EDITORIALS

No End in Sight for Indigenous Bloodletting – MMIWG in Death Throes

RCMP National Operational Review Report
RCMP National Operational Review Report (2014)

It’s hard to find a reason to be optimistic regarding the plight of Indigenous people in the City of Winnipeg.

The violence rages unabated with little hope or cure in sight.

Those who believed the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls was the path to change or healing have been given a stark reality check.

Reality bites.

There is no end in sight.

The City of Winnipeg

According to Statistics Canada, Indigenous people represent approximately 11 % of the population in the City of Winnipeg. As such, we have the largest representation of Indigenous people in all of North America.

It seems logical to use our City as a reference point of sorts.

WPS
Winnipeg Police Service (WPS)

In 2017, Indigenous people have been frightfully over-represented in the Cities homicide statistics as victims and perpetrators;

  • 54% of victims are identified as having Indigenous origin
  • 77% of perpetrators are identified as having Indigenous origin

2017 Statistics

  • 3 Indigenous women killed
  • 1 Indigenous woman, 5 Indigenous men and 1 non-Indigenous woman stands charged in the killings
  • All cases to date have been solved

In 2016, the pattern was consistent;

  • 58% of victims were identified as having Indigenous origin
  • 68% of perpetrators were identified as having Indigenous origin

2016 Statistics

  • 5 Indigenous women killed
  • 3 Indigenous women, 3 Indigenous men and 1 non-Indigenous man stands charged in the solved killings
  • 1 case remains unsolved (Marilyn Rose Munroe-41)

2015 Statistics

  • 3 Indigenous women killed
  • 3 Indigenous men charged in the killings

2014 Statistics

  • 7 Indigenous women killed
  • 4 Indigenous men charged, 1 Indigenous woman and two non-Indigenous men charged in the killings

The Pattern Emerges

These findings are entirely consistent with reported data from the RCMP that suggests upwards of 90% of Indigenous women are killed in domestic or family violence. In most cases the perpetrators are known to the victim.

In most cases the perpetrators are Indigenous men.

That’s a hard truth.

That’s an inconvenient truth.

It’s a truth that’s denied and widely ignored by Indigenous leaders, politicians and main stream media who continue to take the path of least resistance.

A Difficult Discussion

Earlier this month I read an article in the Winnipeg Free Press exploring a “new trend” in Winnipeg homicides.

The article drilled down on age demographics and an apparent trend that shows the age of victims and perpetrators getting younger.

The article correctly pointed out that four (4) youths have been charged in murder cases this year while none were charged in 2016.

The ethnic origin of the alleged offenders was not mentioned.

That struck me as odd given all four youths were of Indigenous origin.

No story there I assume.

An oversight or an issue intentionally avoided by the Editors?

While age demographics constitute a fairly innocuous, safe topic, race on the other hand isn’t so easy to write about.

Intentionally avoided no doubt.

Is race not relevant in the discussion?

The National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Women & Girls

The National Inquiry into Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls makes race relevant and gives us permission to talk about it.

It’s all about race so we shouldn’t be afraid to have an honest conversation about it.

The mission statement posted on the MMIWG website identifies three goals;

  • Finding the truth
  • Honouring the truth
  • Giving life to the truth as a path to healing

It’s all about truth.

The mandate of the Inquiry states;

“The Commissioners’ mandate is to examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors.”

The Inquiry got off to an extremely rocky start and almost immediately became a public relations nightmare.  Most of the problems seemed to arise from communication issues or lack of consultation and inclusion.

It wasn’t hard to see that coming.

Inquiry Commissioner Marilyn Poitras recently rocked the Inquiry with her abrupt departure and letter of resignation.

MMIWG
Marilyn Poitras’ (MMIWG)

Poitras apparently lost faith in the “status quo colonial model of hearings.”

There have been several other defections.

Executive Director Michele Moreau and four critical staffers all recently departed from the ranks of the ill-fated Inquiry.

It seems Poitras was most upset by the lack of emphasis put on the “resiliency piece that no one is talking about.”

I’m not sure what the “resiliency” of Indigenous people has to do with determining the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations stressed the work of the Inquiry must go forward;

“We want to make sure that the families and the individuals affected by missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have a chance to tell their stories.”

I’m equally confused as to what “story-telling” has to do with determining the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Unless I’m incorrect, the MMIWG was never intended to be a TRC 2.0., at least that’s not what the mandate says.

Don’t get me wrong.

The families of the missing & murdered must be respected and given an opportunity to be heard, to tell their stories and to honour the memory of their loved ones.

It’s a critically important part of the healing process.

In the world of criminal justice we call that process the “victim impact statement,” an opportunity for family members to honour the victim and articulate how their loss has impacted them and their family.

Victim impact statements are read by victims or court support workers in a court of law after, and only after, an offender has been arrested, tried and convicted of a heinous crime, like, for example, the killing of an Indigenous woman or girl.

It’s the police who make that happen by relentlessly pursuing justice for the victims and laying charges against their alleged killers.

The Winnipeg Police Service makes “that” happen with great frequency.

The WPS Homicide Unit solves 9 out of every 10 homicides and has achieved 100% solvency rates in 1999, 2000, 2004 and 2014.

In case you missed it, they’re functioning at a 100% solvency rate so far this year.

If you do the research you will see Indigenous victims were significantly represented in many of the solved cases.

(That doesn’t stop the news media or Indigenous activists from attempting to sell the narrative police are racist and don’t put the same investigative effort into solving violent crimes involving Indigenous victims.)

It’s the police who interrogate the killers and extract information regarding motive and the circumstances surrounding the killing.

RCMP National Operational Review Report
RCMP National Operational Review Report (2014)

When police solve these crimes they’re able to develop a deep understanding of the factors that contribute to offending behaviour and victimization. The RCMP were kind enough to release that information in a National Operational Review Report that identified risk factors associated with victimization.

Domestic and family violence was a predominant theme.

The RCMP were accused of victim blaming for enlightening the affected community.

Inquiry Dying a Slow, Painful Death

While the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett remains remarkably optimistic, its clear, the Inquiry is on life support.

Dennis Ward (APTN - Twitter)
Dennis Ward (APTN – Twitter)

The ill fated probe has already failed on many fronts considering the affected group has already become largely disenfranchised.

A few hours after Poitras resigned the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA), which had intervenor status at the inquiry, sent a letter to the remaining commissioners withdrawing their support.

The Coalition of Manitoba Relatives of Missing and Murdered Women have demanded the resignation of the remaining MMIWG commissioners.

Its difficult to see a path forward.

In truth, the inquiry was an ill conceived, politically motivated undertaking from the start.  The Liberal Party of Canada, led by Justin Trudeau, dangled the Inquiry like a carrot and used it as a wedge to wrest power from the Conservative Party in their bid to win the last Federal election.

Political parties pulling on the emotional strings of their constituents during an election year is not news, all of them play the game.

Its an old trick and it often works.

As the fog lifts, those opposed to a National Strategy, Task Force and Action Plan are finally starting to see the light. The process would not take years to complete and could result in timely strategies and programs to reduce victimizaiton.

I doubt it would cost $100,000,000 dollars.

A Confused Mandate

MMIWG Commissioners (CBC)

“The Commissioners’ mandate is to examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors.”

To examine and report on systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls and to look for patterns and underlying factors…

(The mandate seems similar to the crime analysis function, a skill set possessed by highly trained and experienced people who work in the Law Enforcement industry.)

While the mandate is clear it seems to have become confused somewhere along the way;

  • Is it about recognizing the resilience of Canada’s Indigenous people?
  • Is it about giving survivors an opportunity to tell stories to honour the victims?
  • Is it about re-examining the effects of colonialism or residential schools?
  • Or is it about blaming Law Enforcement for racism and race based investigative indifference?

Bennett places confronting racism and sexism in policing as one of her top priorities.

Bellegrade is on the record stating “fingers will be pointed” at police during the inquiry.

Pamela Palmater – (Lawyer, Professor, Member of Eel River Bar 1st Nation, Activistplaces police in the perpetrator category;

“A national inquiry that investigates the impunity of sexualized violence by police would not just save Indigenous women and girls from further harm, but make us all safer.”

For some, the police are the enemy in all of this.

I doubt Bennett, Bellegarde or Palmater have any idea how much sacrifice and effort goes into the investigation of a homicide case. What its like to work the First48, to suffer from sleep deprivation, stress or the negative impacts on family, health and nutrition.

I doubt they have a clue how much time police in Winnipeg spend investigating, counselling, supporting, comforting or being champions for Indigenous victims of crime, an ethnic group grossly over-represented as victims in the criminal landscape of our City.

They just don’t know.

Reducing Victimization

RCMP National Operational Review Report (Motive)
RCMP National Operational Review Report (Offender Motive)

Victimization risk factors have been well documented and include;

  • High Risk Lifestyle
  • Addiction issues – drugs, alcohol, non-potables
  • Involvement in the sex trade
  • Transient Lifestyle
  • Street gang participation
  • Involvement in criminal activity
  • Hitchhiking

(Domestic and family violence continues to be the number one cause of death.)

These issues must be addressed to reduce victimization.

The fifty plus million already spent on the doomed MMIWG would have gone a long way to combat some of these social ills.

That’s the truth.


Related

The Police Insider – WFP Puts Blindfold on Moose in the Living-room

CBC – “Marilyn Poitras on why she resigned as MMIWG commissioner and her hopes for change.”

*Note – The CBC story linked above was published Sunday, July 16, 2017 on the CBC website.  In her interview Poitras confirms and gives credence to many of the issues identified in our editorial piece. The mandate is confused, the commission divided, the Inquiry appears to be an exercise in futility.


National Strategy, Task Force & Action Plan

Protocols;

  • Engage and consult with all First Nations across the Country.
  • Enlist the assistance of local Indigenous leaders and support workers with the information gathering process.
  • Identify and interview all victims, affected families and stakeholders.
  • Ensure their stories are heard, honoured, documented and analyzed.
  • Ensure the process is inclusive, culturally sensitive and cathartic.
  • Establish protocols and standardized digital formats for information gathering and reporting.
  • Adopt an investigative component with an interface with Law Enforcement to ensure comprehensive and accurate reporting.
  • Conduct in-depth analysis and identify all systemic causes and forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls by looking at patterns and underlying factors. (Inquiry mandate)
  • Establish a Task Force with broad representation.
  • Develop and execute an action plan.

The noted components are not comprehensive but the possibilities are virtually endless.

One Comment

  1. Michael Melanson

    The ideological imperative to blame ‘settler/colonial’ society and police above all was apparent from the start but what happens if this farce of an inquiry runs its predictable course? Misplaced recriminations will make police investigations even more difficult; the general public will become even more cynical and indifferent; and the usual cohort of activists will march onwards to futility freshly reinvigorated by a grand echo chamber. And more people will die because too many refuse to see the moose in the room.

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