RCMP confirm report of more than 1,000 murdered aboriginal women

The RCMP confirmed the shocking details Friday that show the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women over the past three decades is much higher than what was originally thought.

Aboriginal women make up 4 per cent of population, but 16 per cent of all murdered females

Sharon Armstrong takes part in a vigil on Parliament Hill on March 5 for Loretta Saunders and to call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. The RCMP confirmed Friday that more than 1,000 aboriginal women have been murdered in Canada since 1980 — a figure much higher than previously thought. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The RCMP confirmed the shocking details Friday that show the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women over the past three decades is much higher than what was originally thought. 

In a statement, the RCMP said there are 1,186 police recorded incidents of aboriginal homicides and unresolved missing women investigations. 

That figure includes 1,017 murdered aboriginal women between the years of 1980 and 2012, as well as 169 missing women dating back to 1952. 

These numbers are included in a national RCMP report on missing and murdered aboriginal women, which is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

"The RCMP has taken on this initiative on behalf of the Canadian law enforcement community because we are concerned about the high incidence of missing and murdered aboriginal women," the statement read.

"We remain committed to resolve outstanding cases, and seeking closure and justice for families."

The force also said that solutions to the "societal concern" of violence against aboriginal women must come not only from the law enforcement community, but all levels of government.

'There would be an outcry'

NDP status of women critic Niki Ashton said the newly confirmed number is "shocking."

"If you put it into context, it means that over the last 30 years, 40 aboriginal women and girls didn't — every year — did not come home to see their families," she said to Rosemary Barton on CBC News Network's Power & Politics."

On the same program, Liberal health critic Hedy Fry added that it isn't about how many women there are at all.

"The fact is, at that rate, if there were other kinds of women, other than aboriginal women, missing or murdered in this country, there would be an outcry. There would be an inquiry, there would be something," Fry said. 

The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network first broke the story that there may be more than 1,000 cases of missing or murdered women on Wednesday, which immediately renewed calls to the government for a national public inquiry.

The government, for its part, has refused, referring instead to other initiatives carried out over past years.

"There are some 40 studies dealing with that issue. The RCMP is conducting a further study on its own," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday afternoon.

"Our government from the very outset has said, as one of its priorities — one of its most important priorities — tackling crime including violence against women and girls."

'Now is not the time for another study'

The parliamentary secretary to the public safety minister, Roxanne James, echoed Harper's response on Power & Politics.

"Let me be clear, now is not the time for another study," she said, adding that now is "the time to take real action" and move forward with concrete measures to end violence.

James said the government has taken over 30 measures since coming into office, citing two separate $25-million initiatives from the 2010 and 2014 budgets, one of them being a DNA-based missing persons index.

According to the RCMP statement, the newly confirmed data was compiled with the assistance of Statistics Canada from close to 300 individual police jurisdictions in Canada and shows an over-representation of missing and murdered aboriginal women in police databases.

It also included the point that while aboriginal women make up four per cent of Canada's population, they represent 16 per cent of all murdered females between 1980 and 2012, as well as 12 per cent of all missing females on record.

"This research has done more than just provide numbers. It has identified key vulnerability factors for the victims as well as information on the perpetrators," the statement read.

In 2010, the Native Women’s Association of Canada estimated that there were 582 missing or murdered aboriginal women across the country.