OTTAWA — Aboriginal Canadians were nearly three times as likely to experience sexual assault in 2014 as their non-aboriginal counterparts, a new report from Statistics Canada suggests.
The report released Tuesday, entitled "Victimization of Aboriginal People in Canada," found 58 incidents of sexual assault out of every 1,000 respondents, compared with 20 incidents per 1,000 non-aboriginal people.
It also found nine per cent of respondents reported experiencing spousal violence that year, more than twice the rate of four per cent in the non-indigenous population.
The overall rate of violent victimization for indigenous females was twice that of indigenous males — 220 violent incidents per 1,000 women, although that rate is significantly lower than the 319 incidents per 1,000 women in 2004.
The difference, however, is even more dramatic when compared with non-indigenous Canadians: 81 incidents for every 1,000 men and 66 per 1,000 women.
"Indigenous women and girls' lives matter and they are just as important as anybody else in this country."
Irvin Waller, a professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, said the latest survey provides new data that's never been collected before.
"The good news is that the report asked (a lot) of questions that were never asked before…about homelessness, mental illness (and) about child abuse," Waller said.
The numbers make it clear that "these very large differences of victimization rates between indigenous and non-indigenous are associated with the reality that the indigenous population has many more well known risk factors," he added.
The report also found that 28 per cent of aboriginal respondents — about 275,000 people aged 15 or older — reported being victims of crime in 2014, down from 38 per cent in 2009.
It compiled statistics on eight specific types of crime: sexual assault, robbery, physical assault, theft of personal, motor vehicle or household property, breaking and entering and vandalism.
"We keep getting stats and more stats that continue to tell us about the issue, but we have to ask ourselves what's being done about the issue."
The higher rates of victimization were related to risk factors such as childhood maltreatment, perceiving social disorder in one's neighbourhood, homelessness, substance abuse and poor mental health, the report said. It also cited being aboriginal as a factor in the victimization of indigenous women.
Violence against indigenous women is a crisis in Canada and not enough is being done, said Lisa Monchalin, author and criminology professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C.
"We keep getting stats and more stats that continue to tell us about the issue, but we have to ask ourselves what's being done about the issue," Monchalin said.
Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said it's high time society started looking at indigenous women and girls as equals.
"Indigenous women and girls' lives matter and they are just as important as anybody else in this country," Bellegarde said.
Society as a whole needs to...start viewing (indigenous) women in a positive light and not...only there to be abused, taken advantage of and exploited."
The 2014 report surveyed 33,127 respondents from provinces across Canada and 2,040 in the territories.
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