A new, online map sets out to demonstrate the extent of violence against Aboriginal women in Canada.
The map, released Feb. 5, by the online hacker group Anonymous pays particular attention to Thunder Bay, where the group has been critical of the police investigation into the abduction and sexual assault of a First Nations woman.
A friend of the family of the victim in that case said she welcomed the mapping initiative.
"[It will] create that visual force to bring evidence to the scope of the problem in a way that will break the silence and in a way that will hopefully get all of Canada aware," said Christi Belcourt.
Belcourt compares it to Harassmap, which tracks sexual harassment in Egypt, which was lauded by Canadian media as a means of bringing social change. She said she hopes the map of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is received with the same public approval as Harassmap.
Crowd-sourcing gaining popularity
Anonymous used public data from police crime maps to build the map. A function on the site allows people to report other information through an administrator.
The method of crowd-sourcing maps online is becoming more popular, according to Toronto-based freelance reporter and investigative researcher Tim Groves.
"This is a situation [missing and murdered Aboriginal women] where people feel not enough is being done and they’re going and filling out the form, doing a small thing to help raise public attention," Groves said.
He noted that, while this map isn’t official, and people need to be critical of any information — and question its source — crowd-sourcing can help fill in formal information gaps.
"People are being creative and finding other ways they can use technology to add to the conversation so they’re not just waiting for the government to take an action and change an injustice that’s out there," he added.
The online news release from Anonymous accompanying the map said it shows an increase in the number or sexual assaults in Thunder Bay in the last six months.
Thunder Bay police deny any increase, and have said they will not be making a response to the Anonymous map. The city’s crime map is based on reported incidents.