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Research points to 'exhaustive list' of missing aboriginal women

A researcher paints a new picture of the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

A researcher paints a new picture of the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

Maryanne Pearce of Ottawa has compiled a database that puts the number of cases at more than 800, including some in northwestern Ontario. That's significantly higher than the figures used so far by some national First Nations groups.

But for Pearce, the research has become more than statistics.

"Whether it's individual cases or the cases of serial murder, it's exhausting emotionally. It's hard to sleep," she said.
"I see the faces. I hear the voices."

Pearce said she can't provide a precise number of cases involving women from the northwest.

She hopes police and policy-makers use her research to work on the issue of violence against women.

Pearce, who completed her doctoral dissertation in law and refers to herself as a researcher, said she was horrified by the details of the Robert Pickton trial and felt compelled to do something.

'What can I do?'

She started her work in 2007 with the hope to have it completed by August 2011. She became sick and the research was delayed for 18 months.

Pearce said she looked at everything she could find that is public, including a lot of online sources, legal databases, online data from police, media and academic work.

"I felt a need to do something," she said. "I'm not a police officer, I'm not a reporter and I'm not a crown attorney, so what can I do? And I can research and I can write, so I decided to look into the issue."

Peace said she "looked at whether [the victims] had children, if they'd been in the foster care or residential school system, if they were involved in sex work, if there was a history of homelessness or mental health issues, addiction, [and] those type of things."

She noted that, "it's not just 800 [women]. My database is actually over 3,300. I did all women and girls in Canada that I could find. It's as exhaustive as I could make it. It's all missing and murdered women that I could find sources on in Canada. So the data base could be used for someone who is looking at elderly women, aboriginal women, and women of colour."


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