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This Is The 'Tragic Reality' Of Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women In Alberta

Indigenous women are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing.
Staff Writer
This Is The 'Tragic Reality' Of Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women In Alberta

This year has been filled with anti-racism outcries across the country and the globe. Among others, an issue that is still plaguing the nation is the treatment of Indigenous individuals and communities. Missing and murdered Indigenous women in Alberta continue to be a huge problem that sees little to no justice.

While there has been much discussion, only recently have there been changes to policy, education, and law enforcement training that aims specifically at addressing the problem.

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The Alberta government says that in Canada, Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing than any other women in the country.

In fact, a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was created in 2015 with the final report released in 2019. 

Within this document are over 230 calls for justice with 1,484 families and survivors providing testimony. 

Narcity spoke with experts to analyze what the inquiry is calling a "tragic reality."

How many Indigenous women are going missing or being murdered in Alberta?

According to a report released by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Alberta has the second-highest number of cases next to British Columbia.

Further, statistics released by the Government of Alberta for the years 2001 through 2015 indicate the province's homicide rate for Indigenous women is more than seven times that of non-Indigenous women.

The report suggests that 84% of cases in the province are murders which is higher than the national average of 67%.

The highest percentage of Indigenous females that go missing within the province are women over the age of 31 with a vast majority involving mothers.

Women 18-years-old or under makeup 23% and 10% of the provinces missing and murdered percentages respectively.

CBC has created a database of unresolved cases. As of publication time, there are over 250 cases across Canada with 60 being in Alberta.

In those cases investigated by CBC, police have claimed no foul play was involved however, suspicious evidence has been found including unexplained bruises and odd circumstances.

Why is this a trend?

Narcity spoke with Dr. Yvonne Poitras Pratt, Associate Professor at the Werklund School of Education in Alberta, about this problem.

"This issue is not brand new. Mainstream people think Indigenous women are less than, therefore expendable," said Poitras.

"When you have that lack of understanding and education, that's where the systemic racism and the dehumanization of Indigenous women can take place."

Jaimie Black, an artist known widely for the REDress project, reiterated this claim in an interview with Narcity, stating that historically Indigenous/settler relationships in North America have predominantly been violent and that violence against Indigenous women is "evidence of the ongoing impact of colonization."

In a report released by the Native Women’s Association, 76% of the cases in Alberta occur within urban areas – predominately Edmonton and Calgary.

According to the federal inquiry, root causes including colonialism and residential schools, racism, and sexism have all contributed to the ongoing crisis.

The report reads that while this problem is “without question a police concern” it shouldn't be overlooked that it's also part of a larger societal challenge.

Challenges including high rates of unemployment, lack of food security, homelessness, poverty, and barriers surrounding education have all lead to Indigenous people being marginalized which has inherently put them at the greatest risk for targeted violence.

“It is essential to recognize that the high rates of poverty and these other factors are a result of colonial systems within which Indigenous Peoples are trying to survive,” reads the final report of the National Inquiry.

What is law enforcement doing about it?

Within the inquiry, it was brought to attention that police may have failed the Indigenous community in certain regards.

Issues including long response times, fear of reporting a missing person, and preconceived assumptions about the complaints of Indigenous people at the hands of police, a number of changes have been recommended.

The National Inquiry is asking police and judicial systems to acknowledge that the relationship between these services and Indigenous people have largely been defined by racism, colonialism, discrimination, and bias.

One of the changes law enforcement is planning on undergoing is ensuring that families of missing women have appropriate and safe services.

According to a press release issued by the RCMP in June of this year, two courses have been developed for employees to use a trauma-informed approach when conducting investigations.

There have also been updates made to their human trafficking course to include Indigenous intervention and prevention elements.

RCMP in Canada say they are collaborating and consulting with Indigenous leaders and Elders at all levels.

What resources exist for Indigenous women and allies?

Dr. Poitras Pratt suggests one of the biggest resources is education.

The professor notes that you don't need to attend a university course to find information as there are tons of community lead groups and webinars surrounding Indigenous issues.

In March of this year, the Alberta government heard the voices and stories of women and girls and acknowledged the need to react.

As a result, the Alberta Joint Working Group on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was announced aimed at providing input on government action plans to address the calls for justice in the national inquiry.

What can I do?

In volume “B” of the national inquiry, there's a section devoted to media. It calls for people working in the entertainment industry to take a decolonizing approach in their work to educate others.

This includes supporting Indigenous people in sharing their stories free of bias, false assumptions, and discrimination.

Dr. Poitras Pratt believes education at any level is a step in the right direction.

"We can do all kinds of public awareness-raising but what it boils down to is what is missing which is public education around Indigenous issues and Indigenous topics of any kind," said the professor.

For everyone, it's important to speak out against violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia aimed at Indigenous women and girls.

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