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Canada's Missing Aboriginal Women In 2014 Is 'Much More Than A Crime'

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Scores of aboriginal women are still missing in Canada in 2014 — cases that are likely to haunt this nation for years and decades ahead.

Below are just a handful of the aboriginal women who are still missing. They are all-too-often on the short end of the media glare, despite being over-represented among Canada's missing and murdered women.

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This list is far from authoritative. Therein lies the tragedy. Besides grassroots organizations, there are scant government resources dedicated to missing aboriginal women.

According to the Native Women's Association of Canada, there are no federally funded data sources for missing aboriginal women in Canada.

The Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police stands among the few jurisdictions to publish statistics on missing persons. Its latest report is tragically telling — 59 per cent of missing women and girls are of aboriginal ancestry.

That's because violence against aboriginal women is so much more than a crime, explains Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

"It is the outcome of systemic racism that devalues the lives of aboriginal women in this country," he says. "Living with violence, or in fear of violence, is in opposition to the fundamental conditions and resources necessary to achieve optimal health and, as such, is much more than just a crime."

Violence against aboriginal women is the wage of social, economic and yes, political systems, Culbert argues. And as such, it is preventable.

But looking at some 1,200 cases of missing and murdered women in Canada recorded by the RCMP in the last three decades, you wouldn't know it.

It will take much more than data to redress the situation, says Culbert.

"The time for drawing attention to the plight of aboriginal women is long past," he notes. "What’s needed is concrete action to change the conditions which foster both the violence against aboriginal women and the antipathy of non-aboriginal society."

Indeed, he points out, there have already been scores of studies — and resulting recommendations.

"But is anything actually being done?" he asks. "There is no record of the implementation of these recommendations, nor their impact in remediating the situation. Now is the time to take action on these recommendations, with the full participation of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples."

Not exactly the sentiment espoused by Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier this year.

In September, he effectively dashed hopes Ottawa might muster resources for the plight of missing aboriginal women.

"They're not all one phenomenon," he told reporters in late August, rebuffing calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

"We should not view this as sociological phenomenon. We should view it as a crime. It is a crime against innocent people. It should be addressed as such."

If violence against aboriginal women is indeed no more than a crime, as Harper suggests, then it is an ongoing crime — with a very defined target.

“I think it’s clear that if the population of non-indigenous women were as victimized as the population of indigenous women were victimized," Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, told the Ottawa Citizen earlier this year. "I think it would be an easy call to decide that we need to do something about this."

If you have information on any of these cases, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477).

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