Issues Related to the High Number of Murdered and Missing Women in Canada

>> Sunday, February 6, 2011

Isn't that interesting?

I went looking online for a copy of the report by the Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials Missing Women Working Group - "Issues Related to the High Number of Murdered and Missing Women in Canada" (MMWC) which was published in September 2010. It was - for a bit - available on the Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat website - but no more.

A few links of interest remain, however:

So generous - except for the ~minor~ little details that they don't mention - which if one reads - critically - the press release, the above mentioned report - MMWC - in conjunction with any of the research reports provided by the Sisters in Spirit Initiative - jump out relatively quickly.

Things like the fact that while the SIS research is extremely nuanced, and recognizes that the only commonalities between all of the missing & murdered women they are researching is that they are 1. Aboriginal 2. women 3. missing or murdered 4. in Canada. (And they do note concern about non-Aboriginal women, or about Aboriginal women who die or are harmed through other causes, also - but since those are not the subject of this particular research project, they are not included in the research database)

The only commonalities between the people directly responsible for their deaths/disappearances are ...well, none, actually, beyond the fact that they were presumably in Canada long enough to commit crimes here. Offenders are not all male, nor all Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal, nor are they all serial offenders.

The report of the MMWC, on the other hand, considers Aboriginal women who are missing or murdered in Canada and who are most often

  • living in poverty
  • homeless, transient, and lacking in social networks
  • addicted to alcohol or drugs
  • involved in sex work or other dangerous practices such as hitchhiking
  • experiencing mental health issues (MWWG 3)

And the offenders about which they are concerned do share a ~few~ commonalities. They are

  • male
  • serial sex offenders
  • predators
  • follow a pattern of repeated abduction, infliction of assault, degredation, torture and murder.

So - we can ~throw out~ all of those women who are not killed by strangers - that's all but approximately 17% of cases where the offenders are known, using the SIS research. We can ~throw out~ all the cases where the women are not involved in sex work (about half of the women about whom enough is known to make this determination). And hey, lets throw out any one-offs, also, because we are only interested in serial offenders.

Another very important difference between the Sisters in Spirit report(s) and the MMWG is that one is very clearly in favour of an approach with attention paid to being both PROACTIVE and REACTIVE strategies to reduce the number of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, while the other - in spite of the occassional nod towards the need to prevent these crimes in the first place, is quite clearly concerned to a very large extent with the REACTIVE side of things. Care to guess which organization advocates for which approach? Too easy?

The goals of the MWWG were to:

  • Share information and expertise with personnel across Canada who are responsible for identifying, investigating and prosecuting these cases
  • Develop strategies and proposals that would assist in addressing current barriers that hinder the resolution of cases involving victims of serial predators
  • Promote the development of resources and training to assist personnel who are responsible for handing cases of missing and murdered persons
  • Ensure that the Criminal Code and other relevant federal and provincial legislation provide the best tools for investigating and prosecuting cases of serial killers who target marginalized persons (3)

See any proactive approaches in there? Yeah, me neither. Training and changes to the Criminal Code are all well and good - and one could, I suppose, make an argument that these are proactive - but they are proactive only in the sense that they set up strategies that can be used when "these cases" happen - none of these are proactive in the sense of gee, I dunno, looking for root causes and strategies to ensure that women don't wind up missing or murdered in the first place?

But of course, we are talking about people who are up there in the judicial - and especially policing - system - of course they are focussing on cases - and so they should be. Their work, however, does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that replaces the work of the Sisters in Spirit Iniative's research or victim support work, however.

Absolutely nothing...

And yet Harper & co would have you believe that while the Sisters in Spirit did good work, they are all set to handle it from here.

Even if that were true, I would have a problem with it. We are supposedly living in a post-colonial society.

In a post-colonial society, if a group of Aboriginal peoples have proven themselves capable of researching and working on a problem that impacts on Aboriginal peoples - and motivated to keep doing so - does the state swoop in and take it over? Really?

Honestly, it seems just a ~little~ ... okay ... a LOT... colonial to me. Am I, perhaps, missing something?


  • Stephanie Barr

    I'm not sure I entirely get the nuances here. Why does it have to be one or the other?

    In the cases of serial offenders (and on your list of four characteristics, three of the four effectively meant the same thing and there are 98 male serial sexual offenders for every female one - AT BEST), the steps offered aren't just reactive. Because the key with a serial sexual offender is to stop him early so he doesn't keep offending. It's very difficult.

    The burden of preventive has always been on the victims, which is why victims often get blamed ("You shouldn't have been walking out after dark." or "You should have had an alarm on your door." or - my favorite - "She was asking for it.") It's not fair, but what's the alternative?

    Unfortunately, criminal justice almost has to be reactive, because of presumption of innocence. But we can't stop the perpetrator until he (or she) commits a crime and there's good reason for that. No one, I think, really wants to live in a society where you can be arrested and incarcerated because someone thought you might later commit a crime.

    When it comes to serial crimes, there's a great deal of pressure to stop any more because that's the closest to proactive CJ ever becomes.

    Now, if you want to talk about protecting children so they don't become predators (since a high percentage come from abused childhoods) or providing effective social services in efforts to limit becoming criminals, that's another type of proactive. The kind, I think, we see far too infrequently.

  • flit

    it doesn't - except for the minor little detail that the Canadian government has decided that the work being done by Aboriginal group(s) - which tend to focus on both responding to - but also on identifying and implementing strategies to prevent violence against Aboriginal women from being such a huge problem in the first place - should no longer be funded at all....

    Sisters in Spirit has a national database already in place - and include hundreds of fields of data - and have the relationships with families needed to GET that data - but they have, apparently, pissed off the PTB by drawing so much attention to the issue and are now precluded from any funding at all ...

    of course policing is important - and there are many things that the police can do better - but contrary to the line o' crap being put forward by our government, policing cannot replace the work of organizations like NWAC and the Sisters in Spirit Iniative.

    A great deal of violence towards Aboriginal women results because of colonial attitudes which consider them fair game and unlikely to report or be believed - THOSE issues need to be addressed as well and to remove funding from all of those projects is ludicrous...especially given the context of our so-called Apology to our Aboriginal populations ... we committed to do better in future... and our "better" seems to be to once again cause the "problem" to disappear.

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