By Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor
Looking out on a crowd of runners ready to take on the trails in support of the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant, Liberal candidate Dave Levac reflected on the high rates of violent crime against aboriginal women.
"I want to thank the First Nations people who are taking part today. We must do something about the (incidences of) murdered and missing First Nations women."
A landmark RCMP study released earlier this month confirms that aboriginal women in Canada suffer much higher rates of violent crime than non-aboriginals.
Although overall rates of missing and murdered women have declined in Canada since 1980, rates among aboriginal women have changed little.
The National Operational Overview found a total of 1,181 aboriginal women who were murdered or reported missing between 1980 and 2012.
Even though aboriginal people represent just 4.3% of the population, aboriginal women account for 16% of female homicides and 11.3% of missing women in the country.
"We've got to change our culture about what we expect from each other," said Levac.
More than 100 runners and walkers registered for the first Sexual Assault Centre Run on Sunday at Waterworks Park. They completed one-, five-, and 10-kilometre courses in order to raise money and community awareness about sexual violence.
"Registration was $30," said Joanna Brant, the centre's executive director. "That translates into one hour of service, whether it's a school program or an hour of counselling."
The Sexual Assault Centre of Brant provides counselling and advocacy for women and men.
In 2012-13, the centre received 401 crisis line calls and provided more than 1,375 hours of counselling to adult and young women.
"We are very proud to say that we don't carry a waiting list," said Stacey Ion, president of the centre's board of directors.
Brant said one in three women and one in six men will experience sexual abuse.
The plan is for the May run, which marks sexual assault awareness month, to become an annual event.