OTTAWA — The Canadian Press
The RCMP says it has completed a “comprehensive file review” of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within Mountie jurisdiction – more than 400 in all – and will continue to pursue outstanding cases.
The national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal women, say RCMP briefing notes obtained under the Access to Information Act.
The review represents the latest effort by the Mounties amid public concern about the perils faced by aboriginal women and allegations of police inaction.
A special parliamentary committee is holding hearings on the issue, and calls persist for a full-fledged national inquiry.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada said Thursday it will give the RCMP its list of aboriginal women who may have met with violence or simply disappeared – but only names gleaned from public sources such as newspapers and posters.
The association is not prepared to provide the Mounties with private details of cases that may have come from family members and friends of the missing.
“We want to be careful in how we do things,” said Claudette Dumont-Smith, executive director of the association.
Drawing on information scattered in often-forgotten public sources, the association spent years compiling a database of 582 cases through the Sisters in Spirit initiative.
The association began working with the RCMP’s National Aboriginal Policing Services branch in 2009 and provided the Mounties with names from its database in cases where there was little information to go on.
The list of 118 names included 60 murdered women or girls, three missing ones and 55 whose status was unknown. Of these, 64 turned up on a police database.
It prompted the RCMP to ask the native women’s association for all 582 names to see if any others could be found in police files. But confidentiality guarantees to family members have delayed further sharing.
Dumont-Smith said the association recently agreed to give the RCMP names that have already been published elsewhere.
“We haven’t determined how we will do that. We’ve only decided that, yes, we would share the names,” she said in an interview.
“I imagine that we’re not just going to release all our 500-and-some names at once. We’ll do it in a progressive fashion, maybe region by region. But that hasn’t been worked out yet.”
The RCMP and the association are working “to reconcile all available data” pertaining to missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, said Sergeant Greg Cox, an RCMP spokesman. “We have not received all information from NWAC yet, but we expect it shortly.”
Last fall the Mounties shared their figures – 327 murders and 90 missing women – with the native women’s association, Dumont-Smith said.
“They showed us how they got to these numbers. They were very – I found – transparent.”
The RCMP have responsibility for day-to-day policing in only parts of the country, which may account for the discrepancy in the two organizations’ numbers, she said.
She is keen to know more about the RCMP’s list of 90 missing women.
“Are they the same as ours – are they the same names? I think that will be an interesting find, if we both work together on this. That’s what I think will come out of that.”
Cox said Thursday the RCMP’s file review was intended “to capture a statistical snapshot in time” – not uncover new leads or result in investigations.
“Ongoing investigations continue to be carried out by our operational units across Canada.”
The RCMP briefing note, prepared last July, says the force “will remain vigilant in our efforts to resolve all outstanding cases.”