The number of dead or missing Indigenous women in Canada numbers in the thousands. Can a government inquiry help end the violence?by Tamara Micner / July 5, 2017 / Leave a comment
This Saturday, Canada officially celebrated its “150th birthday”—marking the date in 1867 when the British government ratified the British North America Act, creating the Dominion of Canada and legally entrenching the settler-colonial project that had started after European colonisers first arrived in the 15th century.
The origins of this project are worth remembering. For, while the Canadian government spent $500 million on national celebrations, it is spending a tenth of that amount to investigate a national crisis which has been mostly ignored in the international press: the disappearance and murder of at least 1,200 Indigenous women and girls since 1980.
This figure comes from a 2013 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which drew from the Sisters In Spirit Database and other Indigenous data sources—though other estimates place the figure as high as 4,000. The official figure doesn’t include, for example, unreported cases, cases involving trans or two-spirit people not categorised as women, cases where the victim’s ethnicity was unknown, and ones that don’t fall under police jurisdiction.
The information we do have shows that 16 percent of women murdered in Canada from 1980 to 2012 were Indigenous—even though they make up only 4 percent of the country’s female population. Between 1969 and 2016, on the “Highway of Tears” alone—a 450-mile stretch of highway in rural British Columbia—as many as 50 Indigenous women went missing or were murdered. In most cases, we still don’t know what happened. (Following years of campaigning, the road finally has a public bus service—a simple way to prevent violence, as many women went missing after having to hitchhike.)