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This article was published 11/4/2015 (1653 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — NDP aboriginal affairs critic Niki Ashton says if most murdered aboriginal women are killed by aboriginal men, that bolsters calls for a national inquiry to find out why.
Ashton was responding Friday to a letter from RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to an Alberta chief, which confirmed 70 per cent of the solved cases of murdered aboriginal women documented in an RCMP study had an aboriginal man as the perpetrator.
Paulson's letter to Grand Chief Bernice Martial of Treaty No. 6 in Alberta comes a few weeks after Martial and two other chiefs challenged the statistic when it was delivered to them during a meeting with Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt. Valcourt told the chiefs the figure came from unreleased RCMP data.
Initially, the RCMP refused to confirm the statistic citing a "bias-free policing policy" that prevented it from releasing any data on the ethnicity of offenders.
However, in his letter to Martial sent April 7, Paulson said Valcourt was correct about the 70 per cent, but also said discussing the ethnic origin of offenders is counterproductive and damaging.
"Public discourse on the ethnicity of the offender has the potential to stigmatize and marginalize vulnerable populations," Paulson wrote.
The data comes from a May 2014 report from the RCMP on missing and murdered aboriginal women, which documented 1,181 cases in Canada between 1980 and 2012. An updated report is expected next month outlining progress made on investigations since the first report was released.
Paulson said consolidated information from almost 300 police agencies that contributed to the report does show 70 per cent of offenders were aboriginal, 25 per cent were non-aboriginal and the remaining five per cent were of unknown ethnicity.
Paulson said, however, that's not the statistic the RCMP want to focus on.
"It is not the ethnicity of the offender that is relevant, but rather the relationship between victim and offender that guides our focus with respect to prevention," he wrote.
The data show aboriginal women were killed by a spouse, family member or intimate relation in 62 per cent of the cases compared with 74 per cent for non-aboriginal women.
Ashton said the government is trying to use the data to wash its hands of the problem and punt it back to First Nations to solve on their own.
"They are trying to remove any responsibility they have for actively marginalizing aboriginal women and men," said Ashton.
But she said she also would like Paulson to explain if he was bending to the government in choosing to release the numbers.
"Why did they choose to go against their policy?" she asked.
She wondered if the government pressured the RCMP to produce the statistic since Valcourt was facing political pressure — including calls for his resignation.
The RCMP did not respond to a Free Press request for an interview Friday.
Valcourt's office directed questions to Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch, who said in an emailed statement from her spokesman everyone has a role to play to solve the problem and listed initiatives of the government, including an action plan to address violence against aboriginal women.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde demanded the RCMP and Valcourt release all the information they have to First Nations.
"That the minister of aboriginal affairs is withholding important information and, worse, is using it against First Nations defies logic and the department's fiduciary duty," he said in a release.
"Blaming the victim is no longer an option. The federal government must recognize the root causes of poverty and work with us to address the poor conditions and lack of supports that our people endure every day, including action to support men's healing programs."