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June 8, 2019
The inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women has just issued its final report and true to form, it's being used as a weapon to attack Canadian culture and condemn it for its practice of genocide. (I wrote a previous blog on the misuse of that term.)
There is no question that there is a problem. In 2017, aboriginal victims of homicide were 24 percent of the national total despite comprising only five percent of the population. (All figures here are taken from the Statistics Canada report, Homicide in Canada, 2017, available at http://bit.ly/2WhgS6r.) The rate per hundred thousand indigenous women was 4.22, almost five times the rate of 0.75 for non-indigenous women. Even without the emotional impact that murder conveys, the statistics make clear something needs to be done and the inquiry was created to determine what that is.
But there are some niggling doubts. First, why focus on aboriginal women? Aboriginal men are murdered at three times (13.4 per 100,000) the rate of aboriginal women, and over six times the rate for non-indigenous men (2.1 per 100,000). Are these victims less worthy of attention than their wives, sisters, or daughters? Ignoring them leads to the suspicion that the inquiry was political, not determinative. Adding to this doubt is the inquiry's reference to sexual orientation, although it's hard to see how this has any relevance to aboriginal issues beyond political activism.
A further issue is that during the inquiry, much was made of the callous or dismissive attitude of the police. One story showed an officer interrogating a rape victim in a manner that can only be described as cruel. But are the police unresponsive? One measure is the solve rate of murder cases. If the murders of aboriginal women go unsolved significantly more often, it's reasonable to conclude the investigations were less than thorough. But that's not what the statistics say. In 2017, the solve rate for all aboriginal murders was 79 percent. For non-aboriginal murders, it was 63 percent. Yes, that's right. The murders of aboriginals were solved more often. For aboriginal women, the numbers are less definitive, 76 percent of cases were solved compared with 84 percent for non-aboriginal women. The report does state that in years past, the figures for both groups were comparable, but in any event, even the lower solve rate in 2017 does not demonstrate an uncaring attitude on the part of the police.
A final qualm about the report is the conclusion that aboriginal women are the victims of white society. But most homicide is not racial; most victims knew their killers. For women, 84 percent were killed "by an intimate partner." Most murder victims are killed by people within their own cultural or social group.
Which returns us to the ugly and unacceptably high murder rate among aboriginals. No doubt, the problems arise from social conditions. That many indigenous people in a prosperous country like Canada live in third-world conditions is shameful and demand solutions. The problems that led to this state are complex, and by modern standards indefensible. But the solutions won't come from self-righteous inquiries that point fingers at the rest of us and whine "genocide."