The experiences of sexual and physical abuse among Indigenous women and girls are so pervasive they are expected to take over next year’s national inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women, The Canadian Press reports.
Hearings are set to begin in early 2017 and commissioners are expected to examine and report on the systemic causes of the violence against Aboriginal women.
In May 2014, Canada’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) documented 1,181 murdered and missing women between 1980 and 2012. A year later, it said 32 additional Aboriginal women had been murdered and 11 more had disappeared since it first reported on the issue.
“Our 2015 update confirms the unmistakable connection between homicide and family violence, and that Aboriginal women continue to be over-represented among Canada’s missing and murdered women,” said RCMP Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong at a press conference in Ottawa in June 2015.
Aboriginal women are vulnerable precisely because they’re Aboriginal and women, Dr. Yvonne Boyer, a Canada Research Chair at Manitoba’s Brandon University, told The Canadian Press.
A report on trafficking of Aboriginal women for the Public Safety Department co-authored by Boyer in May 2014 noted that many of its participants suffered sexual abuse as children, contributing to a cycle of exploitation that carried on into their adult years.
“I see it as all being on a continuum,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“You have children who are abused, you have young teenagers that are abused, they go through life, then it is just normalized behaviour … some of them, we just don’t hear their voices anymore because they’re gone.”
Wally Oppal, who led British Columbia’s hearings into the justice system’s handling of cases of missing Aboriginal women, found that Indigenous women experience higher levels of violence in terms of both incidence and severity and are disproportionately represented among the missing and murdered.
Based on reporting by Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press