Sask. RCMP strategizing on missing and murdered aboriginal women

The head of the RCMP in Saskatchewan says she believes work by the force is helping to reduce the number of murdered and missing aboriginal women — despite a disproportionate number of victims.

A national report, released last week shows 1,200 cases spanning three decades

Margaret Poitras, the director of All Nations Hope, says that solutions for the missing and murdered aboriginal women need to come from aboriginal leadership and their own community.

The head of the RCMP in Saskatchewan says she believes work by the force is helping to reduce the number of murdered and missing aboriginal women — despite a disproportionate number of victims.

Assistant Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr said Wednesday she is "very comfortable" with the direction the Mounties are taking.

"I think that the evolution of where we've come from over the last number of years has demonstrated that," Butterworth-Carr said. "We can absolutely get better, but law enforcement alone is not going to solve this. We need to make sure that we have absolutely every person within our communities — community people, families and
so forth — invested in looking at opportunities to prevent these from happening in the first instance."

Butterworth-Carr noted the RCMP is working with other agencies, such as the Social Services and Education ministries, to prevent violence and high-risk behaviour.

"Does it mean more programming? Does it mean more treatment facilities? Does it mean dealing with addictions? Are there mental health issues? There's just an absolute myriad of opportunities available," she said. "The fact that we're actually investing in this is certainly a step in the right direction."

Butterworth-Carr's observations are a follow up to a national report on missing and murdered aboriginal women, released by the RCMP last week.

Saskatchewan Mounties and local police agencies, represented by the Saskatchewan Association of Police Chiefs spoke about the report's findings Wednesday.

They noted that, based on a review of the last 30 years of information, Saskatchewan has 16 unsolved cases of missing women and 13 unsolved cases of Aboriginal women who were homicide victims.

Troy Hagen, head of the Saskatchewan Association of Police Chiefs and Regina's chief of police, said Wednesday his investigators treat all cases seriously.

"We are, as we should be, treating each case with the exact same amount of diligence and effort and determination regardless of the socio- or economic condition, or plight of an individual," Hagen said.

Erica Beaudin, from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, also spoke Wednesday and said more money for Aboriginal-run programming to curb violence would help.

"We believe we are the best people to look after the violence in our communities, both on and off reserve," she said.

The national report said RCMP are aware of nearly 1,200 cases of missing or murdered women, across the country, over the last three decades.

The same report found while aboriginal women account for 4.3 per cent of Canadian female population they make up 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of the cases of missing women.

When the report was released, on Friday, national RCMP said they are dedicating "resources to develop a national missing persons strategy" that will guide the police force's approach to missing persons cases.

RCMP added they are sharing the data with other police forces and had directed their own divisions to review any outstanding matters.

Members of the Saskatchewan aboriginal community told CBC News last week that the numbers were shocking but not surprising.

Some, like Margaret Poitras, director of Regina indigenous support group All Nations Hope Network, said the solutions should be found by the aboriginal community itself.

“If it’s indigenous women who are missing, well then those solutions need to come from our leadership and our existing agencies or groups that are out there and working for indigenous people,” she said.

With files from The Canadian Press