It is a remarkable number, higher than any previous estimate and confirmation that aboriginal women are far more likely to die or disappear in Canada than their non-aboriginal counterparts.
If 600 missing and murdered women didn’t trigger a national inquiry, it’s not clear the new RCMP figure that’s nearly double that will.
But if it does, what would an inquiry do, exactly? The RCMP report suggests just how huge any national investigation into missing and murdered women would need to be.
The gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal victims is vast and chilling. Aboriginal victims are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to have been on drugs or alcohol, more likely to be sexually assaulted during the course of their murder. They are more likely to be killed by an acquaintance — a friend, neighbour, a criminal associate — than by a husband or partner. Aboriginal women are twice as likely to be beaten to death, a particularly intimate and angry kind of murder, and their bodies are twice as likely to be dumped in an open area, as we’ve seen in Winnipeg.
Why this is, how aboriginal women exist on the margins and are seen as disposable, is the question RCMP left unanswered today, one their mandate as crime-solvers doesn’t allow them to consider. But it’s the one question any national inquiry would be obliged to tackle if it is to have any legitimacy among indigenous people and the families of the 1,181 missing and murdered women.
"I don’t want to be looking at 1,181 30-years from now," said Superintendent Tyler Bates, the RCMP’s director of national aboriginal policing, who spoke at length about the need for police to prevent violence against indigenous women
National inquiries are relatively rare. In recent years, there have been inquiries to consider the future of health care, to delve into the Liberal sponsorship scandal and review the tainted blood tragedy.