Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: 2015 Update to the National Operational Overview

Executive Summary

In May 2014, the RCMP released Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview. The 2015 reportFootnote 1 provides updated statistics and analysis on new cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women that have occurred since then, and addresses the investigative, procedural and preventative strides that the RCMP has taken in meeting the “Next Steps” outlined in the 2014 Overview.

Some of the key findings in this update include the following:

Parallel to the findings of the 2014 Overview in which most homicide victims had a previous relationship with the offender, the 2013 and 2014 RCMP data reveals that the offender was known to the victim in 100% of the solved homicides of Aboriginal women in RCMP jurisdictions, and in 93% of cases of solved homicides of non-Aboriginal women. Violence within family relationships is a key factor in homicides of women, and has prompted the RCMP to focus intervention and prevention efforts on familial and spousal violence.

The RCMP remains committed to ensuring the reduction and prevention of violence against Aboriginal women. However, the RCMP is only one partner among many government and non-government organizations (NGOs), social service agencies, health professionals and citizens who must align their efforts to reduce the high rates of violent victimization experienced by Aboriginal women. 

Violence in our communities is a societal concern for Canada that goes beyond the responsibility of law enforcement, government and social services. While the safety of Canada’s citizens, particularly the most vulnerable, is everyone’s responsibility, communities play a vital role in developing and leading solutions. Aboriginal communities need to be included in working partnerships that will collectively focus on how best to approach challenges and find solutions that will enhance the safety and security of everyone.

Since the release of the 2014 Overview, there has been significant advancement of public understanding and awareness of the issue of violence against Aboriginal women. However, this update shows that Aboriginal women continue to be over-represented among Canada’s murdered and missing women.

It is our hope that this report will continue to raise public awareness and encourage new prevention efforts. Through this update we take one more step forward in a difficult but necessary journey towards healing for all Canadians.

Introduction

In May 2014, the RCMP released its Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview. This was the first initiative of its kind to draw on data from all police jurisdictions across CanadaFootnote 4. It included data about reported missing Aboriginal women cases dating back to 1951, and reported homicides of Aboriginal women over a 33 year period, (1980-2012). The 2014 National Operational Overview has contributed to the dialogue on this important subject and public response has been significant.

This update should be read in conjunction with the 2014 National Operational Overview as the background and contextualization of the issue of violence against Aboriginal womenFootnote 5 is discussed in greater detail in that document.

PART 1 – Evolution of the 2014 National Operational Overview Data

The 2014 National Operational Overview reported 120 unsolved homicides of Aboriginal women, and 105 missing Aboriginal women categorized as missing in “unknown” circumstances or where foul play was suspected, for a total of 225 unsolved missing and murdered cases across all police jurisdictions in Canada. Current updated data shows 106 unsolved homicide cases and 98 unsolved missing cases (unknown or foul play suspected circumstances) remain outstanding.  The reduction from 225 unsolved cases to 204 this past year represents an overall resolution rate of 9.3%: 11.7% for homicides and 6.7% for missing Aboriginal females.

Figure 1: Comparison: Total UnsolvedFootnote 6 Aboriginal Female Missing and Murdered Occurrences – 2014 National Operational Overview and Evolution of 2014 Data
Text description follows

The following represents the details of the evolution of the data related to these 225 unsolved cases:

Figure 2: Evolution in 2014 Data – Unsolved Missing and Murdered Aboriginal FemalesFootnote 7

PART 2 - Additional Analysis: 2014 Operational Overview Homicide Data

Some additional analysis was conducted on the 1980-2012 data of female homicides, particularly as it related to the locations of the homicides of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women. Since 1991, Statistics Canada has collected data on homicides occurring in Census Metropolitan AreasFootnote 8 (CMAs). When analyzed, there was a notable difference between homicides of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women from 1991-2012Footnote 9 in terms of whether or not the incident occurred within or outside a CMA. Homicides of Aboriginal women were more likely to occur outside the boundaries of a CMA (60%) than homicides of non-Aboriginal women (34%), as demonstrated in the following chart:

Figure 3: CMA Versus Non-CMA for Female Homicides, 1991-2012
Graph of CMA Versus Non-CMA for Female Homicides, 1991-2012 text description in following table and paragraph
CMA Versus Non-CMA for Female Homicides, 1991-2012
  Aboriginal Non-aboriginal
CMA 279 2155
Non CMA 426 1129

Looking more deeply into the data, analysis has shown that female homicides most often occurred within a residence. This was the case in 68% of homicides of Aboriginal women and 77% of homicides of non-Aboriginal women reported between 1991 and 2012. More specifically, female homicides often occurred in a home that was jointly shared by the victim and the offender. This was the case for 44% of Aboriginal women and 51% of non-Aboriginal women.

Figure 4: Female Residential Homicides, by Occupancy of the Home, 1991-2012
Note: Due to “rounding” the percentages in each column do not add to 100%

PART 3 – RCMP Progress on “Next Steps” Outlined in the 2014 National Operational Overview

Enhancing Efforts on Unsolved Cases

The RCMP has reviewed all of the outstanding cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women within its jurisdictions reported in the 2014 Overview, finding that investigations were being diligently investigated with appropriate investigative resourcing. The RCMP has provided all policing partners with data relative to cases in non-RCMP jurisdictions to assist in their reviews.

The RCMP’s National Missing Persons Strategy was introduced on September 5, 2014. This Strategy is based on recognized practices in the investigation of missing persons cases. The strategy has augmented investigative review standards and tools reinforcing the importance of increased supervision. Furthermore, the strategy has standardized the investigative process with a revised Missing Persons Policy which incorporates investigative best practices and directives for referrals to Victim Services, taking into consideration cultural needs and establishing mandatory communication schedules with families.

Focusing Prevention Efforts

RCMP homicide data from 2013 and 2014 shows a strong nexus to spousal violence, which points to the need to target prevention efforts towards violence in family relationships as a critical element in reducing homicides of women. Female victims, regardless of their ethnicity, are most frequently killed by the men within their own homes and communities. Accordingly, the RCMP has focused prevention efforts on familial and spousal violence.

The RCMP has identified vulnerable Aboriginal communities across Canada in which to focus prevention and intervention activities aimed at reducing the high incidence of violence against women. RCMP managers have been provided with tools to work with these vulnerable communities to develop and deliver violence prevention initiatives (i.e facilitating access to available funding and established successful programs). Federal and provincial governmental departments and Aboriginal organizations have also been engaged to support the delivery of programming to the vulnerable communities.

RCMP Detachment Commanders, in consultation with local community leaders, are required to develop action plans for the implementation of prevention/intervention activities. Analysis of the implementation, progress and success of the action plans and prevention activities will be done in order to gauge success. Successful plans and interventions will be shared for implementation in other interested communities. 

Through the RCMP’s Family Violence Initiative (FVI), funding has been allocated and distributed in 2014-2015 in support of violence prevention/intervention initiatives in Aboriginal communities. Over 75% of this funding allocation has been distributed to communities where the RCMP is focusing its prevention initiatives. Distribution of FVI funds will continue throughout fiscal years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 with a focus on Aboriginal communities.

In addition to the above noted locally developed initiatives, the RCMP is promoting the implementation of established prevention programs in Aboriginal communities. For example, the Aboriginal Shield program, a youth empowerment program which encourages making informed, healthy, positive choices, is available for delivery in communities.

Increasing Public Awareness

The RCMP continues to maintain a dedicated liaison with the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). This relationship allows for the sharing of information between the two organizations, to draw attention to issues of concern to Aboriginal women and communities as well as to work collaboratively to develop initiatives.

As a tool to raise awareness of the issues facing Aboriginal women, the RCMP, in partnership with NWAC and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), created a poster campaign targeting the reduction of family violence, the timely reporting of missing persons cases and the importance of reporting all details/tips in missing persons investigations. These posters were distributed nationally to increase public engagement.Footnote 10

More recently, the RCMP produced a Public Service AnnouncementFootnote 11 (PSA) video featuring Canadian singer Shania Twain on the issue of family violence.  In the fall of 2015, the RCMP will release a second PSA featuring Canadian Inuk National Hockey League player Jordin Tootoo. The video message is designed to raise awareness, particularly among Aboriginal men and boys, about the issue of violence against women. Ultimately, efforts like these aim to stop the generational cycle of violence.

Through involvement in the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police committees and in consultation with Statistics Canada, the RCMP is engaged in ongoing efforts to encourage lawful and appropriate releases of data on the issue of violence against Aboriginal women and to keep this issue in the public consciousness to encourage prevention efforts. In 2014, the RCMP ensured that all relevant national data collected for the 2014 Overview as a result of follow up with the Canadian policing community was submitted to Statistics Canada as part of its official holdings.

Strengthening the Data

The National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR) provides national data sharing, analytical support, liaison and coordination and development of investigational best practices in missing persons and unidentified remains cases. NCMPUR is administered by the RCMP, but serves all Canadian police services. Investigators, in consultation with victim’s families, determine whether to publish missing person data on Canada’s Missing website (www.canadasmissing.ca). There may be family or investigational reasons for determining that a profile should not be published. Missing persons/unidentified remains profiles published on the website are publically available. Tips received from the public can assist in resolving missing person cases.

As part of the commitments made in the 2014 Overview, the RCMP provided the project data on missing Aboriginal females to NCMPUR to be considered for publication on the website. To date, 150 files of the 164 outstanding Aboriginal female missing cases have either been published, the publication is pending, it has been excluded from publication for family/investigative reasons, or it has been removed from CPIC as the case is no longer an outstanding missing person.

The RCMP continues to update, compile and distribute homicide and missing persons statistics on cases within its jurisdictions to ensure reliable and relevant data is available for operational decision-making.  The RCMP’s Missing Persons Policy, related forms/reports and supervisory requirements have been amended to ensure consistent collection of relevant information for statistical purposes. The Homicide Survey collected by Statistics Canada has been enhanced to ensure more reliable data on the Aboriginal origin of victims and, when applicable, charged suspects, is gathered.

PART 4 – Statistical Analysis of New Data:  Missing and Murdered Cases

Missing

The following data on missing Aboriginal women is based on a CPIC search conducted on April 1, 2015 for all non-white females missing for at least 30 days across all police jurisdictions.Footnote 12 A quality assurance review using the NCMPUR database was also conducted. These searches resulted in 159 additional missing non-white female cases being identified for review. Nineteen of these 159 new files were determined to be missing Aboriginal females.

It is important to note that 11 of the 19 missing Aboriginal women actually went missing since the 2014 OverviewFootnote 13. The remaining eight cases were captured in the updated data set as a result of file reviews of these historical cases. The reasons for the lack of inclusion in the 2014 Overview are attributable to Aboriginal origin not originally captured, files not previously reported or files not current on CPIC.

The probable causeFootnote 14 of the disappearance was noted for the additional cases. Of the 19 cases, 13 were categorized as “unknown” or foul play suspected, whereas six were considered to be runaway or lost/wandered off. The 13 additional cases combined with the 98 previous unsolved suspicious cases from the 2014 Overview bring the number of unsolved missing Aboriginal female cases in Canada across all police jurisdictions to 111. By way of comparison, in 2014 it was reported that there were 164 missing Aboriginal women out of a total population of all missing females of 1,455. Since the Overview, the RCMP has found that 155 of these cases remain outstanding on CPIC. The 19 female Aboriginal missing cases were added to those 155 that remained outstanding from the 2014 Overview, for a total of 174 Aboriginal females missing for at least 30 days as of April 1, 2015. This represents 10% of the total population of missing females of 1,750Footnote 15 recorded on CPIC in April 2015Footnote 16.

Figure 5:  2014 National Operational Overview – Summary of Missing Aboriginal Females Across all Police Jurisdictions in Canada
Text description follows
Methodological Note: In this research, "missing" means those women who were recorded on CPIC as missing for more than 30 days as of November 4, 2013
Figure 6: 2015 Update - Summary of Missing Aboriginal Females as of April 2015 across all Police Jurisdiction in Canada
Text description follows
Methodological Note: In this research, "missing" means those women who were recorded on CPIC as missing for more than 30 days as of April 1, 2015

Murdered

The following data is for RCMP jurisdictions only. The RCMP does not collect and report homicide data for the over 300 non-RCMP police agencies who each gave individual consent to use their data for the 2014 Overview.

Analysis of 2013 and 2014 Female Homicides in all RCMP Jurisdictions in Canada

In 2013, there were 149 homicides in RCMP jurisdictions. Of these, 42 involved female victimsFootnote 17, and 17 (40%) were identified by homicide investigators as Aboriginal females.  In 2014, there were 151 homicides in RCMP jurisdictions. Of these, 43 involved female victims, and 15 (35%) were identified by homicide investigators as being Aboriginal females. The proportion of Aboriginal female homicide victims within RCMP jurisdictions in 2013 and 2014 is consistent with levels of the past decade. (The mean for the past decade is just over 37 percent, the same for 2013 and 2014.)

It is estimated that the RCMP polices over 40% of the Aboriginal population of Canada and approximately 20% of the overall Canadian population. These statistics would explain why, proportionally, the number of Aboriginal female homicides is higher for RCMP jurisdictions than for the average Canadian police jurisdictionFootnote 18

The overall solve rate for female homicides occurring in RCMP jurisdictions for 2013 and 2014 was 82%.  Homicides of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women had similar solve rates of 81% and 83%. A solve rate of 81% for homicides of Aboriginal women indicates that 26 of the 32 homicides recorded in 2013 and 2014 have been solved. 

Relationships between the offender and victim for 2013 and 2014 showed a trend similar to that found in the 2014 Overview (1980-2012). Offenders were known to their victims in 100% of solved homicide cases of Aboriginal women, and in 93% of solved homicide cases of non-Aboriginal women in RCMP jurisdictions in 2013 and 2014. Current and former spouses and family members made up the majority of relationships between victims and offenders, representing 73% of homicides of Aboriginal women and 77% of non-Aboriginal women in RCMP jurisdictions in 2013 and 2014.

Conclusion

While serving as a stark portrait of a complex issue, the 2014 National Operational Overview provided the RCMP with the most comprehensive statistical analysis of police-reported incidents of missing and murdered Aboriginal women to date. It has helped to give the RCMP, and hopefully the public at large, better insight into this reality.

The updated data reflects that 9.3% of unsolved Aboriginal female homicide and missing persons cases captured in the 2014 Overview have since been resolved. In 2013 and 2014, 32 of 85 female murder victims in RCMP jurisdictions were Aboriginal – more than a quarter of the total number. Missing and murdered Aboriginal women continue to be overrepresented given their percentage of the Canadian population.

The update revealed the unmistakable connection homicides have to family violence. Most women, regardless of ethnicity, are being killed in their homes and communities by men known to them, be it a former or present spouse, or a family member. Prevention efforts must focus on stopping violence in family relationships to reduce homicides of women, and we are moving forward with many initiatives on this front.

As of April of this year, 174 Aboriginal women across all police jurisdictions remain missing, 111 of these under suspicious circumstances. These women are mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends, and we can never lose sight of that fact. The RCMP remains committed to solving these cases, and bringing closure and justice to the families who have also been victimized.

The RCMP, as one among many stakeholders, is committed to working in collaboration with Aboriginal communities, NGOs, social services, health professionals and governmental agencies to implement concrete initiatives that address the underlying root causes of the violence facing Aboriginal women, and to finding solutions to this tragic reality.

Violence in our communities is a societal concern for Canada that goes beyond the law enforcement community. Canadians have a shared responsibility to address the health and welfare of all citizens, especially those who are the most vulnerable to violent victimization. A collective focus on healthy familial relationships and community well-being, including health care, social services, child protection, education and the administration of justice is needed.

Public awareness and understanding are key to making this a reality. The RCMP is proud to play a role in this regard, and pledges its commitment to continue this important work.

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