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RCMP questions claim of 600 missing aboriginal women

Posted: Feb 16, 2013 8:54 AM ET

Last Updated: Feb 17, 2013 6:22 AM ET

The RCMP is questioning the oft-cited claim by an aboriginal group and some federal politicians that about 600 aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada.

On today's edition of CBC Radio's The House, host Evan Solomon says that when he contacted the RCMP to confirm that there are 580 cases of aboriginal women who were either missing or killed in the country, the force said it wasn't aware of about 500 of them.

The question of exactly how many aboriginal women are missing or killed in Canada comes during a week that included the Annual Day of Justice for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women on Friday, and a debate in the House of Commons that included a Liberal proposal to strike a special committee to investigate the issue. This week also saw a report from New York-based Human Rights Watch that accused the RCMP in British Columbia of abusive acts, including rape, against aboriginal women.

'The RCMP is concerned with the over 500 possible victims from the Sisters in Spirit database that have not been shared.'—Sgt. Julie Gagnon

The number 600 — used repeatedly in the House of Commons this week — comes from the Native Women's Association of Canada. In 2005, they began a program called Sisters in Spirit — a five-year research, education and policy initiative funded by Status of Women Canada – to collect data and examine the causes of the missing and killed Aboriginal women and girls. They say they documented 580 aboriginal women and girls across Canada as either disappeared or dead. That number counts cases until 2010, the year their funding was not renewed.

But spokeswoman Sgt. Julie Gagnon said in an email that the Sisters in Spirit have shared the names of 118 alleged victims with the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing Services.

Sixty-four of the 118 names were confirmed to be in a police database, while 54 could not be confirmed.

"The RCMP is concerned with the over 500 possible victims from the Sisters in Spirit database that have not been shared," she said.

The RCMP said they investigate all cases of missing and killed people regardless of sex, ethnicity, background or lifestyle and run special programs to investigate the aboriginal women file.

The Native Women's Association of Canada did not reply to a request for an interview.

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