Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls
The number of ‘reported’ cases of MMIWG is inexcusably near 1200 (Indigenous communities and organizations believe this number is much higher) …This appalling statistic is consistent with previous estimates from sources that have long pointed to a greatly disproportionate level of violence against that Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Violence against Indigenous women and girls is pervasive, taking place in the home and in the streets of Canadian cities, and that the perpetrators include Indigenous and non-Indigenous men alike.
The vast majority of murders of Indigenous and non-indigenous women are committed by someone known to them, however in the case of Indigenous women, Intimate partners and family members account for 62% of homicides, compared to 74% of murders of all other women. The difference is largely accounted for by greater number of murders of Indigenous women and girls by people categorized as “acquaintances”, including friends, co-workers, neighbours, and other people known to, but not intimate with the victim. For those numbers of Indigenous women and girls who are murdered by an ‘acquaintance’ are predominantly those who were targeted in urban areas (off reserve). British Columbia also has specific geographic areas in which many of the cases of MMIWG have occurred, including the Highway of Tears in Northern BC, and the Downtown Eastside Community in Vancouver (DTES).
Estimates regarding the exact number of Indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing in BC vary greatly with many community organizations indicating that the ‘reported’ numbers fall short of the true numbers of MMIWG. The RCMP reports 205 Indigenous female homicide cases in the years 1980-2012, which represents 19% of all female homicide cases in BC during that time. This indicates a severe overrepresentation of Indigenous women, considering that Indigenous women only made up approximately 5% of the female population in BC during this time. The RCMP also reported in 2014 that of cases concerning female Indigenous victims in BC, there were 36 homicides and 40 missing cases still unsolved. With a similar estimate, CBC Canada’s report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) profiles 69 unsolved cases of MMIWG in BC since the 1960s.
The Government of Canada launched an independent national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in July 2016. Community engagement sessions will begin in 2017 allowing MMIWG family members to provide input and tell the story of their lost loved ones.
The mandate of the MMIWG Inquiry requires the commissioners to examine and report on the systemic causes behind the violence that Indigenous women and girls experience, and their greater vulnerability to violence, by looking for patterns and underlying factors that explain why higher levels of violence occur.
For more Information regarding the MMIWG National Inquiry please visit:
- Native Women’s Association of Canada: https://nwac.ca//mmwig/
- Or the Government of Canada Inquiry Website: https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1448633299414/1448633350146
Families of MMIWG
Families/survivors of murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls cannot be forgotten in the field of ending violence. Individuals who had long lasting and special relationships with the victim are victimized not only by the loss of someone close but also by the horrific circumstances of that premature death or disappearance. Survivors are usually thought of as family members or close friends, but in Indigenous communities, it often includes those such as neighbors, classmates, Elders, and members of the community at large.
Nothing can prepare survivors of MMIWGs for the day when a loved one is murdered as it is most often committed through an act of extreme violence and cruelty. For those whose loved one has simply vanished, the agony of not knowing and imagining the worst circumstances, takes an extreme toll on their wellbeing. This can evolve into a sense of sorrow and loss with acute feelings of injustice, distrust, and helplessness which can cause depression and other health and mental wellness issues.
Unfortunately, for most families of MMIWGs the distress of a murder or disappearance of a loved one is compounded by a number of other stressors. Often the response and investigation, or lack thereof, into the family member’s death or disappearance by RCMP and other law enforcement agencies compounds the loss and anger even more. Traversing the justice system, if the perpetrator of the crime is caught, can be an overwhelming, dispiriting, and traumatizing event that can transpire over many months.
Support that is culturally safe is key for these families. This includes support navigating the justice system and ensuring a proper investigation, healing circles, celebration of life ceremonies, cultural and spiritual helpers to aid families during trials and victim impact statements, grief counselling and support groups.