Advocates say Indigenous solutions needed to stop high homicide rate

Vice Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Heather Bear says more must be done to save the lives of Indigenous women.

Statistics Canada says one-quarter of all female homicide victims in Canada were Indigenous

Frances Neumann wipes a tear as she speaks to commissioners at the first public hearings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is holding in Whitehorse. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Heather Bear says more must be done to save the lives of Indigenous women.

On Tuesday, Statistics Canada issued a report saying Indigenous women made up one-quarter of all female homicide victims in 2015. 

'This isn't the way of our people."- Heather Bear, Vice Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations

Bear, the Vice Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said it's important that First Nations look for traditional answers to this issue.

"Colonization has become internalized when we start to hurt each other," said Bear, vice-chief of the Federation of Indigenous Sovereign Nations.

"This isn't the way of our people."

Between 2001 and 2015, the study found that the homicide rate for Indigenous women was nearly six times higher than non-Indigenous women.

"We had a structure, a respect model that promoted order," she said. "We need to work within our own communities to reconcile the language, the traditions, the values, the customs, the good ways," she said. "We need to bring those back."

However, advocates said the non-Indigenous world also has a major part to play with this issue. Many women are hesitant to bring their stories to police attention.

"With indigenous women, you don't need to look very far to see examples of why you wouldn't want to report," said Jo-Anne Dusel, co-ordinator for the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan.

"Indigenous women fear calling the police because they don't know how they're going to be responded to."

Dusel said a recently reported example from Alberta, where a victim of sexual assault was jailed and shackled, shows problems with the justice system.

"If police show up to a domestic disturbance, and they don't know who started it, they'll arrest both." she said. "It makes people reluctant to call for help."

Indigenous women made up less than five per cent of the total female population in Canada in 2015 but accounted for more than one-third of female admissions to federal and provincial/territorial custody in 2014-15.

The largest proportions were in the western provinces and the territories.