On the updated RCMP #MMIW report: “This coffee smells like shit.” It is shit. “Oh good then it’s not just me.”

I feel like the RCMP #MMIW report is just one big giant replay of Austin Power movie clips.

austin powers

The recent update (just like the last report) is basic criminological theory—Thanks Captain obvious! Okay, maybe basic criminological theory is not so obvious.

First, it appears that the fact that most Aboriginal women “knew” their perpetrators is what (allegedly) differentiates the issue of MMIW from other types of violence against women and mainstream media thinks this fact is news. Basic criminological theory, however, tells us that most victims of any type of crime know the perpetrators (regardless of the race, age, gender, etc). Basic criminological theory also tells us that crime isn’t random. In other words, people just don’t go around committing crime aimlessly. Policing also doesn’t happen indiscriminately. Policing of certain bodies and spaces is targeted. Surprisingly, this is stated in the MMIW report. The report reads, “[this report] will mean more targeted crime prevention…” (p 3). Yet, we all know what that targeted crime prevention means for Indigenous communities. And in case this isn’t obvious to my readers, it means more criminalization for Indigenous communities.

Like Adam, he highlights what is missing in the media discussions surrounding the RCMP report and he also points out the fact that if a victim is non-Aboriginal, the probability that a “spouse/family/intimate [is] involved in any given homicide increases.”[1] So yeah, victims of crime know their perpetrators and this fact increases if they are non-Aboriginal. And I agree with Adam, in his post, that the media reporting on the MMIW issue is telling us a much different story than what the report is telling us. However, I believe that the report is also telling us a lot about policing responses and their biases to the issue of MMIW.

Let’s have a brief look at the history of the Conservative’s government actions to “assist” Indigenous communities address the MMIW issue.

In 2005, the federal (then-Liberal) government in partnership with NWAC created the Sisters in Spirit initiative. The SIS project began to collect names for the MMIW database. However, in 2010, the federal (Conservative) government cut off all funding to the Sisters in Spirit database project.[2] The federal government then redirected funds to other areas. Some of these areas include their vague and obscure “Economic Action Project” or increasing policing initiatives in Indigenous communities (as evidence in the RCMP report’s Executive Summary). So, to all those people telling Harper to get on with a MMIW Inquiry? Yeah, I hate to break it to you but I don’t think it will be happening anytime soon. But do I think there is value in asking for a response, other than a racist response that blames all Native men for the MMIW issue, from the Conservative government? Yes. The Conservative government lack of response tells us more about our government and its colonial history than anything else. The Conservative government’s silence and inaction on the MMIW issue speaks volumes. But watch carefully who blindly follows and supports the Conservative government’s initiatives and legislation *cough* NWAC *cough*

Next, the RCMP report also tells us that “[the report] is the most comprehensive data that has ever been assembled by the Canadian policing community on missing and murdered Aboriginal women.” While yes this is true, it is also true that the Conservative government effectively defunded previous comprehensive data-collection efforts by Indigenous organizations. This wasn’t the only time the Conservative government effectively shut down critical research and data-collection on important Indigenous issues, like Indigenous health.[3] And that RCMP report? It even cites violence against women as a major health issue (p. 6). I agree but does anybody remember NAHO? The one thing, however, I cannot agree with is the RCMP claiming to be the “first” in comprehensive reporting on the issue when the Conservative government has been effectively defunding important research and data collection on the MMIW and related issues (and then redirecting funding to policing initiatives).

The RCMP report, I presume, seems to only focus on those MMIW that are 18 years and older. I ask: Did the report include all the young Indigenous women and girls who have been reported missing or murdered and/or are supposed to be in state care? Did the report include those lives lost due to the violent and ongoing child welfare policies which forcibly remove Indigenous children from their homes and into state care? Did the report include all those who have been human trafficked? No. The RCMP even goes onto state that those who have been reported missing may have “wandered off” (I guess this is what some “experts” mean by “self-trafficking”). And well, looks like we solved the problem to all those young Indigenous women and girls who are “at-risk” of going missing: let’s just put up fences or you know, lock them up in state care (or other state institutions)!

Despite all of the above and before these reports, in 2010, The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was established.[4] The report that came from that is available here. Yes, it is long and despite it being relevant to a specific region (and the gong show that it created), it is similar to the recent RCMP report in one major way.

The RCMP report notes that it also includes “illegal occupations” in employment status. The report only considers employment status as relevant to characteristics of perpetrators (p 13, note 23). The report does not go into much detail about “illegal occupations” of missing/murdered Indigenous women, except for on page 15 and again on page 17 of the report. On page 15 of the report, the report tells us that the solve rate (meaning where police laid a charge or where police recommended to the Crown a laying of a charge, or where the police identified a suspect and the incident is cleared) for women in the sex trade is lower than other homicides and the solve rate for Aboriginal women in the sex trade is lower than non-Aboriginal women in the sex trade. Given that the report cites involvement in the sex trade as a risk factor for murdered Aboriginal females, I wouldn’t be surprised if this report is used to justify the ongoing criminalization of women in the sex trade all in the name of “protection” (as if criminalization has ever protected women in the sex trade).

However, the report isn’t stating the obvious here: the obvious is that the ongoing criminalization of prostitution puts Aboriginal women “at risk” of not being able to seek redress through the justice system (even after they are murdered or reported missing).[5] More importantly, the ongoing criminalization of prostitution puts Aboriginal women “at risk” of not being able to receive equal protection and benefit of the law.[6] Criminalization and policing of Indigenous women’s lives creates a self-fulfilling prophecy by putting Indigenous women in these “at risk” situations and then tells policing agencies that Indigenous women need more criminalization in their lives to “protect” them from violence. Further, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report also states that the “retrenchment of social assistance programs, the ongoing effects of colonialism, the criminal regulation of prostitution and related law enforcement strategies” contributes to the marginalization of women.[7] So, if homicide victims who are Aboriginal women and who are also in the sex trade have a lower solve rate in comparison to non-Aboriginal women in the sex trade and other homicide victims, then there is something wrong with the way the police respond to Indigenous women in the sex trade instead of something “inherently wrong” with the sex trade. Specifically, the issue is with the police and policing tactics, and not Indigenous women, or Indigenous men and Indigenous communities. Like maybe, also HELLO! Let’s not blame Indigenous women who sell sex for their outcomes (and just because the RCMP state that they do not intend to engage in victim blaming doesn’t make it so). 

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report also cites major systemic bias involving policing responses to the missing and murdered women of DTES.[8] It is those women who were involved in the sex trade, including many Indigenous women, that were treated as less than human and who did not receive equal protection and benefit of the law. When I read the RCMP reports, I read the same thing: Indigenous women in the sex trade continue to be seen as less-than human and that their status in the sex trade is seen as a “risk” factor instead of policing responses being seen as creating that risk—even when the RCMP explicitly state that these same women have a lower solve rate than any other homicide victim.

Next time you read this report ask yourself: what is the RCMP not saying? There is much to be learned from this report and no matter how fuckin shitty these reports are, these lessons are not as obvious.

[1] http://andrewkurjata.ca/blog/2015/06/20/mmiw-2015/

[2] http://apc-cpa.liberal.ca/blog/missing-or-murdered-women/

[3] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/national-aboriginal-health-organization-s-funding-cut-1.1194520

[4] http://www.missingwomeninquiry.ca/

[5] The term “prostitution” is used purely as a legal term and is used to highlight that prostitution is still criminalized, especially among those who predominantly occupy street-based forms of work, like Indigenous women.

[6] See page 56 for discussion on equal protection and benefit of the law in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry http://www.missingwomeninquiry.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forsaken-Vol-3-web-RGB.pdf

[7] See page 12 http://www.missingwomeninquiry.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forsaken-Vol-3-web-RGB.pdf

[8] See page 56 for discussion of systemic bias in police responses http://www.missingwomeninquiry.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forsaken-Vol-3-web-RGB.pdf

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s