowledgement where statistics show 9% of male homicides were committed by their Indigenous wife or common law spouse.
There is a trend in society which is seemingly even more obvious at this time surrounding the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous men and women and it is Misandry. Misandry manifests as discrimination toward men, denigration or violence against men or objectification of men. Indigenous men who are fathers, brothers and sons have become uniquely marginalized and devalued as 'disposable', especially in North America, however, experience similar discrimination and disadvantages as Indigenous women.
Direct in the Indigenous culture in Canada, once predominantly Matriarchal systems have been replaced by Patriarchal systems through the influence and domination of organized male oriented religions and government. It has affected both genders. Is it fair to devalue and ignore one genders plight yet emphasize and publicize the other? How about the LGBT community within Indigenous culture? If Indigenous culture claims to promote peace and fairness through spiritual practices, why is this discrimination socially occurring? Some believe it is a stereotype that men are to be perceived as strong and women vulnerable, however, there is significant evidence that demonstrates Indigenous women are equally strong and their men similarly vulnerable under the same conditions.
Even though statistics clearly indicate in all homicide trends that Indigenous females were commonly victimized and murdered by their own community, many seem to be in denial of it. It may be very difficult to admit victimization by ones own community while fighting for intervention and greater equality in society. But do they believe the unknown perpetrators of the missing and murdered will reveal perpetrators outside their own culture specifically in non-aboriginal culture? After police investigations have not provided an answer, they may really never know.
Let us take a closer look at national statistics. Over 9 in 10 Indigenous and non-Indigenous female victims knew the persons accused of their homicides. For instance, the proportion of Indigenous female victims killed by a family member, other than a spouse, was greater than for non-Indigenous female victims. Homicides committed within an intimate relationship (not including spouses), or as a result of a criminal relationship, were slightly more common among Indigenous female victims.
In 2014, of the 55 female persons accused of homicide, 28 were Indigenous and 25 were non-Indigenous. The rate of Indigenous females accused of homicide however was 23 times higher than the rate of non-Indigenous female accused. The rate of Indigenous male accused was 9 times higher than the rate of their non-Indigenous counterparts. Overall, the rates of Indigenous crime and homicides are significantly higher than all other ethnicities combined in Canadian society.
What may not be currently considered is that polls of women in the sex trade, in cities like Vancouver, indicate up to half of sex trade workers are Indigenous women. Murders of Indigenous female sex trade workers, drug dealers and their clients, loan sharks and gang members make up the number of criminal relationship murders which equal the number of murders by strangers in Canada.
It is the statistic of unsolved murders that Indigenous women are disputing with police and suggest are substantially higher. The current number of 1,213 plus missing and/or murdered women total estimate may be higher because police did not identify murdered individuals by ethnicity or Indigenous identity before 1980. Earlier disappearances and murders if included would logically increase this number and families have been coming forward identifying additional missing and murdered women so this total has remained static.
Contributing factors that may shed light on the missing and murdered is in 2014 that 4,176 adults were listed as runaways and 27 were abductions. Statistics note, however, 85% of missing people were reported found within one week. This leaves 15% of missing people not found and accounts for 627 missing people in Canada in 2014. There are 229 unsolved cases of total missing females as of 2013. With regard for the high amount of violent crime and victimization in the Indigenous community and approximately half of Indigenous youth being in foster care in Canada, this may provide some insight and may indicate a high number of missing Indigenous women may be runaways and a small percentage abductees.
People at risk who may also be runaways could include individuals fleeing violence or abusive situations. In instances where women and youth are fleeing violence, women in shelters or who are in protective custody, may also count among the 'missing' but who may not wish to be found. In these situations, police also protect the locale of the individual and will not reveal information even upon request from family. Sometimes the only escape for a woman or a man fleeing violence or abuse is to disappear and relocate. This is a definite probability as data reveals 98% of all missing persons are located within 2 months.
That leaves a remaining 2% of all missing persons unaccounted for in Canada each year not accounting for those who disappear due to suicide, abduction and human trafficking. These are more answers to the missing and murdered question as well, considering the high level of participation in the sex trade by Indigenous women, unfortunately they are isolated high risk targets for human trafficking.
Prostitution is not illegal in Canada and women are protected by police through Escort By-Law provisions in many municipalities, but there are some who do not participate. There only exist laws to prosecute the behaviors of predatory 'Johns'. High risk behaviors, however, by prostitutes also still proliferate the chances of exploitation, abuse and homicide. Several recent studies submitted to the United Nations from countries who totally legalized prostitution conclude, indeed, that the legal legislation on prostitution increases the flow of trafficking for sexual exploitation, while the working conditions of prostitutes and the level of violence have not improved – according to government reports.
There remain 120 unsolved female homicides between 1980 and 2012. Some claim the missing and murdered Indigenous women of Canada must be the victims of serial killers or racial targeting such as the Robert Pickton 'Farm' crimes where both Indigenous women and women of other races who were prostitutes from Vancouver's East Side were murdered resulting in confessions of 49 victims, 26 actual cases but only 6 convictions. There are also incidents of murdered women found along highways in western Canada where high densities of Indigenous people reside. Investigations into the subject indicated that high risk behaviors such as runaways and hitch hiking likely played a factor of vulnerability. Human trafficking is also a potential causation.
In these specific circumstances, it is likely all lone women on highways would be at risk to unknown predators which criminal profilers suggest target only the most isolated and vulnerable, easiest to abduct individuals most often sex trade workers or isolated women. Serial killings of women are reportedly sexually motivated. Due to their high risk behaviors, these likely victims attract and entice a would be psychopath to switch from thought to taking action as the risk of being caught is remote.
The Pathology of Crime
The Globe and Mail identified 18 Indigenous women murdered by actual convicted serial killers since 1980 with 25 murdered women in total by eight serial killers. In perspective, that works out to 0.5 or one every second year of Indigenous women murdered by a serial killer and just under less than half of that number of other race women. With 229 total unsolved female homicides since 1980, this is an average of 6.3 unsolved murders per year took place where bodies were found- 70% being assumed Indigenous. With 1,213 missing Indigenous women or alternatively undiscovered remains, it works out to about 27 per year missing across Canada. If these facts are any indicator of trends, the prospect of serial killings is there but keep in mind this number should include those missing due to suicides, abductions, unaccounted for runaways, those in protection and victims of human trafficking. The real question is, who is committing these crimes and how do we stop them?
Statistics indicate many individuals in our country can become victims of individuals with sociopathy and psychopathic conditions. Psychopath and sociopath are pop psychology terms for what psychiatry calls an Antisocial Personality Disorder. Criminal profilers have a clear definition of what these offenders look like and contrary to popular belief, a psychopath or sociopath is not necessarily violent. In both conditions there are similar factors such as the individual regularly breaks the law, lies to deceive, is impulsive, prone to fighting or violence, has little regard for the safety of others and does not feel remorse or guilt. There are no known effective treatments for either condition. Violent offenders are most often incarcerated to protect the public.
Studies portray sociopathy and psychopathy as becoming much more prevalent in capitalistic societies as a result of the promotion of individualism and antisocial behavior (out for number one mentality) as opposed to the interconnections of pro-social or group centered mentality. Crime levels are significantly lesser in pro-social countries.
It is a sociological fact regardless of left right politics that the more social oriented a country is, the less crime exists. The more self-centered and capitalistic a country is, the crime rates substantially increase. The United States has seen its crime and homicide rates skyrocket relative to the doubling of sociopathy and psychopathy cases in recent years where there is the world's top record of 2,320 serial killers recorded in total as of 2013. These factors are at the core of why the country has become a police state where 1 in 4 Americans are currently incarcerated. America is no longer the land of the free. As per the graph above, England comes in second with 116 serial killers, Italy at 96 and Canada places 7th on the list with 60 recorded serial killers. The pro-social countries did not even make the charts and examples of peaceful countries with the lowest crime rates include: Iceland, Austria, Denmark, Japan and Finland.
Sociopathy and psychopathy can spread across ethno-national groups and cultures, leaving the effects of exploitation, abuses, homicides and tragedy in its wake. Acceptance that it is also a social affliction affecting the Indigenous community as well as greater Canada will be necessary to create proper education, awareness and public safety programs. Until treatments, detection methods and security approaches are developed, it is each individuals' ethical and civic duty to first reduce risks to themselves and others with compassion and vigilance.
In the cases of both missing Indigenous people, there are other factors to consider. There is speculation the number of missing men may be higher than missing women in Canada, however, racial data is reportedly suppressed by authorities. There is no data for the LGBT community within Indigenous culture but overall statistics indicate over 51% of hate crimes were racial or ethnic oriented and 16% were against sexual orientation. An independent journalist named Jen Pleasant reported in 2014, she had compiled a preliminary database of over 800 Indigenous men missing since 1950 which was presented to the University of Toronto. Public Safety Canada, however, has communicated they are not presently planning to examine data to categorize statistics for Indigenous missing and murdered men yet.
Data discrimination is a serious ethical issue in our country that reveals only issues that receive media and public attention over ride the attention given to the most dire issues revealed by data, trends and experience. This presents a situation of data presentation that is biased and discriminating against truth itself.This does not mean current data as presented here is incorrect but indeed more insight can be gleaned from better collection that includes racial and specific data regarding poverty and marginalization which are obviously factors. These should not be issues left for the public to decipher alone. It brings into question the absence of data analysis that should be provided to the public and future national inquiries on public and national security through our own Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Canadian Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).
Their silence on many matters speak to the fact that these entities work for and protect government over public education and security. These are reasons why the Indigenous people of Canada suspect present reported government data to be biased, prejudicial and relatively incomplete. To indicate further government negligence in these matters would be to invite litigation on such liabilities in the name of accountability to all Canadians. Is the truth not more important to Canadians even if data is revealing, disturbing or if ethnicity is a factor in reporting?
Where do we go from here?
It is acknowledged, abuses, violence and genocide were inflicted upon Indigenous peoples by institutions in the past in Canada. We realize forms of abuse and violence persist within the Indigenous community and leads to high risk behaviors such as run aways, prostitution and criminal behavior. Both binary genders, the LGBT community and subsequent generations are duly affected. These factors provide higher susceptibility to becoming victims of suicide, abduction, human trafficking and homicide in the instances of missing and murdered Indigenous people in Canada.
The tragedies are real but so is the prevalence that vulnerable victims of all races suffer at the hands of dangerous perpetrators. The negative and self-centered attitudes that lead to dangerous psychological conditions are definitely reinforced in our society. They are therefore for the most part preventable through better lifestyle choices, racial tolerance, risk reduction, increased youth and adult education, compassion and better social conscious governance. The evidence and statistics prove these methods work in more socially advanced countries in our world where crime is very minimal, they can work here in Canada. What we need to do as a society can be done and that is to follow a better role model.
It should be mentioned present day Canadians support fair reconciliation and healing of the Indigenous people. It is not in any good way that past contempt be transferred upon future generations in either regard whether it be toward Indigenous Canadians or all the other races of Canadians. It is a new century and each partner need accept responsibility where healing and pro-action must happen on an individual, community and national level. The conversation needs to begin free of discrimination and with objectivity in order for civilians to gain greater overall public safety and security for everyone while upholding the human rights for which we all defend, celebrate and enjoy. Hopefully that conversation will continue with and long after the National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered in Canada.
Homicide in Canada, Statistics Canada Report, 2014.http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2015001/article/14244-eng.htm
European Union Report, Citizen's Rights and Constitutional Affairs, Sexual Exploitation, Prostitution and its Effects on Gender Equality Study, 2014. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/etudes/join/2014/493040/IPOL-FEMM_ET%282014%29493040_EN.pdf
Prime Target: How Serial Killers Prey on Indigenous Women, The Globe and Mail, 2015. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/prime-targets-serial-killers-and-indigenous-women/article27435090/
Sociopathy is Increasing in America, 2013. https://heartiste.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/sociopathy-is-increasing-in-america/
Why Indigenous Women are Canada's Fastest Growing Prison Population, Vice, 2016. http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/why-indigenous-women-are-canadas-fastest-growing-prison-population
The More Capitalism, the More Crime. The Less Capitalism, the Less Crime, Beyond Highbrow by Robert Lindsay, 2012. https://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/the-more-capitalism-the-more-crime-the-more-socialism-the-less-crime/
Ten Facts you need to know from Statistics Canada's new report detailing Hate Crimes in 2013, National Post, 2013. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-statistics-canadas-new-report-detailing-hate-crimes-in-2013