EDITORIALS, LAW & ORDER, LOCAL NEWS

False Narrative Major Impediment in Fight to Stop Violence Against Aboriginal Women

RCMP National Operational Review Report - Cover
RCMP National Operational Review Report – Cover

Another violent scene plays out in an Aboriginal community in northern Manitoba and main stream media barely yawns.

If you search the internet you’ll find most media outlets simply regurgitated the obligatory RCMP media release.  They covered the story in approximately sixty-five (65) words.

I guess the circumstances weren’t that compelling.

On October 17, 2015 at 12:20 pm, Nelson House RCMP Detachment Officers responded to a call for assistance regarding an unresponsive male who was the victim of an apparent stabbing at a residence on the Nisichawayasihk First Nation. (Nelson House)

The twenty-one (21) year old male victim was conveyed to the nursing station where he succumbed to his injuries.

The RCMP media release reported Edita Annette Rae Spence (20) was charged with Manslaughter.

I assume Spence was detained in custody.

Sixty-five (65) words…

I couldn’t find any media outlets that bothered to report on the motive for the killing or the relationship between the accused killer and the victim.

Isn’t that relevant information?

I made the enquiry with RCMP Media Relations Officer Sergeant Bert Paquet who provided me with information confirming my suspicions the killing occurred in the context of a “domestic relationship.”

In other words, domestic violence.

Despite the media ambivalence, there is a story here.

Domestic Violence

RCMP National Operational Review Report Chart
RCMP National Operational Review Report Chart

The RCMP National Operational Review Report helped us remove the guess-work when it comes to the “phenomena” of murdered Aboriginal women.

The report has statistics that indicate approximately 92% of Aboriginal women are killed in the context of a domestic, family or other type of intimate relationship.

The updated report, released in 2015, indicates, “RCMP homicide data from 2013 and 2014 shows a strong nexus to family violence.  Female victims, regardless of ethnicity, are most often killed by men within their homes and communities.”

The False Narrative

The false narrative continues to be perpetuated by news media outlets like the Winnipeg Free Press.

Friday mornings editorial has something for everyone, bias, slant and outrageous sensationalism. 

The article starts out by highlighting sensational allegations of recent unproven sexual misconduct allegations levelled against members of the Quebec Provincial Police involving the victimization of Aboriginal women.

The relevance of these allegations to the topic of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, even if proven, is open for debate.

The intention – drive a wedge between Law Enforcement and the Aboriginal Community and reinforce the idea Aboriginal people simply can’t trust the Police.

Ironically, the article suggests, “It would be a mistake, though, to ignore the fact aboriginal men and boys face equally alarming rates of violence and early death.”

Interesting observation.

I think it would be a mistake for those of us who read newspapers to ignore the fact the Winnipeg Free Press article reporting the killing of the Aboriginal man from Nelson House merited the publication of a story containing a grand total of fifty-nine (59) words.

Fifty-nine (59) words…

The editors weren’t done with the Police just yet.

“As with the distrust in Val D’or, Que., where Sûreté de Québec officers are now facing serious allegations of possibly criminal acts, a deep-seated suspicion infects relations between indigenous people and police. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented numerous accounts of families who believe police were dismissive of their pleas for help when a loved one went missing,” they write.

The intention – perpetuate the myth systemic racism and investigative indifference infect Police investigations when Aboriginal people are victims of crime.

RCMP National Review Report Statistical Chart
RCMP National Review Report Statistical Chart

The RCMP National Operational Review Report should have all but debunked the myth when statistics confirmed the killings of Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal women were solved at essentially the same rate.  In Manitoba, the solvency rate for Aboriginal female homicides is a respectable 90%.

Isn’t it logical to expect family or next of kin of missing or murdered (unsolved) Aboriginal women might be dissatisfied with the failure of Police to solve their individual cases.  Does their anguish somehow give media licence to exploit their grief by undermining the Police / Victim relationship with suggestions of investigative indifference or racism?

Is it responsible or fair to perpetuate these myths when dedicated Law Enforcement professionals solve 90% of the killings?

The intention – perpetuate the myth.

The Slant

The editors take creative licence with the RCMP National Operational Report and provide their own unique interpretation of the data.

“And myths about the factors in violence against indigenous women continue to prevail. The RCMP report into missing and murdered aboriginal women should have dispelled, for example, the idea high-risk lifestyles are at play. Very few victims, aboriginal or not, were involved in the sex trade,” they write.

In reality, the report clearly identifies a number of risk factors that include employment status, use of intoxicants and involvement in the sex trade.

The Manitoba Project Devote team, an integrated RCMP and WPS initiative tasked with investigating unsolved murders of Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal women, previously released a detailed list of risk factors associated to victimization.  These factors included:

  • High Risk Lifestyle
  • Substance Abuse / Addiction
  • Involvement in Sex Trade
  • Transient Lifestyle
  • Hitchhiking
  • Mental Health Issues

I struggle to find a logical reason why the editors would choose to minimize victimization risk factors in such an important discussion.

The intention – take the path of least resistance.

When discussing risk factors the RCMP were clearly concerned with being accused of victim blaming.  The report indicates, “Any discussion of victim characteristics is vulnerable to the accusation that blame is being assigned to the victim.”

Rather than avoid the subject, the editors took a vastly different approach.

Glaring Omissions

Nowhere in the editorial will you find the words, “domestic or family violence.”

A glaring omission when you consider the enormity of the problem and how much domestic and family violence contributes to the numbers of murdered Aboriginal women in our communities.

Nowhere in the editorial will you find the words, “perpetrator” or any information about known demographics associated to the killers.

A glaring omission when you consider the findings of the RCMP report clearly removes any doubt regarding who the perpetrators are.

The intent – justify calls for a National Inquiry by supporting the false narrative, promoting the conspiracy theory and ignoring known data.

Aboriginal Lives Matter

The inconvenient truth is Aboriginal people in our Country have largely been excluded from living the Canadian dream.  With over-representation in Missing & Murdered Women, Federal & Provincial Prisons and the Child Welfare System, the inconvenient truth can no longer be denied.

Those realities exist and don’t require the flaccid underpinnings of sensationalistic newspaper editors to make the case.

A National Inquiry will take a decade or more to conclude.

Aboriginal people simply can’t afford to wait another decade for someone to show some form of leadership regarding these issues.

The time for urgent change is now.

The time for action is now.

Meanwhile, back in Nelson House, a twenty-one (21) year old Aboriginal man is dead and his twenty (20) year old Aboriginal girlfriend / spouse stands charged in the killing.

Fifty-nine (59) words…

No story there.

#aboriginallivesmatter

#thetruthmatters

10 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing these great articles with all of your followers. You thoughts and observations are very much appreciated. Your writing displays words of wisdom and honesty.

  2. Deborah,

    Appreciate your comments and support.

    Sadly, the situation continues to be largely ignored.

  3. Thank you so much! Your clarity and honesty and integrity reminds me to have hope for the future. Please dont stop writing such great articles!

  4. I hope the inquiry will stop and listen to it’s own people. Like Joan Jack –
    http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/aboriginal-women-fear-their-own-kind-the-most-285701831.html

    And Ian McKinney- http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/women-and-girls-often-exploited-in-street-gangs-says-ex-member-1.2752780

    Addressing the concerns and life experiences of just these two people would save lives.

  5. Thank you Danyelle….

    Much appreciated.

  6. Dave…

    Thank you very much for sharing your observations and insightful opinions.

    These kind of comments make writing a rewarding experience…

    All the best…

  7. This is a well written excellent article, thank you.

    It’s extremely frustrating to see years of genuine relationship building be potentially jeopardized by unscrupulous reporters and journalists. This has become all too common in Canadian media.

    In my opinion, it’s nothing more than race bating, unfortunately, it’s what sells now in Canada.

    Most of the older media outlets are at the end of their growth phase, and many, in fact, are teetering on going under. This threatens reporting and journalistic standards, as many outlets will print anything to generate views- the more angry they get people, the more it will be read. It’s a downward spiral.

    It would be interesting to see the Winnipeg Free Press publicize it’s page clicks on their more provocative racialized articles vs. their articles regarding say, sports.

    I see what’s happening as symptoms of living in an apartheid state. Some refuse to believe that, while some believe it’s legislated, some say manufactured, i believe that in fact, it’s a bit of both. When the public finds themselves in a position where they constantly question and second guess the motives behind every arrest made by law enforcement or even the most benign decisions made government officials- it’s reflective of what’s top of mind, race.

    We need to create a true equality in this country. It would be very difficult, due to the different designations for Canadians under the Constitution. But it has to be done, or this country will continue down this road for decades to come, and it will only get worse.

    I want a country where we do not look suspiciously on the motives our media, our police and our government in relation to race.

    I would like to see a united and equal Canada.

  8. Hey Midtown…

    Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts, much appreciated.

  9. Great post! Rest assured, the Winnipeg Free Press is circling the drain and probably won’t survive. Currently trading on the TSX well below a dollar, and has lost 84% of its value since last year at this time (the TSX as a whole is down only 5.5% in the same period).

    Is it any wonder why the Winnipeg Free Press is in the red? Among many other issues, their editorial board and sociopolitical slant are so out of touch with most everyone in the province.

  10. Thank you. It’s amazing to me how many of these stories are never reported, intentionally..

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