The #MMIW Smokescreen – Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

RCMP National Operational Review Report – Cover

The calls for a #MMIW (Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women) National Inquiry continues to evolve.

Last week, Winnipeg City Council unanimously passed a motion in support of those calls.  Councillor Jeff Browaty was the only member of Council to vote against the motion.

In explanation, Browaty stressed City Councillors, “Don’t have enough background on this subject to understand whether the investment in an inquiry is necessary when many previous reports have looked at the same issue,” he said.

I give Browaty credit.

He refuses to jump on the politically correct band wagon in favour of a more intelligent, thoughtful approach.

So why is he standing alone on the issue?

Browaty stands alone because his compatriots made a choice.  They made the choice to intellectually resign from the issue and follow the path of least resistance.  After all, isn’t that the safest, least controversial position to take.  In fairness, some politicians may simply lack the background, experience and analytical ability to look at the situation and see it for what it really is as Browaty suggests.

That’s because main stream media continues to perpetuate the manufactured script.

Case in point.

Winnipeg Free Press journalist Gordon Sinclair Jr recently wrote a touching piece on fifteen (15) year old murder victim Tina Fontaine that typifies how media can influence public perception.

“In death, Tina Fontaine has become the face of the call for an inquiry into Canada’s murdered and missing aboriginal girls and women,” Sinclair writes.

If Gordon Sinclair Jr writes it, and the Winnipeg Free Press prints it, the consumer tends to accept the statement as fact and not subject it to any further scrutiny.

I’m not suggesting what Sinclair wrote wasn’t accurate because it seems the script has changed.  It seems Tina Fontaine has become the face for calls in favour of a National Inquiry.

What I’m suggesting is, just because main stream media prints it doesn’t mean we have to turn off our collective brains and not conduct our own independent analysis.

Should Tina Fontaine really be the face for calls for a National Inquiry?

According to the National Review Report recently published by the RCMP only 8% of Indigenous women are murdered by a stranger.

The same report indicates approximately 90% of Indigenous women are killed as a result of domestic or family violence.  The killers have been identified as spouses, common-law husbands, boyfriends, family members, acquaintances or someone with whom they had some form of intimate relationship.

That’s correct, 90% of all Indigenous female victims of homicide knew their killer.

Almost 90% of the killers are men.

Jenna Marsden (Facebook)
Jenna Marsden (Facebook)

On September 21st, 2014, Jenna Marsden (27) was brutally murdered by her common-law husband Erwin Spence (25) during an incident of domestic violence.  Spence has been charged with 2nd degree murder and sits in custody.

Police indicate Marsden’s two young children may have witnessed the attack.

How is it that Jenna Marsden hasn’t become the face for calls for a National Inquiry?

Why hasn’t Jenna Marsden’s horrific killing attracted National media attention?

Jenna Marsden’s manner of death represents the 90% of Indigenous women who are grossly over-represented in Canadian homicide statistics yet Tina Fontaine’s case is being used to justify calls for a National Inquiry when her manner of death only represents 8% of Indigenous female murder victims.

(Assuming she was killed by a stranger.) 

If we could prevent 90% of the killings of Indigenous women in this Country would we even be having this conversation?

Does any of this make sense?

Yes, sadly, it makes perfect sense.

As an unsolved murder case, Tina Fontaine’s killing provides pro-inquiry supporters the one thing they seem to need to justify their calls…..a mystery.

The murders of Indigenous women in Canada are being pitched as a National mystery or something we simply don’t have the ability to comprehend.

The man leading the charge at City Hall seems to have bought into that script.

In a recent CBC interview Winnipeg City Councillor Dan Vandal said“There’s a horrible phenomenon going on in Canada and we have to do all things necessary to try to affect change in a positive way.” 

While I respect Mr Vandal I question his conclusion.

A phenomenon is a, “fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, especially one whose cause or explanation is in question.” (Oxford Dictionary)

If we really want to have an honest conversation, doesn’t that conversation have to start with an admission that Indigenous women in Canada are not being killed because of “a horrible phenomenon.”

Stop Domestic Violence

They’re being killed because of domestic and family violence.

The causes of domestic and family violence have been studied for decades and many are known.  Causes like drug and alcohol abuse, addiction, low self-esteem, extreme jealousy, anger, lack of emotional control and others.

Studies suggest domestic violence is a learned behaviour, that children who witness domestic violence or who are victims of violence are prone to use violence in conflict resolution.

Children like the innocents who recently watched their mother being beaten to death on September 21st.

It’s called the cycle of violence.

Where is the outrage for Jenna Marsden and all the other Indigenous women like her who we continue to lose to domestic violence?

The killing of Tina Fontaine sickens me and I pray for her killer to be caught and brought to justice but should she really be the face for calls for a National Inquiry?

It’s no mystery why Tina Fontaine’s case has attracted National attention.  The investigation is full of intrigue, mystery and controversy.  The murder of a vulnerable fifteen (15) year old girl has the ability to evoke tremendous emotional outrage and anger from the community.

Contrast her killing to the not so sensational domestic violence murder of Jenna Marsden.

It’s time for pro-inquiry supporters to look at the big picture, be honest and admit we know far too much about the killing of Indigenous women to justify calls for a National Inquiry.

That knowledge should be immediately incorporated into a National Strategy, Task Force and an Action Plan.

Let’s all take a step back and let the WPS Homicide Unit worry about solving the Tina Fontaine murder case.

In the meantime, the rest of the Country should start worrying about taking the measures needed to curb domestic and family violence.

That’s how we start reducing the victimization.



The Police Insider – “Calls for National Inquiry Built on Weak Foundation – RCMP Report Stats Misinterpreted by Manitoba Aboriginal Leadership” 


  1. Violence never begins with murder. We need to explore the roots of it and replace them with roots of compassion and empathy. The dramas played out in the lives of individual human beings are set on a social stage.

  2. Great article James, as usual.
    I am mystified by the insistence of leaders within our community to expend resources on answers that are already known.
    The facts are as you laid out. Quite well I may add. There is a high level of domestic violence suffered by aboriginal women which compounds the emotions of lack of self-worth for the younger generations. This festers within families and the community at large. This in-turn creates the circumstances which lead young aboriginal women to live the high-risk lifestyles found in the unsolved murdered 8%.
    We, as a community seem to be reluctant to attack the root causes of the topic. I ask myself, why? Is it based on a fear to address the true issues plaguing the aboriginal community? Does this cause some level of embarrassment? Is this a matter of misguided pride? I hope not. There is no room for it.
    Advocates of the call for an inquiry seem intent to reach one outcome, and one outcome only… Systemic Failures. I feel that even if an inquiry is called they would not be satisfied with the results of the inquiry unless one verdict and one verdict only is identified… Systemic Failures. That’s where the money is, and that’s where people can feel better about themselves while saving face. “Look it’s not us… it was ‘the system”. Frankly, it’s disgusting. The goal should be to better the quality of life of the aboriginal community, and to prevent the brutal murder of women.
    The leaders need to lead and tackle the major social issues, in order to put an end to these high-risk lifestyle-related murders. Life-styles need to be changed within the home.
    Without addressing the issues which cause the murders like that of Jenna Marsden, the remaining 8% will always be there.

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