Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Victim-Blaming in Coverage of RCMP Missing Women Report

by Jarrah Hodge

Gender Focus (http://www.gender-focus.com/2014/05/17/media-victim-blaming-rcmp-report-on-missing-women/)

Yesterday the RCMP released a 22-page “national operational overview” on missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The most valuable thing in the report are new statistics showing the total number of cases and how disproportionate they are to cases involving non-Aboriginal victims.

Previous to this report the estimate of total cases was based on data collected by the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Sisters in Spirit Program. But when the federal government cut their funding in 2010, the number of confirmed cases was left at 582. Advocates knew the number by now was likely a lot higher, and the RCMP report confirms this. The distressing number of cases they have confirmed since 1980: 1,182.

Over 1,000 indigenous women gone missing or found murdered. Aboriginal women make up 4.3 % of the female population, but 16% of all female homicide victims, according to the report. It is unfathomable that that the same could have happened to 1,000 white women without urgent government and police action. But still, even knowing this number, the Harper Conservatives refuse to call a national public inquiry or take real steps to address the violence.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada released a brief statement saying they are pleased the report confirms what they have been saying for years and backs up their call for a national, coordinated effort to ending the violence.

The Native Youth Sexual Health Network raised specific concerns with the focus of the report on the women’s seemingly individual “risk factors” (like alcohol/drug use and unemployment) rather than acknowledging any systemic issues like lack of access to safe transportation and the legacy of settler colonialism and racism.

Here’s one tweet NYSHN posted about a graphic from the RCMP report (I highly recommend following NYSHN on Twitter):

Screen-Shot-2014-05-17-at-4 13 35-PM

They also expressed their concern that the RCMP “is the system of colonialism” and that therefore they can’t embody the prevention effort needed. It’s worth noting the RCMP report does not address police violence against First Nations women; the only thing that really relates to their competency is their defence on the numbers of cases solved. On a related note, today RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said the numbers of women “surprised him” but denied allegations of systemic bias in the RCMP contributed to it taking so long to put together this report

So while there is some important data in the report, it is hard not to feel frustrated with the limitations of the RCMP approach and the government response. And things only get more frustrating looking at the mainstream media coverage.  

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