'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

Sexual harassment in the RCMP and the failure to catch a serial killer

This page is a continuation of the post on this blog entitled "Sexual harassment in the RCMP and the failure to catch a serial killer". I have placed follow up news articles to that post in the comments sections on the original page. However, I am unable to add more than 200 comments to each post on this blog, and this particular news story is an ongoing extremely important story. There are ongoing and future lawsuits, investigations and inquiries related to both major elements of this story: 1) missing and murdered women, mostly Indigenous, who have been failed by Canadian police forces, including Canada's iconic Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP); 2) sexism and sexual harassment within the RCMP that hindered their investigation into a serial killer responsible for dozens of murders of vulnerable women, and prompted several lawsuits by mostly female RCMP officers complaining of intimidation and abuse of authority.

I will post further follow-up news articles related to those two issues in the comments section below.


  1. RCMP questions claim of 600 missing aboriginal women

    CBC News February 16, 2013

    The RCMP is questioning the oft-cited claim by an aboriginal group and some federal politicians that about 600 aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada.

    On today's edition of CBC Radio's The House, host Evan Solomon says that when he contacted the RCMP to confirm that there are 580 cases of aboriginal women who were either missing or killed in the country, the force said it wasn't aware of about 500 of them.

    The question of exactly how many aboriginal women are missing or killed in Canada comes during a week that included the Annual Day of Justice for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women on Friday, and a debate in the House of Commons that included a Liberal proposal to strike a special committee to investigate the issue. This week also sawa report from New York-based Human Rights Watch that accused the RCMP in British Columbia of abusive acts, including rape, against aboriginal women.

    The number 600 — used repeatedly in the House of Commons this week — comes from the Native Women's Association of Canada. In 2005, they began a program called Sisters in Spirit — a five-year research, education and policy initiative funded by Status of Women Canada – to collect data and examine the causes of the missing and killed Aboriginal women and girls. They say they documented 580 aboriginal women and girls across Canada as either disappeared or dead. That number counts cases until 2010, the year their funding was not renewed.

    But spokeswoman Sgt. Julie Gagnon said in an email that the Sisters in Spirit have shared the names of 118 alleged victims with the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing Services.

    Sixty-four of the 118 names were confirmed to be in a police database, while 54 could not be confirmed.

    "The RCMP is concerned with the over 500 possible victims from the Sisters in Spirit database that have not been shared," she said.

    The RCMP said they investigate all cases of missing and killed people regardless of sex, ethnicity, background or lifestyle and run special programs to investigate the aboriginal women file.

    The Native Women's Association of Canada did not reply to a request for an interview.


  2. On the front line in the old war against sexual assault

    Somewhere along the line — maybe always — women stopped trusting the male-dominated police to investigate and help bring such cases to court

    By Nahlah Ayed, CBC February 19, 2013

    The primary targets: throat, eyes and groin. After that, it’s the ears and the nose. "Whatever you do has to end the fight," counsels the taekwondo master.

    The abbreviated prescription for swift self-defence is dispensed matter-of-factly by Ramy Jerair Latchinian at an exercise studio in the upscale Cairo neighbourhood of Maadi.

    His techniques could help his female students win individual battles against sexual assault. But theirs is a full-scale war, fought daily on the streets — and lately, at almost every political protest against the government.

    "Sexual harassment has always existed in this society," says Zainab Sabet, an activist and a member of Tahrir Bodyguard, a fledgling anti-harassment group that organized the session.

    "But what's happening now is more of a political thing. I wouldn't call it even sexual harassment. I think it's sexual violence against women. It's very well-organized and it's done to really stop women from going and protesting."

    The shocking attacks, occasionally caught on camera, show large groups of men swarming a single female, taking her clothes off, groping and even raping her.

    They have become so commonplace — and the angry reaction to them so vocal — that they've caught the attention and invited the wrath of everyone from Amnesty International to the United Nations.

    They've also served to highlight the root problem of everyday sexual assault and harassment here, and to push young women to fight against it in the open.

    One of the world's oldest wars is flaring up in conservative societies like Egypt's. The front lines in the battle against sexual assault are now in places like Cairo and Delhi, where the attacks are common and increasingly violent, and resistance to ending it seems equally fierce.

    Both cities were recently outraged by singular incidents that highlighted a buried problem. And the similarities in Cairo and in Delhi — both places I had the chance to visit recently and discuss the subject — are breathtaking.

    Women feel they are considered fair game: harassed, groped, assaulted in public — even raped — with near impunity. In both places, women are still seen as having a role in society that is second to a man's, and one that is still intertwined with a family's honour.

    "These traditional views of what a woman's role should be are currently being challenged in a changing world," says Eba'a El-Tamami of Harassmap, an Egyptian organization whose research into sexual violence is supported by the Canadian International Development Research Centre.

    Increasingly in both places, women are joining the workforce and reaching beyond those traditional expectations.

    That may be one explanation of what must be a multitude of reasons for such appalling behaviour.

    But the bottom line, El-Tamami and other experts in both places tell me, is that somehow, at some point, sexual harassment became socially acceptable.

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  3. The only thing more shocking than the 2008 Egyptian Centre of Women's Rights' survey indicating that 83 per cent of local women and 98 per cent of foreign women experienced harassment in Egypt is the 62 per cent of male respondents who admitted they did it.

    Somehow, at some point, it also became OK to witness harassment in public and do nothing about it. When it happened, it became the norm to blame women, what they wear — or what they don't. As a "shameful" occurrence, it also became the norm for family, spouses, society, even the perpetrators, to expect women to keep their mouths shut.

    Somehow, women were adjusting their own behavior to avoid harassment. In Delhi, for example, they structured their entire day around getting home at a certain time to avoid being alone with men in the underground metro. In Cairo, they stayed home or close to home at all times to avoid groping on the street.

    And somewhere along the line — maybe always — women stopped trusting the male-dominated police in both places to investigate and help bring such cases to court.

    In both cities, examples were cited of complainants either being dismissed or ignored, and perhaps even harassed further by members of the police.

    Young Egyptian and Indian women have grown weary of waiting for the state to do something, and in the face of recent shocking incidents they’re acting on their own — whether through protests, raising awareness or direct action.

    In Egypt, Tahrir Bodyguard is just one of several groups that have banded together to form Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, a growing team of men and women who have formed a kind of hardcore swat team that will intervene in the mob sexual assaults in Tahrir Square protests and retrieve the victim and get her to safety.

    A key member of that coalition is also Harassmap, whose army of volunteers have long been on the front lines using other approaches, working in their own communities for example to destroy myths and establish safe spaces for women to seek shelter in case of emergency.

    "When someone tells us [harassment happens] because of what she wears, or it’s only unveiled women who wear tight clothes who get harassed, you say actually, 'No,' " says El-Tamami.

    "Veiled women get harassed, old women get harassed, young women get harassed, all women of all ages and social classes."

    After decades of activism produced only incremental progress, today's youthful fightback seems to be working.

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  4. It took a while, but the outcry in India over the rape and murder of a university student in December yielded some results: a new court to expedite cases of sexual assault and a new law this month that toughens penalties.

    In Cairo, as in Delhi, the sustained work of many activists has made sexual assault the subject of numerous recent Egyptian television shows and newspaper editorials. Prime Minister Hisham Qandil is promising to deliver a new law soon on sexual harassment and assault that would impose harsher punishment.

    There have also been big setbacks. In a comment that isn't the first of its kind, a cleric said on television this month that women who go to Tahrir Square to protest go because they want to get raped.

    Even worse, several members of the human rights committee of Egypt’s upper house who had been looking at sexual assault blamed women last week.

    The woman is to blame "when she chooses to protest in places filled with thugs," said one member, adding women bring on rape when they put themselves in a position that "makes them subject to rape."

    "They are completely relieving the Ministry of the Interior of protecting the people and blaming the women," says Rana Allam, managing editor of the English Daily News Egypt. "They're saying, 'Let's put women in their homes and stay there, and shut up.' "

    Such comments just seem to motivate youthful activists. Groups say a growing number of young women — and men — are signing up to combat the problem on the streets and at protests alike.

    Others fight back by returning to protests time and again despite the danger. But they now come prepared, some carrying a stun-gun-like weapon, for example, or a simple knife.

    The volunteer instructors at the Maadi class counsel women against carrying weapons because they can be used again them.

    Patricia Stein, a transplanted American who has practised taekwondo for years, says it's more about how women carry themselves.

    One night, she herself managed to grab one assailant by his throat and hit him in the eye after he groped her on a Maadi street.

    "They don’t expect you to fight back, they're so shocked that they just run," she said.

    "Half the battle is knowing how to carry yourself. If you're able to stand tall and walk like you know how to do anything … it could possibly save you."

    The students were appreciative, though some felt two hours was hardly enough to master the moves.

    "Actually I have been looking for such a course for a long time, even before the revolution, because it's not safe to walk anymore," said Rania Muhammed.

    "Now when I'm walking and I feel steps behind me, I move to the other side of the road. It's not safe anymore, society is changing a lot."

    It certainly is. And as in the revolution itself, it's the youth who are bent on changing it again.


  5. Angels Story: Trapped in a Violent World

    Brutal forces 'funnel' some aboriginal women into prostitution, say advocates who oppose legalization. A multimedia report.

    By Krystle Alarcon and Sam Eifling March 4, 2013

    Angel Gates has been trying to exit prostitution ever since she was "turned out" at the age of 11 in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Money issues, addictions and lack of support services have held her back from escaping.

    She's not alone. The harsh realities of what women like Gates go through have caused national aboriginal women's groups to take a stance against calls to legalize prostitution, saying what's needed instead is a commitment to creating alternatives for women facing brutal pressures to become, and remain, sex workers.

    Gates says she was "tied up, blindfolded and gagged," on her first day at the Balmoral Hotel on East Hastings.

    She does not blame her mother, a former prostitute herself, for forcing her to turn her first trick to pay for her own addictions.

    "She did the best she could with the tools she was given. I know that. I miss her a lot," Gates says. Despite (or perhaps in spite of) all the traumas Gates has been through, including losing custody of her children and having to kill a john in self-defence, she walks around with eyes on the back of her head. She's the type who can hear two conversations at once and does not take well to pity. (Gates shares more of her views and story in the video at the top of this article.)

    Her mother's picture now hangs in her aunt Bernie Williams' community space, The Sacred Circle, as part of a collection of missing and murdered aboriginal women in the Downtown Eastside.

    'It breaks my heart'

    Gates and Williams hail from the Haida nation of northern B.C. Williams has been begging Gates to stop ever since she found out she was prostituting. "I understand why, you know, why you've ended up down here. It breaks my heart every time I see you," Williams says to Angel.

    "I just look at these pictures and I hope to God I never have to carry you."

    Williams has been advocating for an end to prostitution for three decades now -- her fire has never been quelled since her two sisters and mother are among the missing and murdered First Nations women in the Downtown Eastside.

    That burning yearning for justice kindled a strength in her to walk hundreds of miles with other aboriginal women to bring attention to the missing and murdered women. They trekked along the so-called "Highway of Tears" in 2009, from Kamloops to Winnipeg in 2010, and from Vancouver to Parliament Hill in 2011. Williams co-founded the Walk4Justice marches withGladys Radek, a Gitxsan/Wet'suwet'en woman.

    Williams believes social forces such as poverty, residential schools and the lingering effects of colonization have funneled aboriginal women into prostitution. "These are women who have been so well entrenched in violence that they think this is all they are worth," she says. "They didn't end up down here just because they wanted to get away (from home), no."

    Roots of exploitation

    According to a report in 2005 of prostitution in Vancouver, 52 per cent out of a sample of 100 people interviewed identified themselves as aboriginal (First Nations, Metis or Inuit). A startling link may be drawn with childhood abuse: 96 per cent said they were sexually abused, 81 per cent said they were physically abused as minors.

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  6. A separate study on trafficked and prostituted aboriginal youth in the Downtown Eastside connected Canada's historic residential schools to prostitution. "The impact of the residential schools is illustrated by harmful behaviours adopted by many of the survivors like alcoholism, compulsive gambling, substance abuse, and high incidences of sexual problems including sexual abuse and incest. These intergenerational effects of trauma leech outward from the victims to touch all the people surrounding them, like parents, spouses, children and friends," the report states.

    Robyn Bourgeois, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto whose forthcoming dissertation is titled Pathways of Resistance: The Politics of Addressing Violence Against Aboriginal Women and Girls in Canada, 1980-2010, agrees with this systemic analysis of prostitution. In her research, she found that the prostitution of aboriginal women was used as a means to prevent mixed marriages with western men, to enforce residential schools, to facilitate the widespread removal of children from aboriginal families into the child welfare system -- the so-called "sixties scoop."

    "It is one of those systems of oppression that has been used to establish the inferiority of aboriginal women in particular in order to justify colonialism again and again and again. And it slips really nicely with that language that aboriginal women are dirty, promiscuous easy 'squaws,' right?"

    'Scared to death'

    Bourgeois, who is Lubicon Cree, is also a former prostitute, trafficked by one of those "boyfriend" types of pimps. Although she only prostituted for a few years, the experience scarred her for life.

    In an interview with The Tyee, she recalled the first day she was forced to prostitute in Vancouver. Her pimp took her to a hotel, where they "were daydreaming about how beautiful it was." He then invited her to a nice stroll in the park, by the dock. There, he forced her head underwater.

    "I was freaked out of my mind and scared to death and I knew what was going on. But you take these drugs and you take a drink and you can forget that. You do what you have to do," she laments.

    Bourgeois was 18 at the time. Ten years later, she is releasing her PhD dissertation on violence against aboriginal women and girls in Canada. She knows her privileges and "pledged every ounce of it to ending this violence," she says in a blog interview.

    Like Williams, Bourgeois also sees family as the only way out of prostitution right now. "It was family who had resources who were able to help me," Bourgeois says. "Either you have somebody in your family who really loves and cares about you, or you go out in a pine box and that's it," Williams echoes.

    State responsibility

    The personal has become political for First Nations women such as Gates, Williams and Bourgeois. They strongly oppose the current cases launched in Ontario and B.C. to legalize brothels, pimping, street transactions of prostitution and to make sex work a constitutional right. These cases are better known as the Bedford case and the Sex Workers United Against Violence v. Canada case.

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  7. Gates does not agree with the legalization of the whole sex industry, but also thinks that prostitutes should not be criminalized. "Men go to john school and women go to jail. I think they should fix it so the women are safer. Legalizing only puts little kids out on the street and makes it okay. We don't come into prostitution by accident. We're made this way. It's some form of pain that you put there in the first place, usually sex crimes when you're little. I don't think it's okay," she says.

    Gates, who still lives in the Downtown Eastside, says that Canada should create more harm-reduction services such as those implemented in the neighbourhood. She says that as an "active prostitute," she does not see the eradication of prostitution as realistic.

    Bourgeois, Williams and advocates of the Aboriginal Women's Action Network (AWAN) do. They prefer the "Nordic model" over legalization -- where prostitutes are decriminalized and pimps and johns are criminalized. The model, implemented in Sweden, Iceland and Norway, is a three-prong approach to slowly ending the demand to prostitution.

    "This model includes law reform that criminalizes the male demand for paid sex and decriminalizes prostituted women, offers comprehensive social programs to all women and girls, and educates the public about prostitution as a form of male violence against women and girls. We, Indigenous women, believe this model encourages true social change that works in our interest," AWAN states in a 2011 Women's Worlds Conference declaration.

    'Not asking the hard questions'

    Samantha Grey, a member of AWAN, vehemently disagrees with the way the Bedford case would potentially change prostitution laws in Canada. "The women who are doing the Bedford case do not represent the majority of women in prostitution, they represent that very small minority of women who claim that that is their choice. And the sad part is that they're always the ones more vocal because they have the freedom."

    Another national aboriginal women's group, the Native Women's Association of Canada,intervened in the Bedford case and agree with the Nordic model. Their position is based on the582 cases they documented of missing and murdered aboriginal women throughout Canada as of 2010.

    Grey says that there also needs to be more exiting services for women to leave the prostitution. "We don't want safer, we want safe. We don't want a band-aid solution, Grey says.

    Grey echoes other First Nations women advocates in declaring that the discussion around poverty, addiction and prostitution is too limited, even at the very top levels of policy and legal decision-making. "They're not asking the hard questions," says Grey. "They're not asking the questions that need to be answered in order to make prostitution non-existent."

    to see the numerous links embedded in this article and to view the mulit-media go to:


  8. Ex-Mountie claims she is being censored

    Denied chance to speak before Commons committee on sexual harrassment in RCMP

    CBC News March 8, 2013

    A veteran RCMP officer who was scheduled to testify before a House of Commons committee investigating harassment within the force says she's being censored and excluded after submitting her speaking notes.

    Krista Carle said Friday she was shocked when Conservative members of the House of Commons standing committee on the status of women cancelled her appearance yesterday on Parliament Hill, shortly after she submitted her speaking notes to the committee 36 hours before hand, as required.

    Carle said she was told she couldn't testify because she's among 300 female RCMP officers waiting to join a class-action lawsuit alleging they were sexually harassed while working for the force.

    The committee began looking into harassment of female officers within the ranks of the RCMP and of woman throughout the federal workforce afterCBC News broke the story of former officer Catherine Galliford's alleged harassment more than a year ago.

    Carle says she believes some of the seven Conservative MPs who hold the majority of the 12 seats on the committee are trying to silence her.

    "Some of Canada's bravest women received a terrible blow yesterday from their own government — to be muzzled by our own government after finally having the courage to speak up," Carle said Friday.

    Carle said she is used to being silenced. When the former corporal and three other female officers accused RCMP Sgt. Robert Blundell of sexual assault in the late 1990s, they weren't allowed to testify then either, she alleges.

    "I speak for countless numbers of women," she said.

    Officer derided

    Yesterday, only one former Mountie, who is not currently involved in any litigation against the RCMP, got to tell the committee about her years of working under a male boss at the RCMP.

    "My supervisor — the one who was in charge of me — and another officer thought it was funny to call me 'beaver' and 'raisin tits,' not only in the office but on the radio and in public," Sherry-Lee Benson-Podolchuk testified on Thursday. "And when I would sign birthday cards they would put 'Beaver' or 'Raisin Tits' under my name," said Benson-Podolchuk.

    Judy Sgro, vice chair of the committee, is angry about the decision to cancel Carle's appearance.

    "To not hear from a woman who was an integral part of the sexual harassment for many years, to not to hear them when we heard from Mr. Paulson who admitted there were some issues, and to deny the committee the opportunity to hear in detail more on some of these issues — we only have, I believe, these two individuals who are going to speak directly to it — I think really leaves the committee at a disadvantage," the Liberal MP said.

    The NDP says if the harassment lawsuits are an issue, the federal government should settle them and listen to the alleged victims' stories.

    "What we've called on the government to do is start a process of reconciliation with these women and not drag them through the courts for years and years," said NDP MP Randall Garrison.

    "It's shameful what is happening and it's an affront to women on International Women's Day," Carle said.

    But Carle and other former female Mounties may still get a chance to tell their stories on Parliament Hill, because the Senate plans to launch its own investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment within the RCMP.

    to read Krista Carle's speaking notes and see the links embedded in this article go to:


  9. Complaint against psychologist critical of RCMP dismissed

    College of psychologists rules Mike Webster's conduct within realm of professional discretion

    CBC News March 27, 2013

    The College of Psychologists of B.C. has dismissed an RCMP complaint against an outspoken critic of the force.

    B.C.-based police psychologist Mike Webster was blacklisted by the Mounties last summer amid allegations he had no right to focus on systemic changes to the force rather than individual treatment.

    Webster used to treat Mounties on medical leave after on-the-job conflicts. But last summer, his patients were told to find another doctor or pay for his sessions themselves.

    The national police force then filed a formal complaint with the College of Psychologists of B.C., alleging Webster lacked objectivity and sound medical judgment by publicly criticizing the status quo and advocating for organizational change.

    The RCMP also alleged Webster was practicing outside his areas of expertise by offering opinions about the structure of the force.

    Webster maintained the RCMP was a toxic work environment and improving it would also improve the health of his clients.

    In his response to the complaints, Webster told the college he based his advice on available public and academic data, his experience working with the force for more than 30 years and the basic police training he got at the RCMP academy.

    The college of psychologists dismissed all of the RCMP’s allegations, saying Webster's conduct fell within the realm of professional discretion and judgment.

    The RCMP has 30 days to appeal the decision.


  10. Senate finds possible privilege breach over Mountie's testimony

    CBC News May 8, 2013

    In a landmark ruling, Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella concluded that, at least at first glance, an alleged attempt by the RCMP to discourage a BC Mountie from travelling to Ottawa to testify about harassment within the police force before a Senate committee could constitute a breach of parliamentary privilege.

    Earlier this week, CBC British Columba reported that, just days before his scheduled appearance, an RCMP health official informed Corporal Roland Beaulieu that if he felt "physically and cognitively able to participate in these hearings," he would be considered ready to return to "administrative duties" at his unit immediately.

    The agency also issued a new directive forbidding Mounties on sick leave from travelling to Ottawa, "or anywhere else outside their jurisdiction" without written approval from both RCMP medical staff and management.

    That sparked Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan to rise in the Red Chamber yesterday afternoon to make the case that the move to prevent Beaulieu from testifying could constitute a double-barreled breach of privilege, violating, as it did, both "the right of witnesses to appear before Parliament unobstructed and the right of parliamentarians to hear from witnesses."

    As it turned out, the speaker agreed - as did the Chamber, which unanimously supported a motion to refer the matter to the Senate privilege committee for further study.

    Given that such matters take precedent over virtually all other parliamentary business, that investigation could get underway as early as next week, and will almost certainly result in a second invitation being extended to Beaulieu, as well as other senior RCMP officials, not all of whom, it's worth noting, may be quite so eager to appear.

    Here's the full ruling, as delivered in the Senate chamber earlier today:

    Yesterday, Senator Cowan raised a question of privilege about media reports suggesting that a witness invited to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence during its study of Bill C-42 had not done so because of pressures exerted on him by his employer. The bill had been reported earlier in the sitting, without amendment but with observations. As the Leader of the Opposition explained, Corporal Roland Beaulieu, a member of the RCMP currently on medical leave, had been invited to appear before the committee on Monday, May 6. Senator Cowan indicated that last week Corporal Beaulieu had been informed that if he came to Ottawa to testify his medical leave would be terminated. As a result he did not attend. A number of other honourable senators then participated in consideration of the question of privilege. After these interventions, the chair committed to ruling today.

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  11. Before dealing with the substance of the question of privilege -- the allegation of deliberate witness intimidation -- it should be made clear that the proceedings of the committee at its Monday meeting have not been questioned. The committee heard witnesses, including representatives of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, to which Corporal Beaulieu belongs, and reviewed the bill clause-by-clause. Bill C-42 was then reported back to the Senate. The bill is now on the Order Paper and open to debate at third reading.

    As already noted, the fundamental issue is the protection of witnesses. Privilege is the sum of the rights enjoyed by this house and its members that are necessary for us to conduct our work. We must be mindful that this protection of privilege is not limited to parliamentarians alone. More importantly, with respect to the current situation, witnesses also enjoy a range of protection. As stated at page 267 of the 24th edition of Erskine May, "Any conduct calculated to deter prospective witnesses from giving evidence before either House or a committee is a contempt." Erskine May then continues to explain "It is also a contempt to molest any person attending either House as witnesses, during their attendance in such House or committee," as are threats against those who have previously appeared. These points are repeated at page 840. Similar statements are made at pages 114 and 115 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which explains that witnesses are protected from threat or intimidation.

    On April 13, 2000, the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders -- now the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament -- presented its fifth report, dealing with allegations about reprisals against a witness. The report stated in part as follows:

    The Senate, and all Senators, view with great seriousness any allegations of possible intimidation or harassment of a witness or potential witness before a Senate committee. In order for the Senate to discharge its functions and duties properly, it must be able to call and hear from witnesses without their being threatened or fearing any repercussions. Any interference with a person who has given evidence before a Senate committee, or who is planning to, is an interference with the Senate itself, and cannot be tolerated.

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  12. The essential issue is not whether representatives of the association appeared before the committee. They did. The issue is whether there was a deliberate attempt to impede the appearance of an invited witness, agreed to by the Steering Committee. Witnesses or potential witnesses who fear retaliation, directly or indirectly, arising from their testimony, whether because of implied or direct threats or because previous witnesses or potential witnesses have suffered due to the fact that they appeared or considered appearing, will either be unwilling to appear or, if they do, will not be forthcoming in their evidence. Since this impedes parliamentarians on the committee in the full exercise of their duties, it would represent a breach of privilege.

    Based on the information available, the witness had agreed to travel to Ottawa and come before the committee. He cancelled because an RCMP medical officer informed him that, if he did testify, he would be considered able to return to work and his medical leave would be terminated. Furthermore, on the last working day before the committee meeting, it would seem that a new policy was issued by the RCMP, requiring that a member on medical leave seek approval before undertaking certain types of travel. All this could be coincidental, but the chronology of events and the allegations are such as to raise concern.

    I will now turn to the four criteria of rule 13-3(1), all of which must be met for a prima facie case of privilege to be established. Senator Cowan clearly raised this issue at the first opportunity, thereby meeting this first criterion.

    In terms of the second criterion, that the matter must "directly concern[] the privileges of the Senate, any of its committees or any Senator," the references to the procedural works already given make clear that this matter does involve the privileges of the Senate and its committees. Unlike many other parliamentary bodies, questions of privilege relating to the work of a committee can be raised in the Senate itself, without requiring a report of the committee.

    If there were intent to intimidate the witness, it is clearly a grave and serious breach, therefore meeting the third criterion.

    The final criterion is that a question of privilege must seek a remedy the Senate can "provide and for which no other parliamentary process is reasonably available." In this case, the issue is not whether the committee did its work properly. As far as can be ascertained, it did. Instead, the fundamental issue is whether there was a deliberate attempt to prevent a witness from appearing. Were this to be so, it would constitute contempt. The accepted remedy is to treat such issues as cases of privilege. As such, the final criterion has also been fulfilled. This ruling, to be clear, does not establish that there was a deliberate intent to intimidate, which would be a decision for the Senate to eventually make, but rather that there is reason for concern.

    The ruling is, therefore, that there is a prima facie case of privilege. [...]


  13. Families of Four Pickton Victims File Sweeping Lawsuit

    Named: RCMP, VPD, City of Vancouver, justice minister, crown prosecutors. Pickton siblings accused of 'abetting' murders.

    By David P. Ball, 9 May 2013, TheTyee.ca

    The gruesome saga of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton's trial and a scathing public inquiry may be over, but families of four of the Coquitlam pig farmer's victims today launched the first lawsuit to emerge from the tragedies.

    Seven of the women's children filed civil suit documents in the BC Supreme Court this morning, containing shocking allegations of negligence or gross negligence by authorities -- including the RCMP, Vancouver Police Department, City of Vancouver, Minister of Justice Shirley Bond, and Crown Prosecutors -- and directly accusing Pickton's siblings Dave and Linda of full knowledge and "abetting" his crimes.

    None of the allegations have been proven in court, and neither have those named yet responded to the lawsuits, which were filed by lawyers on behalf of the children of murdered women Dianne Rock, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks and Yvonne Boen.

    Pickton was convicted of six counts of second degree murder, after 27 other murder charges were dropped. However, he confessed to an undercover officer of killing 49 women.

    Though the serial killer's siblings never testified in his trial or the inquiry -- despite lawyers' requests to Commissioner Wally Oppal that Dave testify -- this is the first legal case to accuse the Pickton family of responsibility in Robert's crimes.

    "David Pickton and Linda Wright were at all times aware that Robert Pickton was bringing Vancouver-based sex workers to the Pickton Property and causing them harm," the court filings allege. "David Pickton and Linda Wright knew that Robert Pickton and others tortured and killed sex workers and other persons at the Pickton Property, and were aware that Robert Pickton represented a danger to persons attending the Pickton property. The Pickton Siblings, and each of them, owed a duty of care ... as occupiers of the Pickton Property ... and accordingly were negligent or grossly negligent."

    'Something we want behind us': Dave Pickton

    When reached by phone, Dave Pickton told The Tyee he knew nothing about the lawsuit. None of the allegations against him have been proven in court.

    "This is first time I've heard of it," Dave Pickton told The Tyee. "If they've got a problem, it's with the government and my brother -- not us.

    "They can do whatever the hell they want.... This is something we want behind us -- for everybody to move forward."

    The case is being brought forward by lawyers Jason Gratl, Robin Whitehead and Neil Chantler, on behalf of seven family members. Among other unproven accusations contained in the documents:

    That the Vancouver Police Department, RCMP, New Westminster Police, and prosecution service "caused unnecessary psychological suffering" by failing to inform victims' family members of DNA discovered in ground meat on Pickton's farm.

    That Crown Counsel "knew or ought to have known that Robert Pickton presented a substantial danger to the life and security of sex workers."

    That VPD and RCMP investigations of Robert Pickton "were negligent and, in particular, the investigations were deficient" for failing to follow up on informants' tips or properly interrogate allegations against Pickton.

    That David Pickton "lied to police investigators about his brother Robert with the intention to obstruct and hinder the police investigation and to undermine his prosecution" for a 1997 attempted murder charge which was dropped by the Crown, the documents alleged. "His intention was to assist Robert Pickton to get away with the crime of attempted murder."

    continued in next comment...

  14. Five RMCP officers named

    Though Oppal's December 2012 report accused the various police forces involved in the Pickton investigation of "colossal failure," as well as racial bias, he did not name any individual police officers.

    Today's lawsuit, however, levels accusations against five officers by name: Richard Hall, Earl Moulton, Brad Zalys, Ruth Chapman (all four members of Coquitlam RCMP detachment), and Frank Henley (a member of the RCMP "E" Division). The RCMP did not respond to interview requests regarding the lawsuit, or about the named police officers.

    "There are clear findings of misconduct, poor conduct by police officers, and arguably negligence in Oppal's report -- so there's no doubt these claims are founded in large part on what Oppal found after nine months of hearings," lawyer Neil Chantler told The Tyee. "Of course, they hope it will bring closure. It's the final step in what's been a long process."

    Chantler explained that the Pickton siblings were named because, under the province's Occupiers Liability Act a property-owner can be held responsible for harm caused on their property.

    "(The Act) essentially creates a standard of care that landowners are required to meet," Chantler said. "It provides that people who are harmed on a piece of land may sue the landowner. All three siblings owned the land on which these women are presumed to have been murdered."

    But the lawyer said that families "reluctantly" filed suit because they feared Oppal's recommendation of compensation for victims' children is not being implemented, despite Attorney General Shirley Bond's promise that B.C. would immediately begin action on the commissioner's ideas.

    "We are not going to wait," Bond told reporters on Dec. 17. "Today we are taking immediate action.... It's a beginning and there's much more to be done.

    "I want to assure the families and friends of victims, as well as all British Columbians, that our government will use the recommendations in this report to make changes and protect vulnerable women in our province. These will not happen overnight; we have a long journey ahead of us.... It has taken years to get to this place, but I am hopeful that we can move forward together."

    More lawsuits coming: lawyer

    When he released his final report on Dec. 17, 2012, Oppal called the missing women investigation a "colossal failure" but insisted that naming individual police officers or authorities by name would not be useful.

    "I have come to the conclusion that there was systemic bias by the police," Oppal said. "It was important for me to understand the underlying causes of police failures.

    "The women were poor -- they were addicted, vulnerable, Aboriginal. They did not receive equal treatment by police. As a group, they were dismissed.... These women were vulnerable; they were treated as throwaways."

    The City of Vancouver -- named in the document -- declined to comment on the matter as it is before the courts, a spokesperson told The Tyee.

    The Coquitlam RCMP and Ministry of Attorney General also declined to comment on the lawsuit, instead forwarding The Tyee to other departments' spokespeople. Minister of Justice Shirley Bond and the BC RCMP "E" Division did not return interview requests in time for publication.

    Chantler said today's lawsuit is only the first in a series, but that families hoped to give the government time to implement recommendations before using a legal avenue.

    "There are more," he told The Tyee. "We're working with some other families on bringing claims as well, and there will be more filed.

    "They'd hoped this would be unnecessary, but this is what needs to be done in order to bring them that closure."


  15. Steven Point resigns from vulnerable womens committee

    Former lieutenant governor steps down over lawsuits filed by children of missing women

    CBC News May 17, 2013

    Steven Point, the former lieutenant governor of British Columbia, has resigned as chair of the advisory committee on the safety and security of vulnerable women because of lawsuits that put him in a difficult legal position.

    Point told CBC News he stepped down because statements he might make could become evidence at several civil lawsuits launched by the children of women whose remains were found on the farm of serial killer Robert Pickton.

    "I came to the conclusion that everything that we were going to do was around and with the families, and so when you proceed to litigation it just changes everything, and so I had this discussion with government and I decided it would be best for me to step down," said Point.

    The lawsuits were launched by the children of Dianne Rock, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks and Yvonne Boen. They claim police failed to warn sex workers about a serial killer in the Downtown Eastside and even provided false assurances they were safe.

    B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond confirmed Point stepped down because the lawsuits put him in a difficult position legally.

    "The plaintiffs have put Mr. Point on notice that, in his role as chair of the advisory committee, his comments and remarks may well become evidence in the course of the litigation," Bond said in a statement issued Friday morning.

    "This would have placed an impossible burden on Mr. Point to avoid making statements that could be misinterpreted or be used in or influence the course of litigation.

    "I appreciate the decisions of the four families of missing women who have chosen to pursue civil suits related to the Pickton case, but I am disappointed that the no-doubt unintended consequences of these claims have led Mr. Point to conclude that he must step aside. When matters proceed to court, the litigation process takes precedence over all other related processes."

    Point was appointed to chair the advisory committee by Premier Christy Clark following the release of former attorney general Wally Oppal's report on the police mishandling of the missing women investigation.

    The former provincial court judge and tribal chair of the Sto:lo First Nation served as B.C.'s 28th lieutenant-governor from 2007 to 2012.


  16. RCMP has no interest in discussing harassment suit settlement

    Senators hear of bullying, harassment from Mounties in B.C.

    CBC News Posted: May 17, 2013

    A lawyer representing 300 women who worked for the RCMP alleging harassment and gender-based discrimination in a lawsuit says the national police force is declining an offer to mediate.

    "The RCMP indicated they have no interest to discuss settlement. It comes as a big surprise to us," said Vancouver class action lawyer David Klein.

    But earlier this year, RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson's action plan said the force would "expeditiously resolve, wherever appropriate, outstanding harassment-related lawsuits."

    On Friday, Klein said his clients want to see some solutions.

    "They want the RCMP and the women themselves to be able to move past this to settle," Klein said.

    The allegations in the proposed class action lawsuit have not yet been tested in court.

    Senators travel to B.C. to hear from Mounties
    Klein made his comments as some Liberal MPs and Senators were in Vancouver to hear from RCMP officers who have complained about sexual harassment or bullying but were unable to testify at parliamentary committees.

    Some women wereexcluded from speaking in Parliament because of their involvement in the ongoing legal case.

    But others who are not involved in the legal proceeding also had difficulties testifying. Just last week Cpl. Roland Beaulieu, said he had been prevented from appearing at a Senate committee last week in Ottawa. Beaulieu was informed that if he was well enough to travel to Ottawa then he must be well enough to return to work. He is on stress leave suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

    "I don't want to be fired. I'm hoping by going public here, will force management to deal with my issues," Beaulieu said on Friday in Vancouver.

    Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell said he was appalled that some Mounties suffering from post-traumatic stress and other issues were not being heard.

    "We had people who had been injured which we haven't been able to have because the government won’t let us call them before parliamentary committee," Mitchell said. "The take away is, it's deeply, deeply damaging on a personal level."

    Mounties told the panel Friday the RCMP is broken, corrupt and rife with misconduct.

    "I've seen female members harassed because they are lesbians. I've seen people picking up hookers and getting transferred and promotions," said RCMP officer Peter Kennedy.

    On Friday, the Senators and MPs listened carefully.

    "Short of blowing up the RCMP from the top down, I'm not sure after the things I've heard today and earlier, if we are ever going to be able to fix the RCMP," said Liberal MP Judy Sgro.

    "All of these women were treated as they were just wallpaper, just the pretty candy, and they had to be there for the abuse of their superior officers," Sgro said. "And because they didn't co-operate, their lives were ruined."


  17. Mountie sues 13 ex-colleagues for sex assault, harassment

    Woman alleges incidents took place while she was working on Musical Ride in 1980s

    CBC News May 21, 2013

    An RCMP staff sergeant has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against 13 former colleagues in the force's travelling equestrian show the Musical Ride, claiming she was sexually assaulted and harassed in the 1980s.

    Staff Sgt. Caroline O'Farrell, 52, who works in Ottawa, claims she was sexually assaulted, assaulted and harassed from 1986 to 1987 while working as a constable.

    Her ex-husband and their two children are also listed as plaintiffs, claiming $300,000 in damages under the Family Law Act for a loss of care and guidance from O'Farrell due to the alleged abuse.

    The defendants are listed as Kevin Baillie, Gary Beam, Sylvain Berthiaume, Luc Boivin, Greg Chiarot, Francois Duguay, Marc Godue, Mike Herchuk, Cory Hoehn, David Kopp, Christine Mackie Windover, Gerry Ogilvie and Michael Roblee, as well as the Attorney General of Canada.

    The statement of claim alleges that O'Farrell, one of the few women working in the Musical Ride, was subjected to an outdated hazing ritual in which she was doused with water and then dragged by her arms and legs through stall shavings mixed with manure and urine.

    The suit, seeking more than $8 million in damages, alleges she was subjected to this because she was a woman.

    It also alleges that when she began to complain and defend herself, she was harassed by her attackers for doing so. It alleges members of the ride took bets on when O'Farrell might attempt suicide and made fun of her for complaining.

    It also alleges that when she fell asleep on a bus ride in Alberta, someone filmed a finger through the fly of his pants next to her ear, simulating a penis. It claims the video was shown to her and others, and left her feeling degraded as though she had been sexually assaulted.

    Claimant says no substantial action taken

    The statement of claim alleges O'Farrell was eventually transferred from the Musical Ride unit "against her will" because supervisors "couldn't guarantee her safety," and that an RCMP harassment investigation upheld her complaints.

    "The final investigation concluded that there were over 100 incidents of harassment that had been substantiated. She was informed by the investigators that her complaint resulted in the largest internal investigation ever conducted in Ottawa," the statement of claim reads.

    "However, the RCMP took no real or substantial action against the harassers as a result of its investigation. Some of the harassers received informal discipline (counselling and warnings); others received no form of censure at all. Most of her harassers continue to work in the RCMP today, some as high-ranking officers and others as senior non-commissioned officers in positions of significant influence and authority," the statement of claim reads.

    continued in next comment...

  18. O'Farrell was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her time with the Musical Ride, the statement says.

    It alleges her marriage "deteriorated quickly," that she hasn't been able to have meaningful, long-term relationships with other men, and that her relationships with her children were also negatively affected.

    Criminal charges briefly entertained, suit alleges

    The statement alleges O'Farrell was called to a provincial Crown attorney's office about possible criminal charges, but that the assistant Crown attorney refused to lay any because "the statute of limitations for those offences had passed to proceed on a summary conviction basis, and that the criminal charge could not proceed by way of indictment."

    It also alleges the assistant Crown attorney was the son of a former RCMP commissioner and the brother of an RCMP officer, that he said the charges would be embarrassing for her and the RCMP, and that he would withdraw the charges if they were filed.

    The lawsuit does not name the assistant Crown attorney.

    None of the allegations contained in the suit have been proven in court.

    A statement from O'Farrell's law firm said O'Farrell and her lawyer won't be speaking to the media.

    But in an emailed statement, her lawyer, Peter Cronyn, said:

    "The assaults and sexual assaults on … O'Farrell were criminal acts perpetrated by and witnessed by police officers and yet no charges were ever laid, nor were there any consequences for the officers involved. The impact of these events and the failure of those in authority to protect her and to hold the perpetrators accountable have severely damaged our client and have substantially compromised her life and career."

    The RCMP did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday morning.

    See Statement of Claim at:


  19. I personally have no doubt that the crown prosecutors conspired to reject criminal charges in the case reported in the comment directly above, because of their relationships to the RCMP. I have seen this happen in a law clinic I worked in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. As a student lawyer I had more than one client allege misconduct and assault by police officers, only to be told by my supervisor that bringing complaints forward would not result in charges against the police because of the general reluctance of prosecutors to charge police, and the tendency of judges to believe police are more credible than regular citizens. That's not true of course; I've seen police officers lie on the witness stand.

  20. RCMP chief hits back at outlandish harassment claims

    Commissioner Bob Paulson points to 'upstart union' at Senate hearing into RCMP Act changes

    CBC News June 3, 2013

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson was heavily critical Monday of some of the RCMP members who have come forward with complaints of sexual harrassment or evidence that harassing treatment took place.

    Paulson was the key witness Monday at the Senate committee that is investigating the problem of sexual harassment within the RCMP.

    However, Paulson said that Cpl. Paul Merrifield, who told the Senate committee in May he'd seen five supervisors continually harass members, is spearheading a union drive in the force.

    He particularly singled out Cpl. Roland Beaulieu, who was prevented from attending a committee hearing unless he agreed to come back to work. Beaulieu has been on sick leave due to work-related stress. Paulson said Beaulieu "alleges" he has post-traumatic stress disorder, but said the RCMP felt if he was well enough to testify he was well enough to work.

    Paulson added Beaulieu is "secretary of an upstart union."

    At this point, the chair of the committee, Senator Daniel Lang, stopped Paulson, because the matter of Beaulieu has been raised as a question of privilege. A separate Senate committee is looking into a complaint by the Liberal leader in the Senate, James Cowan, that parliamentary privilege might be violated if a witness is prevented from testitfying.

    Paulson also mentioned Staff Sergeant Caroline O'Farrell, who has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against 13 former colleagues in the force's travelling equestrian show, claiming she was sexually assaulted and harassed as a member of the Musical Ride in the 1980s.

    Paulson said the offence "took place 25 years ago. We responded 25 years ago." He added, "it was terrible," but said when he asked O'Farrell what he could do to help, she handed him a copy of her legal complaint.

    In general, Paulson told the committee, "I can't be continually defending against outlandish claims."

    Appointed in 2011, Paulson has said his key priority is to eliminate sexual harassment in the force.

    In 2011 the issue came to a head when Catherine Galliford, an RCMP corporal and former spokeswoman for the force in B.C., told CBC News about an internal complaint she filed detailing what she says were years of sexual harassment.

    "If I had a dime for every time one of my bosses asked me to sit on his knee, I'd be on a yacht in the Bahamas right now," Galliford told the CBC. She said the trouble began as soon as she left police college in 1991 and continued to the point where she went on sick leave in 2007 due to constant stress.

    continued in next comment...

  21. The government has responded by introducing Bill C-42, legislation that would modernize the RCMP and make it easier to fire members Paulson has termed "bad apples."

    Galliford has launched a lawsuit against the RCMP on the ground she suffered post-traumatic stress because of harassment that spanned two decades.

    Another woman, Janet Merlo, a 19-year RCMP veteran, filed suit for harassment in 2012, and hundreds of current and former female members have joined her in a class-action lawsuit.

    On May 27, the Senate committee heard from Cpl. Peter Merrifield, who testified that five of his supervisors have faced serious complaints of sexual harassment. Merrifield himself is suing the RCMP for harassment and breach of his constitutional rights related to what he calls "retaliation" for seeking a Conservative nomination in Barrie, Ont., in 2005.

    The Senate committee on national security and defence conducting the study on sexual harassment was until recently chaired by Senator Pamela Wallin. In May, Wallin withdrew as chair, and left the Conservative caucus to sit as an Independent. She is being audited by the private firm Deloitte over travel expense claims totalling more than $300,000.

    It's possible Paulson will be asked at the committee about an RCMP review currently underway into the expense claims of three other senators — Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb — as well as a payment of $90,000 to cover inappropriate claims given to Duffy by the prime minister's chief of staff, Nigel Wright, who has since resigned.

    On Monday, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud told reporters he cannot say how long it will take to determine if an official criminal investigation is opened into the senators' expenses. "We're still looking into it. We still have to meet with some individuals, look at some documents, before being able to stipulate if we're going to be conducting a criminal investigation or not."

    Michaud will be heading a new division announced Monday. "We're creating this new division to bring more focus to these types of investigations, so we've got resources that are solely dedicated to these types of investigations which hopefully will be done in a more timely fashion," he said.


  22. Next step in RCMP harassment lawsuit begins today

    The Canadian Press June 4, 2013

    The next step in a lawsuit against the RCMP is expected today in a Vancouver courtroom.

    Lawyers will be looking for direction about how to take the case to class action certification.

    Former RCMP Const. Janet Merlo launched the suit last year on behalf of Mounties who allege harassment, bullying or discrimination while serving on the force.

    Merlo alleges she and fellow female members were subject to gender-based discrimination, bullying and harassment, and that the RCMP failed to ensure that they could work in a safe environment.

    None of the allegations have been proven in court.

    The RCMP has also issued denials in several sexual abuse and harassment lawsuits against the force and its officers.

    But an internal report, released last year in response to the number of high-profile allegations of sexual harassment, suggests gender-based harassment was common among the female officers who participated in a study where they detail their experiences of being bullied by colleagues and superiors.

    In response to the report's recommendations, Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens announced the creation of a 100-member team dedicated to investigating harassment complaints.

    The highest-profile sexual abuse and harassment lawsuit involves Cpl. Catherine Galliford, a former spokeswoman for the Air India and Robert Pickton cases.

    Galliford filed a lawsuit last year alleging years of abuse by numerous officers.

    Const. Karen Katz also has a lawsuit alleging a colleague harassed and sexually assaulted her, as well as a second lawsuit that alleges more widespread abuse spanning her entire career.


    Read more about Janet Merlo's lawsuit

    More on the Mounties' sweeping denials

    100 Mounties tasked with investigating sexual harassment claims

  23. 282 join RCMP sexual harassment class-action lawsuit

    121 of the plaintiffs, who are either current or former Mounties, are from B.C.

    CBC News June 11, 2013

    Almost 300 current and former female Mounties have come forward to join a class-action lawsuit alleging harassment within the ranks of the RCMP.

    Documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court Monday in support of class-action certification say the action now includes 282 women from all territories and provinces across Canada, with the exception of P.E.I. The largest provincial contingent of women who joined, 121, are from B.C., while 46 of the women are from Ontario. Another 35 are from Alberta.

    The lawyers arguing the lawsuit say 100 of the complainants are still with the force, either as officers, civilian members, or public service employees.

    The civil suit was filed last year by Janet Merlo, a former RCMP officer who was based in Nanaimo. Merlo, who alleges she suffered bullying and verbal abuse throughout a career that began in March 1991 and ended in March 2010, says she is overwhelmed by the number of other women who have come forward.

    "I'm amazed, actually, that for so many years a lot of us thought we were alone and didn't say anything," she told CBC News Tuesday. "Once we did start talking, we realized that there was quite a group of us... I'm just amazed."

    In her claim, Merlo describes a number of humiliating incidents that she alleges occurred during the course of her 19 years with the force. The alleged incidents described in Merlo's affidavit range from receiving verbal propositions, to facing gender-based comments challenging her ability to perform her duties, to witnessing differences in how male and female officers were accommodated at her workplace.

    The RCMP have applied to have certain parts of Merlo's claim struck. The plaintiffs' lawyers say they want the application for certification heard as soon as possible.

    Certification of the class action is not a finding of fault against the RCMP.

    to read affidavits in this case go to:


  24. NOTE: The following story really disgusts me for several reasons. I suffer terribly from PTSD. The RCMP commissioner's insensitive, demeaning insult was directed not just at police officers with mental illness, but all Canadians who do, citizens that the RCMP has sworn to serve and protect. But beyond my personal feelings, many of the missing and murdered women whose serial killer the RCMP failed miserably to catch due to attitudes like that also suffered from trauma related mental health problems, including PTSD. Furthermore, there have been numerous recent events where the RCMP or other law enforcement officers, such as jail guards, have seriously abused and even killed citizens with mental illness. That is personally one of my biggest fears. Being an anti-authoritarian and an activist, I fear that a similar fate awaits me if I should ever have a confrontation with the police where there is even a hint that they are abusing their authority, which would almost certainly trigger a PTSD reaction in me. The RCMP has a corrupt culture and the current commissioner is not helping to improve things much by his public denigrations of RCMP members suing the force.

    RCMP commissioner apologizes for perceived slight against mentally ill

    Bob Paulson says he is truly sorry for 'cuckoo' gesture

    By Douglas Quan, Postmedia News June 18, 2013

    The RCMP commissioner says he is “truly sorry” for making a sound and gesture during a town hall earlier this year that some have interpreted as a slight against people suffering from mental-health issues.

    A six-minute audio clip of Bob Paulson’s remarks — delivered to K Division members in Alberta in April — was recently posted on an RCMP watchdog website.

    In the clip, Paulson tells members that if they get sick or injured on the job, the force will do everything it can to help them so they can return to work.

    “I want people to hear it from me that if you get hurt on the job, and that includes (Paulson makes a whistling sound) we’re going to look after you,” he says.

    “But there’s an onus on you, though, to come back to work because that’s the objective. The objective is not get a regimental number and then cha-ching, cha-ching, we’re looking after you for the rest of your life into your grave. No, no.”

    continued in next comment...

  25. The website that posted the audio clip, re-sergeance.net, suggested that as Paulson whistled, he also twirled his finger by the side of his head.

    In an internal video message sent to all members on June 7, Paulson acknowledged that he “made a sound and gesture that some have interpreted to mean that I was making light of psychological-related issues.”

    “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Paulson said. “I know full-well the impact that work-related stress can have on an individual and their family.

    “I want to apologize to anyone who was in that audience — or who has since listened to that recording — and was offended. I’m truly sorry.”

    RCMP spokesman Cpl. David Falls said Monday Paulson’s apology “extends to all Canadians.”

    Paulson went on to say that post-traumatic stress disorder and other work-related injuries must be taken seriously and that the force is working to strengthen its support to affected employees so they can return to work. “It’s in no one’s interest to have members on protracted medical leave,” he said.

    “Similarly we cannot have members using our generous medical leave provisions for reasons other than getting better and getting back to work.”

    Paulson recently got flak for public remarks he made before the Senate Committee on National Defence and Security, which has been studying harassment issues within the force.

    The commissioner said on June 3 that while there are legitimate harassment complaints within the force, he couldn’t keep on defending “outlandish” allegations, noting that the most vocal critics are “not always the most meritorious of claimants.”

    In a surprising move, Paulson called out by name three individuals who have recently gone public with allegations against the force, including B.C. Cpl. Roland Beaulieu, who has been on stress leave for two years due to conflicts with management.

    Paulson pointed out that while Beaulieu has been off work he has had no problems helping out an upstart union effort in B.C. The commissioner also noted that Beaulieu had sent him an email in which he asked for money in order to leave the force.

    In an interview last week, Liberal Sen. Grant Mitchell said Paulson should apologize for those remarks, too.

    “Great leadership doesn’t single out subordinates” in a public forum, Mitchell said.


  26. Psychiatrists call for action over premature deaths of mentally ill

    Experts say it is time to close the gap between treatment of physical and mental illnesses

    by Jeremy Laurance, The Independent UK June 19, 2013

    An international group of psychiatrists today launches a drive to end the global scandal of premature deaths among people suffering from severe mental illness.

    UK figures show their death rate is nearly four times higher than that among the general population. On average, young people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses die 15 to 20 years earlier than their peers as a result of a combination of the effects of anti-psychotic drugs and a poor lifestyle.

    But psychiatrists say the epidemic of early death could be curbed if mentally ill patients were given the same treatment for their physical illnesses as enjoyed by the rest of the population. The Health and Social Care Information Centre released figures yesterday showing people with mental problems use hospitals twice as much as those with physical problems.

    Last February the centre published figures showing the death rate was 3.6 times higher than that among the general population in 2010-11. In a statement published today, psychiatrists from 11 countries including the UK and Australia say young people with severe mental illness suffer “stigma, discrimination and prejudice” that prevent them from leading healthy, active lives. They are up to three times more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes and up to four times more likely to smoke, but their problems often go undiagnosed and they are not offered treatment or help.

    Anti-psychotic drugs prescribed to people with mental illness often cause rapid weight gain, with some patients becoming clinically obese. Many patients also self-medicate with alcohol and drugs such as cannabis.

    Targets set by the international group include ensuring at least three-quarters of patients gain no more than 7 per cent in weight over the first two years and blood tests for diabetes and heart disease remain normal.

    Dr David Shiers, co-author of the “Healthy Active Lives” statement, said: “The evidence is now clear – weight gain, cardiovascular risk and metabolic disturbance commonly appear early in the course of emerging psychosis and are potentially modifiable. As clinicians, if we dismiss these disturbances as being of secondary to controlling their psychiatric symptoms, we may be inadvertently condoning a first step on a path towards physical health inequalities for these young people. This vulnerable group needs a far more holistic and preventive approach.”

    Professor Sue Bailey, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “A person’s physical and mental health influence one another: deficiency in the care of one can lead to serious problems with the other.”

    The statement says that two years after the onset of psychosis, fewer than 30 per cent of patients should still be smoking and more than half should be taking recommended levels of exercise. The aim is to reduce the inequalities suffered by people with mental illness and close the chasm that exists between the quality of their treatment and that of people with physical illnesses.


  27. BC accused of stalling on Pickton inquiry recommendations

    Coalition calls on province to take immediate action on missing women inquiry report

    CBC News July 11, 2013

    A coalition of 20 First Nations and women’s groups is slamming the B.C. government for failing to implement recommendations from the inquiry into serial killer Robert Pickton.

    "We're sick and tired of going to funeral after funeral after funeral. Enough is enough,” says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, one of the groups to write the letter.

    "We are completely frustrated and disgusted with the unwillingness and inaction on the part of the provincial government."

    In a strongly worded letter to B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton, the coalition — which includes Atira Women’s Resource Society, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Pivot Legal Society and others — accuses the government of stalling.

    "We don't want to see yet another inquiry with dozens of recommendations that simply sit on a shelf and go nowhere,” Phillip said.

    “We know that the status quo will perpetuate the issue missing and murdered women."

    A report released in December 2012 blamed years of inadequate and failed police investigations for allowing Pickton to prey for years on women in the sex trade in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

    Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal issued 63 recommendations, including enhancing public transit to northern B.C. communities, especially along the so-called Highway of Tears, and increasing funding so centres providing emergency services to sex trade workers can stay open 24 hours a day.

    But Phillip says work has only begun on two of the report’s 63 recommendations.

    The province says work hit a snag in May after the resignation of Steven Point, who was appointed to make sure the recommendations are implemented. His replacement hasn't been named.

    Anton says work on a number of the recommendations is underway but was unable provide details.

    "There's all kinds of them. But when we're ready to make announcements, then we will,” she said.

    Pickton was arrested in February 2002. He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2007. The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his pig farm. He once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.


  28. Former RCMP spokesman sued for alleged sexual assault

    Atoya Montague alleges Insp. Tim Shields made unwanted sexual advances

    CBC News August 1, 2013

    A former civilian member of the RCMP's B.C. communication division is suing the force and a former top spokesman for alleged sexual assault.

    In a claim filed today in B.C. Supreme Court, Atoya Montague alleges Insp. Tim Shields abused his position of authority over her to commit acts of sexual assault.

    The governments of British Columbia and Canada are also named in the lawsuit.

    Montague held a senior civilian position within the RCMP's B.C. communications division, where she worked with Shields.

    She alleges that in 2003 while driving to the B.C. Interior with Shields he made unwanted sexual advances toward her.

    "While driving and in control of the vehicle, the defendant Shields, showed the plaintiff his erection through his jean shorts and made sexual advances towards the plaintiff, asking the plaintiff to have sex with him and advising her that he could easily pull over the car so that he could perform oral sex on her," the lawsuit alleges.

    Montague also claims Shields exposed himself to her in 2008 during a similar incident in a police car.

    "On this occasion he showed the plaintiff his penis," the lawsuit alleges.

    In her notice of civil claim, Montague says the tone of sexual harassment within the RCMP began even before she formally started work.

    She claims one staff sergeant told another member "there would be a lineup" of men out the door once she began work.

    continued below

  29. She also alleges that several other senior officers made sexual comments and jokes toward her during her time with the force.

    In one incident Montague alleges she was surrounded by the male members of the police dog unit rubbing up against her, leaving her "terrified, literally running away from that encounter," the lawsuit alleges.

    Montague says she did not report the incidents at the time for fear of the negative repercussion it would have on her career.

    The lawsuit says Montague worked for the RCMP from 2002 until 2011, when she went on sick leave and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2012.

    She also alleges the RCMP's health services has since harassed her about her condition and threatened to cut off her medical leave and pay.

    None of the allegations have been proven in court.

    On Thursday evening the RCMP issued a statement saying they had already been made aware of Montague's allegations by an unnamed third party and had launched an internal investigation in the matter that had failed to turn up any evidence of wrong doing.

    "While the RCMP has not been officially served, it is our understanding the civil suit contains a series of serious but currently unproven, uncorroborated, and unsubstantiated allegations," said the statement released by Insp. Ed Boettcher.

    "Repeated attempts to gather any information directly from Ms. Montague, who has been on leave since August 2011, or her representative were unsuccessful. These efforts were extended from the highest levels, up to and including the Commanding Officer in an effort to understand the basis of the allegations.

    "The RCMP has done as thorough an investigation as possible based on the information received from the third party. None of the allegations including those which have been set out in the statement of claim could be substantiated nor corroborated."

    "Given that the allegations now form part of a civil suit we are not able to comment further and our formal response will be filed in a statement of defence."

    he lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions filed against the RCMP by former female employees and officers, following allegations of widespread sexual harassment inside the force.

    Almost 300 current and former female Mounties have come forward to join a class-action lawsuit alleging harassment within the ranks of the RCMP.

    RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has said his key priority is to eliminate sexual harassment in the force.

    see the statement of claim in the civil suit at:


  30. Mountie who first raised issue of systemic harassment moves step closer to being dismissed from force

    Douglas Quan, Post Media News August 23, 2013

    The RCMP is moving to dismiss Cpl. Catherine Galliford, the high-profile Mountie whose claims of systemic harassment within the force prompted a flood of similar complaints.

    Galliford, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has been on sick leave since 2006, said a “notice of intent to discharge” was delivered to her home earlier this week. The letter states that the force is seeking her dismissal “for reason of physical and/or mental disability.”

    “This discharge is based on the grounds that your disability has impaired your ability to perform your duties … and the limitations and occupational restrictions resulting from your condition are such that accommodation elsewhere in the force has not been possible,” the letter states.

    It says that a health services officer concluded that she was unfit for either operational or administrative duties and that this inability was considered permanent.

    The letter also states that Galliford did not respond to a previous letter, which gave her 30 days to come forward to discuss possible “workplace accommodations” within the force.

    As of April, the force had delivered similar letters to more than 30 employees who were on long-term leave. An updated number was not available Friday and it is not clear how many have since been discharged.

    RCMP officials have previously said the force cannot continue to pay full salaries indefinitely to employees whose health prevents them from performing their duties.

    In a memo released in February, Commissioner Bob Paulson urged members to reject the “spin” that the force was targeting employees who had filed harassment complaints.

    But Galliford, who filed a lawsuit last year in British Columbia Supreme Court alleging she was sexually assaulted and bullied for years, said Friday she believes that’s precisely what the force is doing.

    “They want to get rid of me because I complained,” she said.

    At the same, Galliford, a former RCMP spokeswoman, acknowledged that she could never work for the force again because the environment is “too toxic.”

    “The RCMP will accommodate me back to work. Unfortunately, however, the RCMP broke my brain. And so I have PTSD. In order for me to go back to work, I have to be healthy and the RCMP have done nothing to help me with that.”

    Receiving the notice of intent to discharge, she said, is probably “more of a blessing than anything else so I can move forward.”

    The notice states that a three-member medical review board will be appointed to “determine the degree of your impairment” and that she can nominate a medical practitioner to be her representative on the board.

    Galliford first went public with her allegations of abuse and intimidation in late 2011. That prompted others to come forward with similar allegations.

    Several lawsuits and a proposed class-action lawsuit have been filed against the force.

    A report earlier this year by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, which reviewed more than 700 harassment complaints lodged by employees between 2005 and 2011, urged the force to take “concrete” and “measurable” steps to improve its handling of harassment allegations.

    The force has said it has implemented a number of measures, including centralizing oversight of harassment complaints, revising its internal harassment policy and developing new “respectful workplace” training.


  31. Harper Solicits Research to Blame First Nations for Murdered, Missing and Traded Indigenous Women

    by Pam Palmater, Indigenous Nationhood August 21, 2013


    Canada's shameful colonial history as it relates to Indigenous peoples and women specifically is not well known by the public at large. The most horrific of Canada's abuses against Indigenous peoples are not taught in schools. Even public discussion around issues like genocide have been censored by successive federal governments, and most notably by Harper's Conservatives. Recently, the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights refused to use the term "genocide" to describe Canada's laws, policies and actions towards Indigenous peoples which led to millions of deaths. The reason?: because that term was not acceptable to the federal government and the museum is after all, a Crown corporation.


    Aside from the fact that this museum will be used as a propaganda tool for Canada vis-à-vis the international community, Harper's Conservatives are also paying for targeted research to back up their propaganda as it relates to murdered, missing and traded Indigenous women. This is not the first time that Harper has paid for counter information and propaganda material as it relates to Indigenous peoples, and it likely won't be the last. However, this instance of soliciting targeted research to help the government blame Indigenous peoples for their own victimization and oppression is particularly reprehensible given the massive loss of life involved over time.


    The issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women was made very public by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) several years ago through their dedicated research, community engagement and advocacy efforts. Even the United Nations took notice and starting commenting on Canada's obligation to address this serious issue. Yet, in typical Harper-Conservative style, once the issue became a hot topic in the media, they cut critical funding to NWAC's Sisters in Spirit program which was the heart of their research and advocacy into murdered and missing Indigenous women.


    To further complicate the matter, any attempts for a national inquiry into the issue has been thwarted by the federal government, despite support for such an inquiry by the provinces and territories. One need only look at the fiasco of the Pickton Inquiry in British Columbia to understand how little governments in Canada value the lives of Indigenous women, their families and communities. The inquiry was headed by Wally Oppal, the same man who previously denied the claims of Indigenous women who were forcibly sterilized against their knowledge and consent. The inquiry seemed more interested in insulating the RCMP from investigation and prosecution than it was about hearing the stories of Indigenous women.


    Now, the Canadian public has to deal with a new chapter to this story - the sale of Indigenous women into the sex trades. The CBC recently reported that current research shows that Indigenous women, girls and babies in Canada were taken onto US ships to be sold into the sex trade. While this is not new information for Indigenous peoples, it is something that Canada has refused to recognize in the past. The research also shows that Indigenous women are brought onto these boats never to be seen from again.


    continued below

  32. The issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women has now expanded to murdered, missing and traded women. One might have expected a reaction from both the Canadian government and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). Yet, the day after the story hit the news, the AFN was tweeting about local competitions and the federal government was essentially silent. I say essentially, because while all of this was taking place, the federal government put together a Request for Proposals on MERX (#275751) to solicit research to blame the families and communities of Indigenous women for being sold into the sex trade.


    Instead of making a call for true academic research into the actual causes and conditions around Indigenous women, girls and babies being sold into the sex trade, the federal government solicited research to prove:

    (1) the involvement of family members in their victimization;

    (2) the level to which domestic violence is linked to the sale of Indigenous women into the sex trade; and

    (3) even where they are investigating gang involvement, it is within the context of family involvement of the trade of Indigenous women.

    The parameters of the research excludes looking into federal and/or provincial laws and policies towards Indigenous peoples; funding mechanisms which prejudice them and maintain them in the very poverty the research identifies; and negative societal attitudes formed due to government positions vis-à-vis Indigenous women like:

    - rapes and abuse in residential schools;
    - forced sterilizations;
    - the theft of thousands of Indigenous children into foster care;
    - the over-representation of Indigenous women in jails;
    - and the many generations of Indigenous women losing their Indian status and membership and being kicked off reserves by federal law.

    The research also leaves out a critical aspect of this research which is federal and provincial enforcement laws, policies and actions or lack thereof in regards to the reports of murdered, missing and traded Indigenous women, girls and babies. The epic failure of police to follow up on reports and do proper investigations related to these issues have led some experts to conclude that this could have prevented and addressed murdered, missing and traded Indigenous women. Of even greater concern are the allegations that have surfaced in the media in relation to RCMP members sexually assaulting Indigenous women and girls.


    This MERX Request for Proposals is offensive and should be retracted and re-issued in a more academically-sound manner which looks to get at the full truth, versus a federally-approved pre-determined outcome.

    It's time Canada opened up the books, and shed light on the real atrocities in this country so that we can all move forward and address them.


  33. Native Canadian women sold on U.S. ships, researcher says

    Report says First Nations women from Thunder Bay, Ont., trafficked in sex trade in Minnesota

    By Jody Porter, CBC News August 21, 2013

    An American researcher says First Nations women from Thunder Bay, Ont., have been sold on ships in the harbour at Duluth, Minn.

    Christine Stark said the port at Duluth is notorious among First Nations people as a site for trafficking women.

    The masters student at the University of Minnesota Duluth said she has anecdotal reports of women, teenage girls and boys, as well as babies being sold on ships for sex.

    "The women and children — and I've even had women talk about a couple of babies brought onto the ships and sold to the men on ships — are being sold or are exchanging sex for alcohol, a place to stay, drugs, money and so forth.," Stark said. "It's quite shocking."

    Stark said the sex trade on ships has been going on for generations, and includes Indigenous women from Canada.

    "I have spoken with a woman who was brought down from Thunder Bay on the ships and talks about an excessive amount of trafficking between Canada and the Duluth-Superior harbor," Stark said. "There is a very strong link between Thunder Bay and Duluth."

    Her current research is an offshoot of a 2007 report on prostitution in Minnesota, in conjunction with the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition. That report included interviews with 105 indigenous women in Minnesota who have been trafficked in the sex trade.

    Stark said the stories that "women get brought out onto the boats and never come back" that she heard as part of that study begged further exploration. She's currently conducting interviews with 15 people to learn more about what happens on the ships.

    The Ontario Native Women's Association (ONWA) said it also has anecdotal reports of women being trafficked across borders,or provincial boundaries, into the sex trade.

    "We know that it's happening between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, and there have been reports of it happening in southern Ontario across the U.S. border," said Kezia Picard, the director of policy and research with ONWA.

    But Picard said more funding is needed for more formal research into how women are being spirited away.

    "Another thing we're really trying to advocate for is additional research to understand what's happening and what sort of programs help women in this sort of situation to prevent it from happening," Picard said.

    However, Picard said some of the reasons First Nations women are vulnerable to sex trafficking are all too familiar in indigenous communites.

    "The reason that indigenous women and girls are sometimes trafficked has to do with all of these ongoing issues like poverty," she said. "Another one of the large risk factors for indigenous women and girls is the lack of housing ... women will sometimes engage in survival sex, not of their choice, in order to have somewhere to live."

    Picard said the ONWA hopes to work with organizations in Minnesota and Manitoba to learn more about the cross-border sex trade, and explore ways of keeping indigenous women and their children safe.


  34. Canada rejects UN rights panel call for review of violence on aboriginal women

    By Mike Blanchfield The Canadian Press September 19, 2013

    OTTAWA – Canada will formally reject calls from a United Nations rights review body to develop a comprehensive national review to end violence against Aboriginal women.

    That will be part of its response today to the UN Human Rights Council, which is conducting its Universal Period Review of Canada’s rights record.

    Countries have their rights records reviewed every four years by the Geneva-based UN forum, but the Harper government has been skeptical of it in part because it allows countries with dubious rights records to criticize Canada.

    Recommendations from Iran, Sri Lanka and Cuba were among the 40 out of 162 that Canada chose to reject.

    That also included a rejection of a series of resolutions calling on Canada to undertake sweeping national reviews of violence against aboriginal women.

    Other countries calling for such reviews included Switzerland, Norway, Slovenia, Slovakia and New Zealand.

    Other countries with poor rights records, including Iran, Cuba and Belarus, also supported the call for an investigation into the disappearances, murder and sexual abuse of aboriginal women in Canada.

    In a response to be formally tabled Thursday in Geneva, Canada says it is “strongly committed to taking action with aboriginal and non-aboriginal groups to prevent and stop violence against aboriginal women” through a series of federal and provincial initiatives.

    “There have been a number of inquiries and resulting proposals for improvements over the years,” says the reply.

    “In addition, race-based statistics are not recorded in a systematic manner across Canada’s criminal justice system due to operational, methodological, legal and privacy concerns.”

    Canada faced similar calls to better address the concerns of its aboriginal population in 2009, when it faced its last review by the UN body.

    “Such comments were made by a range of states, some of them close allies, some not. For example, the United Kingdom, Norway and the Netherlands, as well as Cuba and Iran, recommended that Canada better address Aboriginal Peoples’ concerns,” said an April 2013 Library of Parliament review of the UN review process.

    The issue reared its head again in February when the New York-based group Human Rights Watch issued a highly critical report alleging police abuse of aboriginal women in British Columbia.

    It too urged the Harper government to strike a national commission of inquiry along with the B.C. provincial government, a measure that was endorsed by the NDP, Liberals, the Green party and the Assembly of First Nations.

    James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is scheduled to visit Canada in October to conduct his own inquiry.

    The federal government will get a chance to respond to Anaya’s findings before a final report is circulated and presented to the UN rights council.

    The Harper government has butted heads in the past with previous UN special rapporteurs.

    Conservative cabinet ministers have blasted the UN’s right-to-food envoy Olivier De Schutter for saying too many Canadian citizens are going hungry.

    It is all part of a periodic war of words between the Harper government and various UN bodies. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has criticized a Quebec law on demonstrations, prompting a quick response from Ottawa.

    The UN Committee Against Torture has also accused Ottawa of being “complicit” in human rights violations committed against three Arab-Canadian men held in Syria after 9-11.


  35. Families Compile Own Database of Missing and Murdered Women

    Aboriginal groups take tracking of lost loved ones into their own hands.

    By Martha Troian, Today, Indian Country Today Media Network September 28, 2013

    There was a time when Colleen Cardinal could not talk about her family without choking on her grief. "It took me a long time to talk about what happened to my sister," said Cardinal, from Saddle Lake Cree First Nation in central Alberta. "I'm a family member who lost two women to murder."

    Her eldest sister, Charmaine Desa, was murdered in downtown Edmonton in 1990. And Cardinal's sister-in-law, Lynn Minia Jackson, was found in a field in 2004 in Wetaskiwin, about 73 kilometres south of Edmonton.

    Cardinal's story is not unique, and this puts her among the legions of family members fed up with a lack of progress in getting to the bottom of the issue of violence against aboriginal women in Canada. She is part of a movement to take control of matters affecting not only her family, but thousands of others. Born of their determination is a newly launched community-based database of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, compiled by the victims' families themselves.

    Two grassroots organizations in Canada, No More Silence and Families of Sisters in Spirit, have teamed up to compile the database, which was launched on Sept. 12. The database will record the date of disappearance and death for missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. It will hold details such as date of birth, nation, childhood and family background, education and work history, level of permission for use of data and primary contact information.

    The need for the database is twofold, organizers said. Andrea Smith, an author, scholar and native American anti-violence activist from southern California, recalled a time not so long ago when the issue of violence against indigenous women received little visibility. It wasn't until women raised awareness about the issue that government funding began to shed light on the problem. But that didn't come without a price.

    "We found that government support often becomes a trap. We start to become dependent on it, and then when we step out of line as we saw with Sisters in Spirit, we suddenly get defunded," said Smith.

    Sisters in Spirit was the first database collecting cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. Canada's federal government stopped funding the program in 2010. Critics of the cut say it was meant to silence the Native Women's Association of Canada, the group behind the database.

    Smith has seen this happen in the U.S too. When the Violence Against Women Act was passed, with it came a mandate that native American tribes developing curricula dealing with sexual violence were forbidden to use the word "colonization," said Smith.

    "It's okay to support anti-violence work as long as your framework is about pathologizing native communities, [implying] that we're inherently dysfunctional with mental health issues," she said, adding how that makes it all the more crucial for organizations and community groups such as No More Silence and Families of Sisters in Spirit to seek ways to fund their own work. Their newly launched database will be a testament to this, she said. The group does not intend to ask for government funding -- or permission.

    'People have a right to know'

    Previous attempts have been made to compile statistics on violence against aboriginal women, as columnist Carol Goar noted in an opinion piece in the Toronto Star on Sept. 23.


    Goar details attempts by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women that ran into a shortage of data.

    continued below

  36. She describes the scattershot crime statistics kept by police, Status of Women Canada and the resource-hobbled Native Women's Association of Canada, as well as individual women's shelters.

    "The difficulty of collecting data about violence against women has been a barrier," Kate McInturff, author of a study for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, told Goar. "However, the data that do exist tell us three things very clearly: This problem is big, it comes at a high cost, and we are making little or no progress in putting a stop to it."

    The online activist group Anonymous compiled an interactive map of missing and murdered indigenous women in both the U.S. and Canada last February, but that does not contain much more than a dot marking where the person was last seen alive. The new database will fill these knowledge gaps, its creators hope.

    "All that we're doing now with the database is taking matters into our own hands," said Audrey Huntley, co-founder of No More Silence. Alluding to traditional indigenous knowledge, she noted, "We've always known how to keep track, we've always been amazing counters."

    Dr. Janet Smylie, a Métis physician and research scientist, is helping design the database, whose methodology draws upon both traditional and western practices. The team has created filters in order to conduct database searches, and soon names of missing and murdered loved ones will be added. Families of missing and murdered women and girls are encouraged to contact No More Silence and Families of Sisters in Spirit if they would like to add loves ones' names.

    "As soon as we get information, it will go public," said Bridget Tolley, co-founder of Families of Sisters in Spirit. Unlike the Native Women's Association database, the product will be available to the public, and more important, Tolley said, to family members.

    "Why have a database when nobody can see it?" said Tolley. "People have a right to know."

    Without funding, the Native Women's Association of Canada was forced to close its own database in 2010. By the time it did so, the association had reported close to 600 indigenous women and girls murdered or gone missing in the country over several years. Since then many more have vanished or been killed, and according to Tolley their names are not being recorded in a central location.

    Earlier this year the RCMP questioned the Native Women's Association total, saying that of the 118 names shared with the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing Services, only 64 of them could be confirmed in a police database. An RCMP spokesperson also said there are concerns over the 500 possible victims recorded in the association's database. Indigenous communities find this hard to believe given that these deaths are still occurring.

    "In Toronto in the last few months, there have been three violent deaths of indigenous women, and sadly there wasn't much societal response to that," Huntley said.

    Cardinal also comes from a family torn apart by adoption, severe physical abuse and alcoholism. It's a history she details in Stolen Dream, a documentary produced in 2012. Her second film, The Sixties Scoop: A Hidden Generation, to be released in 2014, will examine the adoptions of indigenous children that took place from the 1960s through the 1980s. She said she can now talk about her past because she understands the historical context of colonization in which it occurred.

    The combination of personal and political has led Cardinal to work with Families of Sisters in Spirit. She sees the need to pick up where that group left off, given the lack of information and political will to gather it.

    "I think the only people that can keep track of our women, and what's happening to our women, is our women," Cardinal said.


  37. Vancouver police, RCMP defend actions in Pickton case

    Statements of defence filed Monday by RCMP and Vancouver Police Department

    The Canadian Press October 07, 2013

    The two police forces that failed to catch Robert Pickton as the serial killer hunted sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside say they acted reasonably when they received information that women were vanishing and that Pickton might have been responsible.

    The Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP each filed statements of defence Monday in a series of lawsuits involving the children of nine missing women, who accuse both forces of inadequately investigating reports of missing sex workers in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    The case was the focus of a high-profile public inquiry last year that identified a long list of failures and concluded that, had the victims not been poor, drug-addicted sex workers, the police would have done more to investigate what happened to them.

    Both forces have issued public apologies acknowledging they could have done more to catch Pickton sooner.

    The Vancouver police has repeated that apology numerous times in the past several years, while the RCMP offered its apology during the public inquiry.

    But in separate statements of defence, each force denies responsibility and argues they should not be held liable for the deaths of women who ended up on Pickton's farm.

    "At all material times, the Vancouver police made reasonable efforts to locate and investigate the disappearances of women upon receipt of information or reports," the City of Vancouver, on behalf of its police force, says in one of its statements of defence.

    The RCMP's statements of defence offers a similar argument: "The defendant says that the actions of those (RCMP officers) were at all times taken in good faith, were reasonable and were not negligent, particularly given the information available and the circumstances prevailing at the time of those investigations."

    The Vancouver Police Department also says in its statements of defence that there is no evidence any of the women disappeared from Vancouver.

    The force has long insisted no crime occurred in Vancouver, because the women were believed to have willingly left the city with Pickton only to be killed on his farm in Port Coquitlam, which is in the RCMP's jurisdiction.

    There were three separate investigations linked to Vancouver's missing women.

    continued below

  38. The Vancouver police investigated reports of missing Downtown Eastside sex workers, while the RCMP examined Pickton as a potential suspect. In 2001, both forces formed a joint task force to review missing-person cases involving sex workers.

    Pickton emerged as a suspect as early as 1998, when the Vancouver police received tips implicating him, but he wasn't caught until February 2002.

    Commissioner Wally Oppal's final report from the public inquiry, released last December, identified a list of "critical failures" in the various police investigations.

    Those included poor report taking, a failure to take proactive steps to protect sex workers, the failure to pursue all investigative strategies, and poor co-ordination between Vancouver police and RCMP, among others.

    At the inquiry, the forces urged the commissioner not to judge their actions with the benefit of hindsight, insisting officers did the best they could with the information they had at the time.

    The Vancouver police and the RCMP also spent considerable time at the inquiry blaming each other. Vancouver police accused the Mounties of botching their investigation into Pickton, while the RCMP said the Vancouver police weren't passing along information and resisted forming a joint investigation.

    The Vancouver department released its own internal review in 2010, which identified a number of problems with how the force's management handled the case while also laying considerable blame at the feet of the RCMP.

    The City of Vancouver's statement of defence says the force will rely on that report as its version of what happened.

    The families' lawsuits also allege Crown prosecutors were negligent when they declined to put Pickton on trial for attempted murder after an attack on a sex worker in 1997.

    Pickton was set to stand trial in early 1998, but prosecutors dropped the case days before trial over concerns about the victim's ability to testify.

    The B.C. government has filed court documents arguing prosecutors are immune from being sued.

    The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton's farm.

    He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence.

    Pickton is also named in the families' lawsuits, as is his brother, David. Neither has filed a statement of defence.


  39. NOTE: It is important when reading the following article to keep in mind that the RCMP has failed miserably on this file of missing Indigenous women. While this new initiative is welcome news, it is difficult to trust the RCMP on this issue when they have just filed lawsuit defense that denies any institutional discrimination or neglect in failing to properly follow evidence that could have captured a serial killer and stopped his killing spree of mostly Indigenous women years earlier. The RCMP is still in denial about the numbers of missing or murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Personally, I doubt their claim that this new initiative has nothing to do with the current visit of the UN Special Investigator on Indigenous Rights.

    RCMP highlight 10 cases of missing aboriginal women on social media

    Facebook, Twitter campaign coincides with visit by UN fact-finder

    By Susana Mas, CBC News October 10, 2013

    The RCMP are calling on the public to help them solve 10 outstanding cases of missing aboriginal women in Canada through a weeklong social media campaign that started on Monday.

    The Mounties have been using their Twitter and Facebook accounts to highlight two specific cases of missing aboriginal women per day from across the country. Each post calls on the public to help them find women whose cases are featured on the Canada's Missing website.

    In an interview with CBC News, Supt. Tyler Bates, the director of national aboriginal policing and crime prevention services, said "the 10 cases were selected primarily based on geography, to feature cases from all parts of Canada."

    Bates said the initiative is an opportunity "to try and get some of the faces of women that have left and not come back, and really get those into the social consciousness of Canadians."

    The RCMP's weeklong social media campaign coincides with the visit to Canada by James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

    When asked by CBC News whether the social media campaign was timed around Anaya's visit, Bates said "it wasn't a consideration. It's certainly coincidental, I would say."

    continued below

  40. Anaya is now on his fourth day of a nine-day visit to take stock of the progress that has been made since 2003 when his predecessor last visited Canada. His itinerary includes meetings with government and indigenous representatives.

    "The RCMP is one of the agencies that is visited by the special rapporteur," Bates said.

    The campaign, according to Bates, was launched on Monday to build on last Friday's Sisters in Spirit rallies that took place in over 200 locations across the country. The vigil has become a yearly event organized by the Native Women’s Association of Canada for the past eight years on Oct. 4.

    The NWAC told CBC News it is supportive of the campaign, which could generate tips to help the police solve these cases.

    Two of the eight women highlighted to date by the RCMP's social media campaign include the cases of Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander, two teenage friends who went missing from Maniwaki, Que., on Sept. 6, 2008.

    The Canada's Missing website says Maisy spent the night at Shannon’s house and that Shannon’s father was the last person to have seen his daughter.

    Laurie Odjick, Maisy's mother, attended the Sisters in Spirit rally on the steps of Parliament Hill last Friday. She was seen holding a picture of Maisy, who disappeared at the age of 16.

    Both Maisy and Shannon were remembered during the Sisters in Spirit rally on Parliament Hill.​

    Each case on the Canada’s Missing website includes information about the missing person and the circumstances around their disappearance. Canadians can print off a poster to display in a public place.

    This is the second time the Mounties have used social media to help them solve open cases. In May, the RCMP posted five profiles of missing children to coincide with National Missing Children's Day.

    "We expect there will be other opportunities to post other profiles and utilize social media in a similar manner down the road," Bates said.

    Conservative MP Ryan Leef, on Tuesday, pledged his support for a national public inquiry into the case of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    see the links and tweets in this report at:


  41. New survey probes internal attitudes toward RCMP

    by Douglas Quan O Canada October 10, 2013

    The RCMP wants to know if its members feel that their bosses and colleagues “demonstrate honesty,” that they’re “protected from reprisals” if they report wrongdoing, and how often they “feel like leaving the RCMP.”

    Distributed to employees late last month, the “Professional Climate Survey” is intended to “enhance departmental policies, practices and procedures and create a better work environment for all employees,” survey respondents are told.

    The survey coincides with the development by the force’s top brass in June of a “Professional Ethics Strategic Plan,” designed to “increase public trust” in the force and “ensure the RCMP is accountable and ethical.” The force is also in the midst of updating its code of conduct for the first time in 25 years.

    Earlier this year, the force also introduced a new “Gender and Respect Action Plan,” as well as an “Interpersonal Workplace Relationship Policy” that states that romantic or sexual relationships between supervisors or those in positions of authority and subordinates must be reported in writing as they “raise concerns of conflict of interest, preferential treatment, bias and/or abuse of authority.”

    These developments come in a period of considerable tumult for the force, punctuated by allegations of widespread sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. Later this month, retired RCMP constable Janet Merlo — the lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit against the force — is set to release a book documenting her 20-year RCMP career titled No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP.

    Robert Gordon, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University, said the survey appears to be well-organized, comprehensive and a signal that RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson is trying to turn the organization around.

    “Judging from the posture of the commissioner over the last few years, I get the impression this guy realizes there are significant, potentially fatal, problems with his organization. He’s trying to address some of these concerns,” Gordon said.

    continued below

  42. The survey asks members to indicate whether they think the RCMP is an organization with integrity, if they feel comfortable raising possible ethical breaches to their bosses, and if they feel confident that reports of possible wrongdoing will be addressed impartially. They can choose from five responses, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

    Employees are also asked if their supervisors take prompt action when unethical behaviour occurs, and if they are aware that they and their supervisors “must resolve any real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest.”

    In another section, employees are asked if they feel they had received adequate training, whether their workloads are manageable and if their supervisors listen to their concerns. They’re also asked if they feel they have been treated fairly and respectfully during their time with the force.

    Employees are also probed on their intentions to leave the force. “How often do you actively look for another position outside the RCMP?” they’re asked. Again, they have five possible answers ranging from “never” to “always.”

    They’re also asked — yes or no — if they’d recommend the RCMP as a place to work to family and friends.

    Sgt. Greg Cox, an RCMP spokesman, said in an email that while employee surveys have been done in the past, the RCMP is “seeking more specific responses to questions and demographics that will help determine problem areas and what resources will help to address them.”

    Cox said results should be available in early 2014, but are “intended to be used for internal purposes.”

    Gordon said there are limitations to such a survey. Even though respondents are promised anonymity, some may still be reluctant to complete it out of fear their answers could somehow come back to bite them.

    Survey takers are asked at the end to identify their age, gender, marital status, visible-minority status, employee category, the division they work in, and years of service.


  43. Group calls for action on Pickton inquiry recommendations

    Only 3 of 65 recommendations have been fully implemented

    The Canadian Press November 25, 2013

    The British Columbia government has to act now on compensating serial killer Robert Pickton's victims and implementing other recommendations put forward a year ago by the inquiry into missing and murdered women, said a coalition of advocacy groups Monday.

    Following a "totally emotional" meeting with B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton, Mona Woodward, who spoke for the Missing Women Coalition, said she is tired of the government dragging its feet.

    "Why do we always have to fight? Why do we always have to do these protests?" Woodward said at a media conference. "Why can't the government fulfil its duty with due care and respect and give aboriginal women and our children the same as the rest of society?"

    65 recommendations

    Wally Oppal, the head of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry,made 65 recommendations last December to address the systemic gaps that allowed Pickton to target sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

    Earlier this month, the province released a report that said only three of the recommendations have been fully implemented, while work has begun on 28 others.

    "(The government) appointed Wally Oppal and it's not following the recommendation and this is totally appalling, it's an outrage," said Woodward, who also represents the Downtown Eastside Sister Watch Program.

    "These are women in our community and they left behind orphans and children that have to go on without their mother, their grandmother, their auntie," she said.

    Woodward said the coalition wants to see specific recommendations carried out, such as compensation for victim families and safer transportation along northern B.C.'s Highway 16, or the so-called Highway of Tears, where 18 women have disappeared or been murdered over the past few decades.

    continued below

  44. The coalition also wants the government to find someone to replace Steven Point, the province's former lieutenant governor who was appointed to oversee the implementation of Oppal's recommendations, but who resigned in May.

    Opposition NDP housing critic Jenny Kwan said the government should act now on compensating the family of Pickton's victims.

    'Shouldn't have to wait anymore'

    The former pig farmer was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder in 2007. The DNA of 33 women was found on the farm.

    The family members of six women whose remains were discovered on the property have launched lawsuits against the Vancouver police, the RCMP and Pickton.

    "If (the government does) accept the facts and evidence as they were presented (at the inquiry), then the government needs to compensate the families now," Kwan said.

    "They shouldn't have to wait anymore. It shouldn't be before the courts for the community to have to fight yet another round to spend more money in the court system and for lawyers to get action."

    Anton said after the meeting with the Missing Women Coalition that there is already action underway on Oppal's recommendations.

    "I hope the coalition and British Columbians can see that we're making significant progress, with action underway on one-half of the recommendations directed at us in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report. The Province is committed to building a legacy of safety and security for vulnerable women," she said in a written statement.

    "To continue our progress on the recommendations, we're working with those who have the needed expertise. We've begun this engagement process through initial discussions with the Minister's Advisory Council on Aboriginal Women. We also continue to seek advice from other key stakeholders."

    The province has already provided what Oppal said was urgently needed funding for the WISH drop-in centre that provides services for sex workers in the Downtown Eastside, but it has yet to address safety concerns on Highway 16.


  45. Aboriginal women without documentation banned from flight

    by Andrea Hill, canada.com December 9, 2013

    OTTAWA — Two aboriginal women barred from boarding an Ottawa-bound flight Sunday because they lacked appropriate documentation were subject to “systemic discrimination,” says a Manitoba MP who planned to fly with them.

    The women, travelling from Winnipeg to Ottawa to testify before a special committee on missing and murdered aboriginal women, did not have drivers’ licences or passports, which MP Niki Ashton said is a common problem for northern aboriginal people. Because of that, they were not allowed on the Air Canada flight.

    “It is just a sign of the way the system fails these families time and time again,” Ashton said.

    Air Canada apologized for the incident, but said the airline was simply obeying the law which requires all passengers to have at least one piece of government-issued photo identification with a name, birth date and gender, or two pieces of government-issued non-photo identification.

    “It was not possible to break the law,” airline spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email. “In cases where customers do not possess the requisite ID, we may be able to make special accommodations but it requires pre-approval, which is not possible at the last-minute at the gate.”

    The grounded passengers, Gail and Joyce Nepinak, were being flown to Ottawa at the invitation of the government’s special committee on missing and murdered aboriginal women, which heard from families of missing and murdered women for the first and last time Monday. Fourteen individuals made it to Ottawa to testify.

    Gail and Joyce are relatives of Tanya Nepinak, who went missing from Winnipeg more than two years ago. The 31-year-old woman was believed to have been murdered by serial killer Shawn Lamb, but charges against Lamb were stayed last month after prosecutors determined there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.

    Ashton said both women brought their health cards and government invitations to the airport, but this was not enough to get them on the plane.


  46. VIDEO: “In Her Name—Relationships as Law” (Addressing Violence Through Indigenous Teachings and Tradition)

    Media Indigena January 18, 2014

    The following is the original transcript for a talk that MEDIA INDIGENA Contributor Sarah Hunt recently gave at TEDxVictoria 2013: Emergence.

    Obviously, the video of that presentation will contain most of the text below but, according to Sarah, the transcript she provided here is “slightly different from the video because it includes the few sections I forgot.” Consider it bonus material from an already stimulating talk.



    In the Kwakwala language, Gilaksa’la is a welcome we give at the beginning of any speech or before starting important business. In this same Kwakwaka’wkaw tradition, I am supposed to introduce myself, Sarah Hunt, and tell you that my grandparents Henry and Helen Hunt were from Tsaxis or Fort Rupert on the northern part of Vancouver Island. And that my grandparents on my mom’s side are Jack and Betty Sahaydak, with ancestry from Ukraine and England. In telling you these things, my name reveals not just who I am personally, but tells you about my standing in my community, my cultural and ceremonial rights and how I might be related to you.

    But, in truth, this talk should begin with another name: Sheila Hunt.

    Sheila Hunt was a name that I saw among dozens of other names of missing and murdered women, written on a banner at a rally in Vancouver’s downtown east side. Now I have a lot of relatives — my grandma had 14 kids after all and I have more than 60 first cousins — but Sheila Hunt was not a name I had heard before.

    At the time of this rally, I was twenty years old and in my first few years of university. I had become interested in issues of violence a couple of years earlier when a cousin of mine — Malidi — had taken her own life.

    Malidi was close to my age, she was well loved and well connected to her culture. And her death left a deep impression on me. I began to think about the silence left behind after her passing — how would I know her story now that she was gone? I began to see it as my obligation to address that silence. Even though I was only 18, I was a young woman determined on change.

    And so after taking some classes and reading books about violence, I became aware of the particular violence faced by native women in Vancouver’s downtown east side. Here, women were disappearing on a regular basis. Or they were showing up dead. And nothing was being done by police or other authorities to take it seriously.

    And so, at the age of 20 and in my third year of university, I attended my first march to remember women who had been killed or gone missing from this community.

    And it was there, standing amongst the crowd, that I spotted the name “Sheila Hunt.” Suddenly, I became aware of the depth of the silence that had begun to haunt me. Because I realized that if I had a family member living and working in the downtown east side, I would likely never hear about it. The stigma around sex work, the shame around drug use and poverty, these all create even more silence. And further distance between myself and women like Sheila.

    continued below

  47. Sheila and Malidi have stayed in my mind in the more than 15 years since then, as I worked with communities across BC to address violence. I first started doing education and outreach with young women in Vancouver. I then became a researcher and educator in small communities and cities across the province, talking about violence, sexual exploitation, and intergenerational abuse.

    Through all of this, what struck me were the similar ways violence was being talked about. Whether I was in a small northern reserve community, or a town on Vancouver Island, or in a city like Vancouver, I heard young people tell me that violence is just a part of life. It happens and nobody talks about it. Although we know that there are lots of similar problems in wider Canadian society, Indigenous people are much more likely to experience violence, both from within and from outside native communities.

    Traveling to northern BC, I learned that the situation in the downtown east side was not unique. In fact, more than a dozen young native girls and women had been found dead or gone missing from along a remote stretch of highway between Prince Rupert and Prince George. Families and community members here had been urging the police to do something for years about these cases. The girls here were not facing the stigma of working in the sex trade or being in an area known for drug use and poverty. They were simply living in remote reserve communities, which are out of sight, out of mind for most Canadians. It was only when a non-native girl, a treeplanter, went missing while hitchhiking into town that the media and the public, that we, paid attention.

    Of course, things have changed in the more than 15 years since I first attended the march. The police formed a task force, serial killer Robert Pickton was locked up and the public became aware of “the missing women.” National research was done to try to find out the extent of unsolved murders or disappearances of native girls and women. When the results were released in 2010 more than 600 names were on that list. An inquiry was also held to look in to why the violence in the downtown east side continued for so long before the police took action. And in northern BC, the police compiled a list of young women who have met a similar fate along what is now known as “the Highway of Tears.” The UN wants to investigate the missing women, calling it an issue of human rights. [Editor's note: Canada has rejected such moves by bodies of the United Nations.]

    So family members should be relieved, right? Because the police and the public finally started paying attention, finally put a name to the violence that went unseen for so long.


    continued below

  48. Despite these changes in public awareness, despite this legal action, despite the poster campaigns, the reports, and the international horror at the discovery of a serial killer… the violence continues. It’s still a part of daily life. Young women continue to go missing from rural reserves. They continue to die under suspicious circumstances. Gay native men (who we call two-spirits) — like Dolan Badger — continue to be killed without any justice. And if these stories show up in the media, they surface for a moment, very rarely to be talked about again.

    Well, a few years ago I reached a kind of turning point. These changes were just not enough. Why do we ask for help from a system that doesn’t seem to create real change? What does “justice” really mean?

    For me, this change came after I had seen case after case where violence was reported. Sometimes it got to court, and sometimes there were even convictions. But the lives of the young people I was working with did not improve. When the court case was all over, their lives went right back to how they had been before. In fact, through the court process, the victims themselves felt helpless, just waiting to hear what a judge decided. Or, more often, they were told that there wasn’t enough evidence so nothing more could be done.

    It is such a helpless feeling, to see people go through such brutality and to know the justice systems has no solutions.

    Other responses left me frustrated too. Along the highway of tears, the government contributed money… to erect billboards saying “Friends don’t let friends hitchhike.” What good is a billboard going to do when it’s -20°C and you need to get into town for a doctors’ appointment, and there is simply no bus service to get you there?

    Getting more and more fed up with these band-aid solutions, in 2010 I went back to school to get my PhD. And in my research, I started talking to people about what is making a difference, not necessarily in the courts but in the daily lives of the communities I was working with. What might actually prevent violence or help to keep people safer?

    Because surely we can do better than billboards telling girls to stay home. Surely we can do better than a thirty-second news clip.

    I realized that communities are, in fact, doing lots of things to address violence on their own, without the help of police or the government. They‘re creating solutions that address local problems and are led by local people. And many First Nations are drawing on their own cultural teachings and traditions in these solutions.

    One program that stands out for me is the Moosehide Project, started by Paul Lacerte at the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centers. In Paul’s program, boys and men within a community take a pledge not to be violent toward the girls and women in their lives. And they also pledge to keep one another accountable. Often, communities go through traditional hunting processes to harvest the hide and integrate other local cultural practices. It draws on the strengths of the land, the animals and the men’s obligations to their ancestors. This is happening on a small scale in communities all across BC and it’s spreading fast.

    continued below

  49. Other solutions involve restoring the cultural roles of young people, integrating traditional conflict resolution, calling on elders to settle disputes. Or creating informal safe houses, or training emergency response teams made up of local people.

    As I talked to people in native communities all across BC, my view on law started to shift. I started to see these solutions not as just local social changes, but as the operation of a different kind of law: Indigenous law.

    Now what do I mean by Indigenous law? Don’t we need the courts to uphold our laws?

    Well before the Indian Act turned us into Indians, before Canada became Canada, we native people were Kwagiulth, Haida, and Nuu-Chah-Nulth. We were Skeetchestn, Tsimishian and Nisga’a. We can see on this map that there were, and are, many distinct language groups across BC. Each language represents a distinct Indigenous Nation, with their own set of cultural systems, social norms, ceremonial practices, and yes, laws. These laws governed our lives for thousands of years, not upheld through a court system or police, but by a network of individuals who kept each other accountable.

    Canadian law turned all these individual groups, all these distinct cultures, into one thing: Status Indians. And all of us became subject to federal law. This federal law is now supposed to help us to address violence and abuse, but clearly it is failing.

    Thinking about these networks, we can see that the laws of Canada that were plunked down on top of native communities have an entirely different geography. One big national law versus local level networks. But what is rarely seen is that those legal relationships, the identities and cultural practices remain alive and active underneath the laws of Canada.

    Right now, in many rural areas, if you call the police for help, they may not get there for a day, or two, or, I’ve heard, even a week. So you can see why local solutions, right here and now, might be more effective.

    I’ve noticed that local strategies have a different quality than those offered by criminal law. Instead of appealing to some powerful figure like the police or a judge for help, with Indigenous law, all members of a community are actively involved in upholding local laws. This activates our sense of power, our agency.

    So what is agency? We might define it as the capacity of a person to act in the world. Or the ability to make choices for yourself. This is a fundamental quality of being a person in society, of feeling like you matter, like you are in control of your own life.

    And in many Indigenous teachings, it’s not only people who have agency but also plants, animals, the land and the ocean — every living thing has agency. Each living thing has an important role in the order of the world. The teachings that emerge from our longstanding relationships upon the land and the ocean have allowed us to live with each another for thousands of years. And they have much to teach about creating healthy and strong relationships. Relationships that don’t allow violence.

    continued below

  50. You may not know about them, but if you take the time to learn about local Indigenous communities, here on the lands we live on, you might be surprised at what we learn.

    In my Kwakwaka’wakw community, our laws tell us we are responsible for “raising one another up.” We hold up our hands in recognition of our ancestors, honoring one another and recognizing each other’s gifts. We must look to our neighbors, to ourselves, to “raise one another up.”

    We now remember the missing women. But how could we have raised up women like Sheila Hunt, before her name ended up on that banner?

    In these teachings, our relationships are what hold us to account. Our relationships become our law. If laws are rules we form to determine how we live with one another, it seems that laws formed from within these local relationships have much to offer. Not just for violence, but so many other issues too.

    You might be familiar with seeing native culture and resistance being put to work in political actions like Idle No More, but I think we also need to turn its power toward the smaller, everyday level of our relationships. And how we envision our communities.

    We see allies show up at rallies to defend our oceans, our forests, our salmon. But who shows up when we call on people to stand up with our loved ones, to stand up for our very lives?

    So what can be learned from this? It’s up to Indigenous people to revitalize our cultural practices. But I think everyone can take something from the principles of Indigenous law.

    Instead of expecting criminal law to stop violence, instead of looking for one big solution, we can look to each another. We can look to ourselves and our neighbors to change norms around violence.

    The next time we hear a news story about violence and find ourselves tuning out, we can question why that violence feels far off from our reality.

    Because it’s not. It’s happening just around the corner from us, to our neighbors. So we can think about how to close the gaps between us, strengthening our relationships.

    And second, if we take the time to look underneath and beyond the map of Canada, underneath the cities we now live in, Indigenous knowledge has much to teach us about where we live and how we might better live together in these lands.

    Sheila Hunt? I never did find out if she was my auntie. Because the point is she should have mattered whether she was my auntie or not. And she should have mattered before she was put on that list of “the missing women.” As neighbours, as people who create community together, the laws of this land tell me Sheila should have been treated as a valuable member of society. So should Dolan Badger. So should my cousin Malidi. I’ve learned over the past 15 years of talking about violence that it won’t be stopped by a poster campaign. Or a court case. Or a news story. It will only be stopped when those who enact violence, and those who experience it, and those who witness it, are understood as being part of a network of people who are responsible to one another.

    The people who live beside us — whether we know them or not — we need to “raise one another up.” Because if we don’t, who will?


  51. Missing, murdered aboriginal womens cases reviewed

    The Canadian Press January 23, 2014

    The RCMP says it has completed a "comprehensive file review" of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within Mountie jurisdiction — more than 400 in all — and will continue to pursue outstanding cases.

    The national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females, say RCMP briefing notes obtained under the Access to Information Act.

    The review represents the latest effort by the Mounties amid public concern about the perils faced by aboriginal women and allegations of police inaction.

    A special parliamentary committee is holding hearings on the issue, and calls persist for a full-fledged national inquiry.

    Native association working with RCMP

    The Native Women's Association of Canada said Thursday it will give the RCMP its list of aboriginal women who may have met with violence or simply disappeared — but only names gleaned from public sources such as newspapers and posters.

    The association is not prepared to provide the Mounties with private details of cases that may have come from family members and friends of the missing.

    "We want to be careful in how we do things," said Claudette Dumont-Smith, executive director of the association.

    Drawing on information scattered in often-forgotten public sources, the association spent years compiling a database of 582 cases through the Sisters in Spirit initiative.

    The association began working with the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing Services branch in 2009 and provided the Mounties with names from its database in cases where there was little information to go on.

    The list of 118 names included 60 murdered women or girls, three missing ones and 55 whose status was unknown. Of these, 64 turned up on a police database.

    That prompted the RCMP to ask the native women's association for all 582 names to see if any others could be found in police files, but confidentiality guarantees to family members have delayed further sharing.

    Dumont-Smith said the association recently agreed to give the RCMP names that have already been published elsewhere.

    "We haven't determined how we will do that. We've only decided that, yes, we would share the names," she said in an interview.

    "I imagine that we're not just going to release all our 500-and-some names at once. We'll do it in a progressive fashion, maybe region by region. But that hasn't been worked out yet."

    Comprehensive list being compiled

    The RCMP and the association are working "to reconcile all available data" pertaining to missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, said Sgt. Greg Cox, an RCMP spokesman. "We have not received all information from NWAC yet, but we expect it shortly."

    Last fall the Mounties shared their figures — 327 murders and 90 missing women — with the native women's association, Dumont-Smith said.

    "They showed us how they got to these numbers. They were very — I found— transparent."

    The RCMP has responsibility for day-to-day policing in only parts of the country, which may account for the discrepancy in the two organizations' numbers, she said.

    She is keen to know more about the RCMP's list of 90 missing women.

    "Are they the same as ours — are they the same names? I think that will be an interesting find, if we both work together on this. That's what I think will come out of that."

    Cox said Thursday the RCMP's file review was intended "to capture a statistical snapshot in time" — not uncover new leads or result in investigations.

    "Ongoing investigations continue to be carried out by our operational units across Canada."

    The RCMP briefing note, prepared last July, says the force "will remain vigilant in our efforts to resolve all outstanding cases."


  52. Missing, murdered aboriginal womens cases reviewed

    The Canadian Press January 23, 2014

    The RCMP says it has completed a "comprehensive file review" of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within Mountie jurisdiction — more than 400 in all — and will continue to pursue outstanding cases.

    The national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females, say RCMP briefing notes obtained under the Access to Information Act.

    The review represents the latest effort by the Mounties amid public concern about the perils faced by aboriginal women and allegations of police inaction.

    A special parliamentary committee is holding hearings on the issue, and calls persist for a full-fledged national inquiry.

    Native association working with RCMP

    The Native Women's Association of Canada said Thursday it will give the RCMP its list of aboriginal women who may have met with violence or simply disappeared — but only names gleaned from public sources such as newspapers and posters.

    The association is not prepared to provide the Mounties with private details of cases that may have come from family members and friends of the missing.

    "We want to be careful in how we do things," said Claudette Dumont-Smith, executive director of the association.

    Drawing on information scattered in often-forgotten public sources, the association spent years compiling a database of 582 cases through the Sisters in Spirit initiative.

    The association began working with the RCMP's National Aboriginal Policing Services branch in 2009 and provided the Mounties with names from its database in cases where there was little information to go on.

    The list of 118 names included 60 murdered women or girls, three missing ones and 55 whose status was unknown. Of these, 64 turned up on a police database.

    That prompted the RCMP to ask the native women's association for all 582 names to see if any others could be found in police files, but confidentiality guarantees to family members have delayed further sharing.

    Dumont-Smith said the association recently agreed to give the RCMP names that have already been published elsewhere.

    "We haven't determined how we will do that. We've only decided that, yes, we would share the names," she said in an interview.

    "I imagine that we're not just going to release all our 500-and-some names at once. We'll do it in a progressive fashion, maybe region by region. But that hasn't been worked out yet."

    Comprehensive list being compiled

    The RCMP and the association are working "to reconcile all available data" pertaining to missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, said Sgt. Greg Cox, an RCMP spokesman. "We have not received all information from NWAC yet, but we expect it shortly."

    Last fall the Mounties shared their figures — 327 murders and 90 missing women — with the native women's association, Dumont-Smith said.

    "They showed us how they got to these numbers. They were very — I found— transparent."

    The RCMP has responsibility for day-to-day policing in only parts of the country, which may account for the discrepancy in the two organizations' numbers, she said.

    She is keen to know more about the RCMP's list of 90 missing women.

    "Are they the same as ours — are they the same names? I think that will be an interesting find, if we both work together on this. That's what I think will come out of that."

    Cox said Thursday the RCMP's file review was intended "to capture a statistical snapshot in time" — not uncover new leads or result in investigations.

    "Ongoing investigations continue to be carried out by our operational units across Canada."

    The RCMP briefing note, prepared last July, says the force "will remain vigilant in our efforts to resolve all outstanding cases."


  53. New list of missing, murdered aboriginal women gives families hope

    CBC News January 24, 2014

    The number of missing and murdered women in Canada may be much higher than previously believed, new research shows, giving hope to families seeking answers about their loved ones the new figures will spark fresh action from the RCMP.

    The PhD thesis research by Maryanne Pearce, a federal civil servant in Ottawa, has resulted in a database of missing or dead Canadian women, 824 of whom are identified as aboriginal.

    Pearce cross-referenced newspaper articles, police reports, court documents and other resources as part of her database.

    The latest figure is much higher than the 582 names the Native Women's Association of Canada compiled and handed over to the RCMP in 2009.

    Family members of those who have gone missing or have been killed say they hope the new list will push the RCMP to search harder.

    "Somebody out there knows where these people are," said Bernice Catcheway, whose daughter, Jennifer, went missing in Manitoba in June 2008.

    "Somebody stole my daughter, and that's the hardest thing a parent can go through … just not knowing where she is is a nightmare."

    Nahanni Fontaine, a special adviser on aboriginal women's issues for the Manitoba government, says she hopes the newest figures will bring some comfort to families.

    "It legitimizes the spirit of their loved one, and that their loved one existed, and that they're not forgotten," she said.

    The research presents "the opportunity again to galvanize non-aboriginal Canadians and get behind this issue," Fontaine added. "If they had been missed in previous reports, now they're here. And so I think that that really goes a long way with families."

    RCMP reviewed hundreds of cases

    It was revealed this week that the RCMP has completed a "comprehensive file review" of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within Mountie jurisdiction.

    The national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females, according to RCMP briefing notes obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

    "This is of great priority to the RCMP," Supt. Tyler Bates, director of national aboriginal policing and crime prevention services, told CBC News. "We continue to work diligently to resolve any of the outstanding cases that remain, whether it be historical homicides or contemporary ones."

    Bates noted that some of the cases in the new database will be outside RCMP jurisdiction.

    The RCMP review represents the latest effort by the police force amid public concern about the perils faced by aboriginal women, and allegations of police inaction.

    A special parliamentary committee is holding hearings on the issue.

    Aboriginal groups along with some provinces, such as Manitoba, have been pressing for a full-fledged national inquiry.

    "What is going to be the action that the RCMP are gonna take? Are they gonna look at these cases, meeting with these families and following through?" asked Bernadette Smith, whose sister, Claudette Osborne, vanished in Winnipeg in July 2008.

    Smith said she expects the RCMP to follow up on the new names that have come up in the latest database.

    "When my sister went missing, we were told, 'Oh, she's probably out partying somewhere, she'll turn up.' You know, so we were just kind of just brushed off, and I think that's still happening," she said.

    Smith and other family members are holding a vigil in Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon to remember Osborne, who was 21 when she went missing.


    List of Canada's missing and murdered women, from Maryanne Pearce's An Awkward Silence


  54. Mohawk community threatens blockades if Tories won't launch missing-women probe

    By Andy Radia, Yahoo! News February 7, 2014

    In a week during which the Harper government unveiled its historic education deal with First Nations, we have a reminder that not all is well between Aboriginals and the Conservatives.
    As first reported by APTN News, Shawn Brant, a member the Mohawk Community of Tyendinaga, is threatening "war" against Harper if the Tories don't launch an inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women.
    He made the threat of action in a very thoughtful letter to the Prime Minister dated February 4.

    "In a report, published in September 2013 by MaryAnne Pearce and recently obtained by the RCMP, some 824 First Nations women have now been identified as having been murdered or gone missing, with a majority of those cases documented as having occurred in the past 15 years.

    "Your unwillingness to consider this first step at reconciliation is well documented and understood.

    "It is our opinion that all diplomatic means to convince you of the need for an inquiry have failed. Further, the tears and sadness of the families left behind have not moved you to any position of compassion.

    "We have therefore resolved that we will take whatever and further actions that are deemed necessary, to compel you to call a National Inquiry into the crisis of Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women and Girls."

    Brant spoke to Yahoo Canada News on Friday afternoon and said that his community is considering blockades on thoroughfares between Canada's two largest cities — something they've done before.

    He suggests that the blockades could start in southern Ontario — with "400 men" — and quickly spread to other parts of the country with the help of 633 Mohawk communities.

    Ernie Crey, whose missing sister's DNA was found on serial killer Willie Pickton's pig farm in Port Coquitlam, says he disagrees with blockades as a form of protest but understands Brant's motivation.

    "I could see something like this occurring following Ottawa's high-handed and dismissive stance where a national inquiry into missing and murdered women is concerned," Crey said.

    "Shawn's approach is not one I agree with or even endorse, but frustration over this issue has past the boiling point and our communities from coast to coast are roiling over this issue."

    Last summer, all of Canada's premiers joined the Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty International and all the federal opposition parties asking the Harper government for an inquiry.

    For their part, the Tories continue to claim that an inquiry is not needed. In a statement to CBC News in September, Justice Minister Peter Mackay's office said it's not interested in more meetings but is taking action.

    "This includes creating a new National Centre for Missing Persons, improving law enforcement databases and developing community safety plans specifically designed for Aboriginal communities," the statement said.


  55. Inuk woman writing thesis on missing and murdered aboriginal women goes missing

    Loretta Saunders's boyfriend: 'She meant everything to me'

    CBC News February 21, 2014

    The boyfriend of a missing Halifax woman told CBC News he is suspicious about the last text message he received from his girlfriend's cellphone before she mysteriously disappeared.

    Yalcin Surkultay, 25, said he knew something was wrong a week ago when he got a text from Loretta Saunders, 26, a Saint Mary's University student, asking him what her mother's maiden name was.

    He said he received the strange text message Feb. 14 from girlfriend, who was last seen on Feb. 13. It read: “I’m so stressed that I can’t like even remember my own mother’s maiden name.”

    “It’s not possible,” Surkultay told CBC News.

    “She said she was stressed and locked herself out [of her] online banking — and she needed money, but it didn’t really make sense to me … I couldn’t make sense out of it, like why would she be stressed out all of a sudden?”

    Surkultay and Saunders, an Inuk woman from Newfoundland and Labrador, had been dating for 2½ years.

    He said when he saw Saunders on the morning of Feb. 13 she told him she was going to try and get rent money from her roommates, Victoria Henneberry, 28, and Blake Legette, 25.

    The couple had moved in the month before and had yet to pay rent.

    "She found them on Kijiji, and it has been a month or something and they didn’t pay the rent," said Surkultay.

    Earlier this week, Saunders's car was found in Harrow, Ont., south of Windsor.

    Police in Ontario have charged Leggette and Henneberry with possession of stolen goods and fraud.

    Police told CBC News a fraud charge against Leggette is connected to the use of Saunders's bank card.

    Thesis on missing women

    Surkultay said Saunders was writing her thesis, focusing on missing and murdered aboriginal women, and often worked into the early morning hours.

    “She was just so passionate about this topic and this whole school thing. She was so happy from the feedback she got from her professors — that was really, really important to her. She always wanted to go to law school. She was the most hardworking person I had ever seen, it was mind blowing,” he said.

    Surkultay said his relationship with Saunders was serious. The couple even visited his family in Turkey.

    “I thought we would be together for a long time,” he said.

    “She meant everything to me. She was pretty much the one I wanted to be with for the rest of my life.”

    Surkultay said Saunders was not three months pregnant, as has previously been reported, but said she took a pregnancy test a few weeks ago that was positive. He said she was going to have a blood test done to confirm it.

    “It doesn't seem real to me. This is the calmest I have been for a while, I just keep having breakdowns, I don’t know what to do," he said.

    'She wouldn't want us to waste time crying'

    Saunders's sister is asking anyone who has seen the missing woman or who may have seen her vehicle between Nova Scotia and Ontario to contact police.

    Working with the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, Delilah Saunders-Terriak, 21, spoke to reporters in Halifax on Friday morning.

    "Someone had to have seen her car or the people driving her car,” she said.

    Saunders-Terriak described her sister as strong.

    "She wouldn't want us wasting time crying," she said.

    A family friend started a fundraising campaign online to help bring Saunders's five brothers and parents from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia to help in the search. By Friday evening, it had raised about $7,500 of the $10,000 goal.

    “We need to be together when we find out what’s going on, when we hear some good news," said Saunders-Terriak. "It still hasn't set in."

    Halifax police said they have obtained arrest warrants to return Legette and Henneberry to Nova Scotia.


  56. Loretta Saunders homicide sparks call by native group for public inquiry

    Inuk student was studying missing and murdered aboriginal women

    CBC News February 26, 2014

    The slaying of Loretta Saunders should trigger a national inquiry into the hundreds of murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada, the president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association says.

    Cheryl Maloney spoke hours after police found the body of Saunders off a New Brunswick highway. Police are treating her death as a homicide.

    "I'm never going to let Stephen Harper or Canadians forget about Loretta and all the other missing or murdered aboriginal people," Maloney said.

    "There’s something wrong in Canada if aboriginal people have to live this fate."

    Saunders, an Inuk woman from Newfoundland and Labrador, was doing her thesis at Halifax's Saint Mary’s University on missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    Maloney said aboriginal Canadian women are five times more likely to be violently attacked than non-aboriginal women.

    Aboriginal men also face higher risks of violence than non-aboriginal men, she said.

    A researcher has found 800 cases of missing or murdered Canadian aboriginal women.

    Maloney said the “bright, smart” student didn’t fit stereotypes.

    "She wasn't what society expected for a missing aboriginal girl. Canadian society, and especially our prime minister, has been able to ignore the reality of the statistics that are against aboriginal girls,” Maloney said.

    "This is not what everyone expects, but she is at risk. Every aboriginal girl in this country is vulnerable. For Canada to be ignoring it for so long, it's disheartening. How many more families does this have to happen to before they take seriously the problem?”

    Saunders was studying the murders of three Nova Scotia aboriginal women:

    Nora Bernard http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/killer-of-mi-kmaq-activist-bernard-sentenced-to-15-years-1.791469

    Anna Mae Pictou Aquash http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/guilty-verdict-in-n-s-native-activist-s-death-1.893680

    Tanya Brooks http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/memorial-walk-held-for-tanya-brooks-1.1061596

    Maloney, surrounded by women who had volunteered to help search for Saunders, thanked Halifax for rallying to her side.

    People 'fell in love with this girl'

    "Loretta became something not just to us, the volunteers, but to the city, the province, the public. People really stepped up and they fell in love with this girl,” she said.

    Saunders was last seen in the Cowie Hill Road area in Halifax on the morning of Feb. 13. Five days later, her car was located in Harrow, Ont.

    Officers found her body Wednesday afternoon on the median of Route 2 of the Trans-Canada Highway, west of Salisbury, N.B. Forensic investigators from both Halifax police and RCMP in New Brunswick retrieved her remains.

    Murder charges expected

    Blake Leggette, 25, and Victoria Henneberry, 28, are currently incarcerated in Halifax. They were Saunders' roommates. Each is facing a charge of theft of a motor vehicle.

    "Investigators have identified suspects in this homicide and they are not looking for anyone else," said Const. Pierre Bourdages. "This homicide investigation is ongoing and charges are anticipated."

    Bourdages said more than one person will face murder charges and that they would be laid "as soon as possible."

    Henneberry is due in court Thursday and Leggette is due in court Friday. Both are facing charges relating to the theft of Saunders' car.

    "At this time, that's the only charge they're facing," Bourdages said.


  57. No call for national inquiry in MPs' report on aboriginal women

    16 recommendations include the creation of a public awareness and prevention campaign

    By Susana Mas, CBC News March 07, 2014

    A long-awaited report from MPs on the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women tabled Friday makes 16 recommendations, but does not call on the federal government to launch a public inquiry.

    The report, titled "Invisible Women: A Call To Action,"​ fell short of demands by aboriginal groups and opposition parties who have been relentless in their call for a national inquiry.

    The New Democrats and federal Liberals tabled dissenting opinions alongside the final report calling on the federal government to launch a national inquiry and implement a national action plan to address the violence against indigenous women and girls.

    The Assembly of First Nations said the report was "disappointing" to the victims and families of missing and murdered women and girls.

    "I have spoken to the leadership of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and we will be meeting Monday to discuss next steps and set out a plan to get action on this critical matter," said Shawn Atleo, the national chief for the AFN in a written statement on Friday.

    "This report fails to show the needed commitment and resources to adequately address this ongoing tragedy — a tragedy that is a reflection on Canada as a whole,” said NWAC president, Michèle Audette.

    After months of hearing 61 witnesses testify​, the report's 16 recommendations include:

    -The creation of a public awareness and prevention campaign created by the federal government in conjunction with the provinces, territories and municipalities​.

    -The implementation of a national DNA-based missing person's index.

    -The possibility of collecting police data on violence against aboriginal women and girls that includes an ethnicity variable.

    The final report proposes that the federal government implement all of the recommendations "in a co-ordinated action plan."​

    Partisan messaging?

    "I believe that this report will go further to take action," said​ Conservative MP Stella Ambler, the chair of the special committee, moments before the report was tabled.​​

    But opposition party MPs who served as vice-chairs on the special commons committee said the recommendations are either not new or would do nothing to prevent or stop violence against indigenous women and girls.

    "We heard very clearly from women and men, family members and friends of murdered and missing aboriginal women that the status quo is not good enough," said Jean Crowder, the aboriginal affairs critic ​for the NDP and vice-chair of the special committee.

    "What we saw today in the House of Commons was a report tabled by the Conservatives that basically said the status quo is OK."

    The special committee was first struck by way of a unanimous motion which was introduced by Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett last February.

    Bennett, who also served as a vice-chair on the committee, said the final report does not accurately reflect the recommendations made by the witnesses who appeared before the MPs.

    "Those were replaced by a disappointing list of what aren't even recommendations," Bennett said adding that "the number one thing they wanted to have happen was a national public inquiry."

    Bennett asked Ambler during question period earlier today whether she believed "the report actually reflects the testimony of witnesses" or whether "it was improperly influenced by the six Conservative parliamentary secretaries on the committee taking orders from the Prime Minister's Office."

    continued below

  58. Ambler did not answer the question saying only the report would outline "all of the actions that have been taken and all the actions that can be taken."

    Mounting pressure

    The government appears to be increasingly at odds with a growing number of groups that have been calling for a national public inquiry.

    The most recent calls have come from Nova Scotia's three main party leaders following the slaying of Loretta Saunders.

    The 26-year-old Inuk woman from Labrador was studying at Saint Mary's University in Halifax when she vanished last month.

    Her body was later found alongside a highway in New Brunswick, and a man and woman are facing murder charges in the death. Saunders was an honours student, who was writing her thesis on murdered and missing aboriginal women.​

    Her cousin, Holly Jarrett, has since garnered more than 60,000 signatures on a petition calling for a national inquiry.

    The special committee heard testimony from the government's own federally appointed victims ombudsman Sue O'Sullivan who said on Jan. 30 she supported the creation of a national commission of inquiry and a related action plan.

    James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, who visited Canada last October, called on the federal government to launch a "comprehensive and nationwide" inquiry into the case of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    Conservative MP Ryan Leef pledged to his constituents in Yukon last October to support a national public inquiry, but only if the provinces played a role.

    The premiers also backed a call to launch a national public inquiry when they met for a two-day summit of the Council of the Federation last July.

    Despite mounting pressure for an inquiry Conservative cabinet ministers — from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt to the Minister of Status for Women Kellie Leitch and Justice Minister Peter MacKay — have repeatedly pointed to several anti-crime initiatives passed into law since 2006 as evidence the government has and continues to take action to address the issue of violence against women.

    MacKay tabled dozens of documents earlier on Friday including studies on violence against aboriginal women and girls dating back to the 1990s. He also apologized for throwing papers on the House floor after an earlier attempt to table those documents on Thursday.

    Leitch issued a statement after the report was tabled saying that ending violence against all women and girls "remains a priority" for the government.

    "We remain concerned about the high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada and the devastating impact these tragedies have on families and communities across our country."

    The government has 120 days to respond to the report released Friday.

    read the numerous links embedded in this article at:


    Read the report of the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women​ (dissenting opinions included) at:


  59. Majority of missing and murdered women in North are aboriginal

    Database shows higher numbers than previously reported in Nunavut and N.W.T.

    By Angela Sterritt, CBC News March 12, 2014

    A recently released database shows that the already high numbers of missing and murdered aboriginal women in the North are higher than previously reported.

    "Horrifying" is how some describe the heartbreaking number of indigenous women who have vanished or have died at the helm of foul play.

    Kathy Meyer's daughter Angela went missing in 2010. The search continues to this day and Meyer says it is hard.

    "But we know we have to carry on … if you see anything happening to anyone, not just a woman or a girl, but anyone who needs help …especially [if] they are getting taken away or lost .. just talk to them..," Meyer said from her home in Yellowknife.

    The last time Kathy saw her daughter Angela was before she stepped outside of her home in Yellowknife to have a cigarette.

    Recent research points to higher numbers than previously reported

    Independent researcher Maryanne Pearce found almost 90 per cent of the cases of missing or murdered women in Nunavut are aboriginal. Her research points out five more cases then were previously reported for Nunavut.

    Meyer is originally from Taloyoak, Nunavut. She was surprised to learn that the number of women reported as missing or murdered in her home territory is 35 — 31 of them aboriginal.

    "I like to think that powers that be have some plan to keep the numbers down or find our loved ones and to bring them home," Meyer said.

    In the N.W.T. Pearce reported 17 cases — five more than previously listed — and 82 per cent are aboriginal women.

    She said four of the new cases she found are missing persons (including one person the police suspect to be a victim of foul play), and 13 are murders, including two unsolved murders.

    In Pearce's research, updated as of this week, she found 871 aboriginal women and girls, missing or murdered, in total, in Canada.

    Original statistics reported that the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada was roughly 600. In total she found 3,842 cases, approximately, 23 per cent of cases are aboriginal women.

    "I found myself just horrified and wondering what has been done, what could be done, so I decided to look into it a little deeper and did my doctorate in law on vulnerable missing and murdered women in Canada," Pearce said from her home in Ottawa.

    She spent seven years digging into public sites. She looked through RCMP and government websites, court documents and cross referenced the names and information of women she found.

    continued below

  60. In total she found 3330 names — with 824 of them aboriginal. But in continuing her research from September to this month, she found 47 more aboriginal women, either missing or murdered in Canada.

    Not just about the numbers

    For Pearce and those who have lost a loved one, it's less about the numbers, and more about the lives interrupted — the daughters, aunties, mothers and grandmothers.

    "I've met people that have had missing loved ones for 20 years, 25 years, and I just can't believe how they can go on that long … maybe if they just looked at each individual..like Angela," said Meyer, reflecting on possible solutions at bay.

    Meyer says more reports and even an inquiry may not the answer, but putting more emphasis on the importance of women's lives could be.

    She also said racism is a factor in what's been happening to women in this country.

    "Its very hard to deal with it, and I choose as a mother, as a person, not to dwell on racism, it seems to bring out the worst in anger," Meyer said.

    For Pearce, the new information is also troubling.

    "I am not sure how families survive quite honestly. Thinking about these cases its just heartbreaking, the victims and the families are in my head and my heart all the time," Pearce said.

    "When I am entering names, and the name is unusual … like Hope or Sunshine, you start to think of the mother naming this child. It can be very difficult work sometimes."

    Regardless of the pain, Pearce hopes others can build on the work she has done.

    "Whether its been the large groups like Native Women's Association of Canada or Amnesty International, or the small grassroots like Walk for Justice, Feb. 14 marches, that kind of work has created an atmosphere where everywhere in Canada if you say missing and murdered women, people know what you are talking about."

    Pearce finished her thesis research last September, and she continues to update her database, adding new cases, removing cases, updating cases and fixing any errors.


    Research points to 'exhaustive list' of missing and murdered aboriginal women

    Native rights lawyer backs inquiry into murdered aboriginal women

    1700 unfinished pairs of moccasins memorialize the missing and murdered

    New list of missing, murdered aboriginal women gives families hope

  61. Moccasin tops honour missing, slain women in new art exhibit

    Walking With Our Sisters exhibit in Winnipeg as part of 7-year North American tour

    CBC News March 21, 2014

    Hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in Canada and the United States are being remembered in a new travelling art exhibit featuring decorated moccasin tops.

    The Walking With Our Sisters exhibit opened Friday at the Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery in Winnipeg, as part of a seven-year tour across North America.

    The installation consists of more than 1,700 pairs of donated moccasin tops — also known as vamps, tongues or uppers — decorated with beads, moose hair tufts, porcupine quills, embroidery and more.

    Some were made by children, scrawled with words such as "love" and "hope," while others showed intricately beaded pictures of a victim.

    Métis artist Christi Belcourt came up with the idea to pay tribute to more than 800 indigenous women and girls who have been reported missing or murdered in Canada over the last 20 years.

    Among the more than 1,200 artists who donated moccasin tops was Sherry Farrell Racette, who crafted a vamp in honour of 31-year-old Tanya Nepinak, who went missing in Winnipeg in September 2011.

    Farrell Racette said she did not know Nepinak or her family personally, but she attended a vigil in the woman's honour and was moved by an image of a butterfly that appeared as people spoke.

    "Their words and the sight of that butterfly dancing around as they spoke really moved me and inspired me," she said.

    The moccasin tops are deliberately not sewn into moccasins to reflect the unfinished lives of so many women, according to organizers.

    Visitors are asked to take off their shoes before walking on paths of cloth that run alongside the tops.

    "In the whole way that we approach it, in the way that the space is cleansed and treated for a while, this space becomes like a lodge," said Farrell Racette.

    Family members of missing and murdered Manitoba women were given a private showing on Friday.

    "We really want the families to know that, you know, this is about them. This is their time to come and maybe have … a little bit closure or just a little bit of healing," said Daina Warren, the gallery's director.

    The exhibit will be at the Urban Shaman gallery until April 12.

    It is scheduled to make stops in more than 30 locations across Canada and the United States, with organizers currently booking dates into 2019.

    see photos at:


  62. Human trafficking: Why are aboriginal women vulnerable?

    By Jillian Taylor, CBC March 27, 2014

    CBC reporter Jillian Taylor covers the aboriginal beat in Manitoba. She began her reporting career at APTN, went on to CTV, and has been working here at CBC for just over a year now. She is from Fisher Cree First Nation. @JillianLTaylor

    Alia Parisien counts herself lucky that she found Honouring Gifts.

    The program, at Ka Ni Kanichihk in Winnipeg, gives aboriginal women a second chance and teaches them jobs skills. Most of these women are overcoming challenges such as addictions, brushes with the law, and sexual exploitation.

    “I was getting money as a kid, and it was so easy to get money from this guy just to do whatever he wanted to do to me,” said Parisien, now a 25-year-old mother.

    She says the sexual abuse went on for six years. Every time it happened, he paid her. As she got older she says she thought about selling herself.

    “I could have easily gone into the lifestyle, I was brainwashed, I was molested, I had my kids, I had a drinking problem, was going into drugs,” said Parisien.

    Aboriginal girls and women over-represented

    CBC News sat down with Parisien and five other of the women in the program.

    Every one of them knew at least one person who was involved in the sex trade. They say that’s how common it is in their community.

    The Canadian Women’s foundation is one of the first to conduct cross-country research on human trafficking. There is little known about how it works, where it exists, and who are the victims.

    “It's really underground and that's really the main reason why we still to this day cannot get at numbers [of victims],” says Diane Redsky, who is the project director for the Canadian Women's Foundation National Taskforce on Human Trafficking.

    The taskforce is made up of 23 experts. It held consultations in eight different Canadian cities and met with front line workers, police, crown attorneys and sex trafficking survivors.

    “What we were able to capture by going across the country is recognizing that there are some trends, depending on where you are in the country,” says Redsky.

    One of those trends is an over-representation of aboriginal women and girls.

    Redsky says the taskforce estimates that 50 per cent of the women being trafficked in Canada are aboriginal. The same goes for underage victims.

    In Manitoba, those who work with the exploited women estimate that at least 90 per cent are aboriginal.

    “It doesn’t surprise me,” says Dana Connelly, who runs the Honouring Gifts program. “But I am absolutely appalled, outraged and disgusted.”

    continued below

  63. Why aboriginal girls and women are at risk

    The women in Honouring Gifts didn’t have trouble agreeing on why aboriginal women are easy prey for traffickers and exploiters.

    “A lot of us grew up with poverty and not having all of those nice things,” says Kayla Hobson, a 26-year-old mother of two.

    “Not having that support system and role models encouraging us to do good,” she adds.

    Hobson says she sold drugs when she was younger. For her it glamorous, but she says it was also a necessity.

    She says the drug trade and sex trade go hand-in-hand. Many people she knows grew up thinking that is normal.

    “The one friend I have just sees it [sex-trade] as a natural thing,” says Hobson. “She can laugh about it; just being able to get that easy money.”

    Amber Fontaine, 22, also talked about a friend that may have be a victim of human trafficking.

    “I guess you could say she was lured,” said Fontaine.

    She says her friend was groomed by older women who were working the sex trade. Fontaine knows those women as well.

    “It’s like she doesn’t have her own mind. They just tell her how to do it, it’s like she doesn’t make her own decisions,” says Fontaine.

    Fontaine’s friend is addicted to drugs and sells her body to feed her addiction.Fontaine started drinking and doing drugs when she was 13, just like her friend.

    “I definitely could have started getting into the sex trade, doing the same things she did,” she said..

    Now she is coming up on her one-year anniversary of being sober.

    Moving forward

    Dana Connolly runs Honouring Gifts. She said that of all the exploited women she has worked with, not one chose to do it.

    "When you are hungry, you will do anything you have to to eat. If you have a child that you have to feed... you are going to do anything to get that child fed."

    Connolly said there needs to be more programs for vulnerable women. like Honouring Gifts.

    "It's just giving them options, showing them that there are resources, supports, bringing them together," said Connolly.

    "Now I am learning to be a survivor and advocate and tell people to speak up about it,” said Alia Parisien.

    She is now working to become role model for her own children.


  64. Family of Amber Tuccaro files complaint against RCMP

    Complaint alleges RCMP downplayed aboriginal woman's disappearance

    CBC News April 24, 2014

    The family of Amber Tuccaro, a woman originally from Fort Chipewyan found dead near Edmonton in 2012, has filed a complaint against the Leduc RCMP saying the investigation into the 20-year-old's disappearance was botched.

    The official complaint says investigators downplayed Amber Tuccaro's disappearance in 2010 and took her off the missing persons list after one month, even though no one had seen her.

    It says police also destroyed Amber's personal property that her family says could have been used as evidence.

    The complaint was filed with the Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP.

    Amber Tuccaro was last seen in Nisku, outside of Edmonton, on Aug. 18, 2010. Tuccaro, who lived in Fort McMurray at the time, was visiting Edmonton with her 14-month-old son Jacob and a female friend.

    Her remains were found by a group of horseback riders on a rural property near Leduc, Alta. in September 2012. The RCMP's Project KARE, which investigates cases of murdered or missing people in Alberta, took over the investigation.

    The Leduc RCMP says its policies and procedures have changed as a result of the Amber Tuccaro investigation.

    In 2012, police released a cellphone conversation recorded between Tuccaro and a third party on Aug. 18, 2010, in an attempt to identify a man's voice heard in the background. He was trying to convinceTuccaro that he was driving east from Nisku to travel into Edmonton via50th Street. Click here to listen to the man's voice.

    see court document at:


  65. RCMP not denying report of more than 1,000 missing and murdered native women

    CP MAY 1, 2014

    OTTAWA — The Mounties are not disputing a report that they have identified more than 1,000 cases of missing and murdered native women and girls — hundreds more than previously thought.

    The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, citing an anonymous source, reported that the RCMP arrived at their tally after contacting more than 200 other police forces across the country.

    APTN also reported the Public Safety Department is sitting on a copy of the RCMP report, which the network says was supposed to come out March 31.

    Supt. Tyler Bates, director of national aboriginal policing and crime prevention services, referred questions to the RCMP’s media relations office in Ottawa, which did not deny the APTN report.

    But Sgt. Julie Gagnon says the RCMP report is not finalized and it would be premature for her to comment further.

    “The RCMP is currently completing a national operational review to gain the most accurate account to date of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada,” she wrote in an email Thursday.

    “This initiative will help the RCMP and its partners identify the risk and vulnerability factors associated with missing and murdered aboriginal women to guide us in the development of future prevention, intervention and enforcement policies and initiatives with the intent of reducing violence against aboriginal women and girls.”

    Public Safety has yet to respond to questions.

    Earlier this year, the RCMP said it completed a “comprehensive file review” of more than 400 murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within its jurisdiction, and would keep looking into other outstanding cases.

    Briefing notes obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show the national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females.

    The Native Women’s Association of Canada has said it is aware of even more cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls than the RCMP tally.


  66. Report of 1000 murdered or missing aboriginal women spurs calls for inquiry

    APTN reports RCMP arrived at tally after contacting other police forces across Canada

    The Canadian Press May 01, 2014

    The Conservative government is resisting renewed calls for an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls despite a media report that suggests there may be hundreds more cases than previously thought.

    Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney was asked Thursday to finally call a inquiry in light of a report by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network that Canada may be home to close to 1,200 cases of murdered and missing women.

    His answer, in short: no.

    Instead, Blaney launched a partisan broadside against the NDP's refusal to support the government's budget bill, which includes a five-year, $25-million renewal of money aimed at stopping violence against aboriginal women and girls.

    "As a father, I'm very proud to have supported more than 30 measures to keep our streets safer, including tougher sentencing for murder, sexual assault and kidnapping," Blaney said during question period.

    "And Mr. Speaker, I will stand in this house and support the $25-million strategy for aboriginal and missing, murdered women."

    Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett questioned how the Conservatives can continue to resist an inquiry in the face of so many unresolved cases.

    "This media report says the government's own numbers show nearly a doubling of known victims of what was already a national tragedy," she said in a statement.

    "How can a government that refuses to call a national inquiry, in the face of these shocking statistics, claim that they are tough on crime or supportive of victims?"

    RCMP not denying numbers in media report

    The broadcaster cited an unnamed source Wednesday in a report that said the Mounties have now identified about 1,000 cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women and girls — significantly more than previous estimates, which had pegged the tally at more than 600. On Thursday, APTN reported that the number was even higher, citing 1,186 cases.

    The RCMP arrived at the new number after contacting more than 200 other police forces across the country, APTN reported.

    The Mounties initially refused to either confirm or deny the report but, according to the Toronto Star, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson later confirmed APTN's figure to reporters outside a meeting of the public safety committee in Ottawa.

    Paulson said the RCMP's review of police files had found more than 1,000 cases of murdered aboriginal women and girls dating back 30 years, along with another 186 cases of disappearances, the majority of which are suspected to involve foul play, the Star reported.

    continued below

  67. Supt. Tyler Bates, director of national aboriginal policing and crime prevention services, referred questions to the RCMP's media relations office in Ottawa.

    Spokeswoman Sgt. Julie Gagnon said the RCMP report is not finalized and it would be premature for her to comment further.

    "The RCMP is currently completing a national operational review to gain the most accurate account to date of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada," Gagnon wrote in an email.

    "This initiative will help the RCMP and its partners identify the risk and vulnerability factors associated with missing and murdered aboriginal women to guide us in the development of future prevention, intervention and enforcement policies and initiatives with the intent of reducing violence against aboriginal women and girls."

    The APTN report also said the Department of Public Safety is sitting on a copy of the RCMP report, which the network says was supposed to come out March 31. Public Safety has yet to respond to questions.

    'Comprehensive' review complete

    Earlier this year, the RCMP said it completed a "comprehensive file review" of more than 400 murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within its jurisdiction, and would keep looking into other outstanding cases.

    Briefing notes obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show the national police force has reviewed 327 homicide files and 90 missing-persons cases involving aboriginal females.

    The Native Women's Association of Canada has said it is aware of even more cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls than the RCMP tally.

    President Michele Audette said her association is now looking into whether it would be feasible or possible to take the federal government to court to try to force a national inquiry.

    "There's little bees at the office trying to find out if it's possible. If it is, I think we should challenge," Audette said in an interview.

    "It's a human-rights issue. We do it for salmon. We do it for corruption ... how come we don't have the same thing for missing and murdered aboriginal women?"

    It has long been estimated that there are hundreds of cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women dating back to the 1960s.

    A United Nations human rights investigator called that statistic disturbing last year during a fact-finding visit to Canada in which he also urged the Conservative government to hold an inquiry.

    James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said a national inquiry would ensure a co-ordinated response to the problem and allow the families of victims to be heard.

    With files from CBC News


  68. Missing aboriginal women: Ottawa ignored draft report's inquiry recommendation

    Calls for inquiry grow after RCMP reveals 1,200 aboriginal women murdered or missing over 30 years

    By Rosemary Barton, CBC News May 02, 2014

    CBC News has obtained a confidential draft version of a special Commons committee report on violence against aboriginal women, which included a recommendation that the government hold a national commission of public inquiry into missing or murdered aboriginal women.

    That recommendation was not included in the committee's final report tabled in March.

    The Conservative government was again refusing calls to hold a public inquiry Thursday into the issue following a report by broadcaster APTN that said the RCMP's review of police files had uncovered more than 1,000 cases.

    The Mounties initially refused to either confirm or deny the report but, according to the Toronto Star, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson confirmed the figure to reporters outside a meeting of the public safety committee in Ottawa later in the day.

    Paulson said the RCMP's review of police files had found more than 1,000 cases of murdered aboriginal women and girls dating back 30 years, along with another 186 cases of disappearances, the majority of which are suspected to involve foul play, the Star reported.

    Asked about the APTN report at the committee, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the RCMP numbers would be released within the next month. But Blaney flat-out refused calls for a national inquiry, instead pointing to anti-crime measures the government has taken.

    The draft report obtained by CBC News was prepared by committee analysts who, along with the committee MPs, listened to dozens of witnesses about how to address the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

    The draft report was based on testimony from those witnesses, but in the final report prepared by the MPs, the Conservative majority voted to remove the recommendation.

    The NDP's critic for the status of women again appealed to the government Thursday.

    "Families want closure, they want justice, they want to be heard and they want action from this government. When will this federal government call a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women?" Niki Ashton said during the public safety committee meeting.

    Blaney responded that one missing person was too many and pointed to the government’s move to change matrimonial rights for aboriginal women on reserves to make it easier for women in violent situations to leave.

    Final report omits higher estimates

    The draft version also suggested the federal government hold a national meeting led by the families of missing and murdered women and that it create a fund to help victims’ families.

    The final report pointed instead to the government's proposed Victims Bill of Rights.

    Both opposition parties were clearly displeased with the committee's recommendations and filed dissenting reports.

    The NDP said there seemed to be a lack of urgency in the recommendations.

    And the Liberals accused the Conservative committee members of partisanship and refusing to “honour the testimony of the witnesses.”

    The final report also removes speculative numbers that the instances of missing women and violence may be higher.

    The Native Women’s Association of Canada estimated in 2010 that there were 582 missing or murdered aboriginal women across the country. In the draft report, NWAC's director of safety of violence prevention, Irene Goodwin, also suggests the number may be “three to four times higher.”

    A suggestion by Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, that two or three Aboriginal women are still disappearing each week, was also removed from the final version of the report.


  69. Things would be different if we were talking about 1,186 murdered or missing white women

    by Stephen Maher, Post Media News May 2, 2014

    In February, when analysts from the Library of Parliament submitted a draft report to the parliamentary committee that had spent a year studying violence against aboriginal women, they included this recommendation: “That the federal government establish a national commission of public inquiry to analyse violence against Aboriginal women and girls, in particular those who are missing or have been murdered.”

    When the report was released on March 7, though, after closed-door meetings, the Conservative-dominated committee had removed that recommendation, in keeping with the government’s opposition to an inquiry.

    MPs decided not to call for an inquiry without knowing the scale of the problem. The Native Women’s Association of Canada had identified 582 missing or murdered aboriginal women, but because police don’t collect racial data of victims, NWAC told MPs the number was likely higher.

    The day the report was released, a source told Kenneth Jackson, a reporter for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, that the RCMP would release a report March 31 that would reveal that more than 1,000 aboriginal women had been murdered or gone missing.

    When the report was not released as expected, Jackson started digging. This week he reported that the Mounties had a number and hadn’t released it.

    When reporters cornered RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson on Parliament Hill, he revealed the number: 1,026 murdered and 160 missing aboriginal women over 30 years: 40 women a year.

    If the RCMP had those numbers before the committee did its report, it ought to have given them to the MPs. But a communications protocol this government brought in, in 2011, allows political staff in the office of the public safety minister to decide what information the RCMP releases.

    The government does not appear to like discussing missing and murdered aboriginal women, likely because doing anything about it would cost money, and there are no votes in it for them. Governments in general, and this one specifically, are machines for clumsily turning money into votes. Every dollar spent on aboriginal policing is a dollar less to spend on snowmobile trails or Economic Action Plan ads.

    That’s politics, but oh, this is a heartbreaking problem.

    continued below

  70. Consider that 87 per cent of the murdered and missing women and girls are mothers.

    As the parliamentary report says: “This finding is troubling, especially since NWAC’s research shows a cycle in which ‘a mother would go missing, and then the daughter would go missing years later. In some particular family lines, several individuals have gone missing.’ These cases also impact the many children who now have to live without a mother.”

    In question period on Thursday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair pointed out that there are about as many aboriginals in Canada as there are people in Ottawa. “If 1,000 women were killed or murdered in Ottawa would we need to beg for an inquiry?”

    Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney responded: “If the leader of the Opposition really wants to make change happen, then I urge him to support the Conservative government’s 2014 budget, which allocates $25 million for a strategy precisely to address the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.”

    But that section of the budget proposes the “renewal of $25 million over five years beginning in 2015-16 to continue efforts to reduce violence against Aboriginal women and girls.”

    That’s just $5 million a year, it’s not new money, and it’s not targeted. It includes, for example, $1.3 million a year for a national DNA database.

    On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said there should not be an inquiry. “There (have) been some 40 studies done over the years; now is the time to take action, not to continue to study the issue,” Harper said.

    I don’t believe he would talk like that that if we were talking about 1,026 dead white women, and I don’t think the government is taking action proportionate to the problem.

    When the RCMP releases its report in the coming weeks it may spur the government to act. That may be why its release is being delayed, to give the government time to prepare a plan. The RCMP report will point out that “aboriginal women make up four per cent of Canada’s population; however, they represent 16 per cent of all murdered females and 12 per cent of all missing females on record,” Sgt. Greg Cox said Friday.

    The RCMP have “identified key vulnerability factors for the victims as well as information on the perpetrators,” which will allow police to “refocus prevention initiatives in high-risk communities.”

    That sounds like a good start, but it’s hard to believe that an inquiry isn’t warranted. As Patrick Brazeau pointed out in 2012, back when he was still a senator, this government spent $26 million on a public inquiry into missing salmon.

    “If we can have a national inquiry on fish, I’m sure we can give the respect to aboriginal peoples and offer an inquiry.”


  71. Janet Merlo Could not Keep Quiet

    More than 330 women are now involved in sexual harassment claims against the RCMP. Here's one's experience.

    By Janet Merlo, 29 July 2014, TheTyee.ca

    Janet Merlo is the author of No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP. Excerpt published with permission from Breakwater Books.

    No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP
    Janet Merlo, Breakwater Books (2013)

    [Tyee Editor's note: With news this month that past and present female officers continue to join more than 300 others in widespread claims alleging sexual harassment against the RCMP, we present here an excerpt from Janet Merlo's No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP, published by Breakwater Books in 2013. Merlo was among the first female officers to make public allegations of harassment and discrimination in the force. In this excerpt, she discusses why she believes there are few women in the higher ranks. Merlo's case is ongoing.]

    There are very few women in the higher ranks of the RCMP, and when a woman does rise, her promotions are met with skepticism. If she's an attractive woman, it's generally assumed that she slept her way to the top. If she's seen as less appealing, hers is considered a token promotion. When I was in uniform, even women were guilty of making those assumptions about other women in the upper ranks. Maybe it's because we knew how women were perceived within the organization, how little respect we were afforded. It was hard for any of us to believe that a woman was promoted based on merit when we knew damn well that women's abilities and intellect were not highly valued or recognized -- and when we knew there were a lot of high ranking men who couldn't stand the idea that a woman might outperform them.

    In 2012, the RCMP published a gender-based assessment after a study was done to examine whether the promotion and recruitment policies were gender neutral. The report's executive summary emphatically declares that they are neutral, yet the findings also reveal that women are less likely to receive encouragement to enter the Officer Candidate Development Program, the pathway to being appointed a commissioned officer. In fact in 2012, when women accounted for about 20 per cent of RCMP members, they still held only about 10 per cent of the commissioned officers posts, and very, very few had ever cracked the senior management of the organization.

    There were over 4,000 study respondents, male and female, and they identified two significant concerns that impact the desire to seek promotion. The first is a perceived lack of fairness and transparency in promotional processes; the second is the desire to be promoted based on merit. While 51 per cent of male non-commissioned officers had applied for two or more positions, only 38 per cent of women had.

    Some of this may be explained by gender differences (whether nature or nurture). In my experience, most women are not as rank oriented and not as single-minded in their desire to get ahead. And that's not because women aren't leadership material.

    continued below

  72. Women are ambitious. They do have the desire to lead and to make changes. They just don't want to play by the rules the men have made or compromise their pride or integrity for a promotion. To climb the ladder, they have to battle both the rank structure and the male-dominated hierarchy of the RCMP. For a lot of women, the battle just isn't worth it. When taking a stand at the office gets you labelled a bitch, when refusing to shut up and go along leads your boss to publicly declare that you're obviously suffering from PMS, it gets damn hard to find the strength of conviction to continue.

    'You are expendable'

    In my first few years in the RCMP, I'd maintained my silence about a supervisor who had a naked blow-up doll next to his desk and a superior who'd yelled at me to keep my legs shut. But when I overheard female applicants for a newly formed bicycle patrol unit referred to as "ugly, fat-assed female members" in a conversation between another member and our boss, I couldn't keep quiet. Maybe it was easier to confront something that didn't have anything directly to do with me. I went to the superior and complained about the degrading way they'd spoken about women. He just scoffed at me and sent me on my way, though later the junior member he'd had that conversation with came and apologized to me.

    Other instances of discrimination were more insidious. Male officers were given permission to take hours-long hockey breaks while on shift. It was deemed important to their fitness. But when another female member and I asked if we could take a one-hour aerobics class on a Tuesday, which would impact two shifts a month, we were told no. Just flat out no.

    The RCMP talks about upping its recruitment of women. But no matter how close to equal the female to male ratio gets on the force, until they can acknowledge that a gender-based discrepancy exists, and until they change the fundamental philosophy and structure of the organization, they won't really begin to address gender equity.

    It's no surprise to me that the 2012 study also reveals women in the RCMP are more likely than their male counterparts to grow frustrated and leave the organization after 20 years rather than stick it out, hope for improvements, and shoot for a full pension.

    When the story of Robert Pickton and Vancouver's Downtown Eastside prostitutes began to emerge, I thought about the way some of my male co-workers treated female members, and I thought about my time on the street [in an undercover operation] as a hooker. I considered the connecting points. If police officers could feel such animosity toward the women who were their co-workers, trained by and committed to the same organization, then how did those men feel about women who were considered, globally, the lowest of the low? It is reasonable to think some of those women would still be alive if they'd been considered more valuable -- valuable enough for someone to pay attention and launch an investigation earlier.

    It's not about individual officers who are to blame, though. It's systemic. Budget constraints, operational plans, and local municipal priorities always take precedence over what any street cop might deem a priority while rushing from one call to the next.

    Still, for me there is an echo between the RCMP management's treatment of women within its ranks and the treatment of sex-trade workers. And the sound that reverberates says, "You are expendable." [Tyee]

    View full article and comments at:


  73. Indigenous women ask 'Am I next?' to raise awareness about missing and murdered.

    Online campaign by aboriginal women spreading on Facebook

    By Connie Walker, CBC News September 05, 2014

    A new online campaign is hoping to raise awareness and push Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

    Aboriginal women have begun posting photos of themselves holding signs asking "Am I next?" and — like the ice bucket challenge — asking others to do the same within 24 hours.

    For Julianna Piwas, it's an issue that hits close to home.

    Her cousin Bernice Rich was killed last year and in February, her friend Loretta Saunders went missing. Saunders', body was found nearly two weeks later and Victoria Henneberry and Blake Leggette are charged with first-degree murder in her death. Saunders, who was Inuit, had been researching the issue of violence against aboriginal women.

    In her photo, Piwas addresses Harper. She wants to see a national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women.

    "I just hope we're being heard. He needs to do something about it."

    Piwas said she's encouraged that the challenge seems to be taking off on social media.

    "A lot of my friends are doing it now and I've seen a lot of outsiders doing it too. I just hope every single aboriginal women does the challenge in honour of Loretta Saunders."

    The RCMP recently confirmed that there are almost 1,200 police-recorded incidents of aboriginal homicides and unresolved missing-women investigations across the country. Pressure for an inquiry has increased since the death of Tina Fontaine, 15, just a few weeks ago.

    The Harper government has repeatedly turned down calls for a national inquiry, but recently stated it's now open to a roundtable into Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal women.


  74. Aboriginal women, girls targets for human trafficking, says new report

    Trafficking report found a deep distrust of the police among many aboriginal women and girls

    By Steve Rennie, The Canadian Press September 19, 2014

    Aboriginal women and girls are easy prey for human traffickers because they are more likely to suffer from poverty, drug addictions and mental-health problems, says a newly disclosed report.

    The Public Safety Canada study sheds new light on how women and girls are forced into the sex trade by pimps acting as boyfriends, small, loosely defined gangs and even members of their own families.

    The previously unreleased research is bound to add fuel to the fire raging in Canada over the Conservative government's refusal to hold a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls.

    Many people who took part in the study said human trafficking and murdered and missing women and girls are just symptoms of a much larger problem.

    "A number of participants believed that the trafficking of aboriginal women and girls was part of a wider 'Canadian crisis," says the May 2014 report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

    "This crisis was a continuum of related phenomena involving the criminal victimization of aboriginal women and girls," it says, "evident by the large numbers of aboriginal women and girls who are subjected to physical and sexual violence, are trafficked, and who go missing or are murdered."

    The two issues are indeed connected, said one of the report's co-authors.

    "The whole concept of what's happened to aboriginal people in this country is reflected in the murdered and missing women, and the apathy that's gone along with that as well," said Yvonne Boyer, who holds the Canada Research Chair in aboriginal health and wellness at Manitoba's Brandon University.

    "Are they less human? I don't think so. So we have societal issues that put aboriginal women at the bottom of the heap."

    PM refuses to hold inquiry

    Calls for an inquiry intensified recently after RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson revealed that nearly 1,200 aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada in the last 30 years.

    Of that, Paulson says, there are 1,026 murder cases and 160 missing-persons cases, hundreds more than previously thought.

    continued below

  75. But the Conservatives have so far resisted calls for an inquiry, saying the issue has been studied enough and now is the time for action. The government's latest budget included a five-year, $25-million renewal of money aimed at stopping violence against aboriginal women and girls.

    Last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women was a crime problem, not a "sociological phenomenon."

    Earlier this week, however, a British Columbia judge used the sentencing of a serial killer to wade into the debate, saying it would be a "mistake" to treat the phenomenon simply as one for police to solve.

    "It is a sociological issue — one that arises from, among other things, a high-risk lifestyle," said B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett. "It is something that must be dealt with."

    "It is a mistake, in my view, to limit the seriousness of this issue and to pretend, as some do, that policing is an answer when the circumstances of this case raise questions about the effectiveness of that process at times."

    Distrust of police among aboriginal women

    Indeed, the trafficking report found a deep distrust of the police among many aboriginal women and girls.

    "The impact of the lack of trust issues with the police stems from the general mistrust of the justice system by aboriginal people, stories regarding the behaviour of individual officers who pay for sexual services or who coerce sex workers, and the inherent systemic racism perceived to be part of Canadian institutions."

    Boyer and co-author Peggy Kampouris interviewed 76 people between October 2013 and this past February. They spoke to front-line police officers, social workers, experts in the field and women and girls who were victims of sexual exploitation.

    Until now, they say, little was known about how family members and gangs lured or forced aboriginal women and girls into sex work.

    "It's a systemic issue. That's really important to bring out — that it's the root causes that are causing this," Boyer said.

    "The people themselves are not inferior in any way, shape, or form. It's the causes that have created this mess."



    Tories table plan to stop violence against aboriginal women and girls

    Assembly of First Nations says its proposals on missing women 'tossed aside' by Ottawa

  76. Stephen Harpers comments on missing, murdered aboriginal women show 'lack of respect'

    Prime minister says national inquiry not high on government's radar

    By Tanya Kappo, Opinion, CBC News December 19, 2014

    In a span of a week, the Conservative government confirmed their feelings of indifference, disregard and utter lack of respect for indigenous people.

    It seems that their contempt is solely aimed at First Nation men, First Nation women, and First Nation girls.

    This is the very attitude that underlies the government legislation and (non) actions that have resulted in tragic consequences suffered by First Nation people for generations.

    The Indian Act. The Indian Residential School. Child Welfare. Theft of land. Theft of children. Theft of identity. Theft of existence. Genocide by legislation.

    This, coupled with deeply entrenched stereotypes, bears life and death consequences of violence, self violence, community violence, societal violence, and systemic violence.

    And it's the indigenous women and girls who suffer the brunt of this – going missing and being murdered in epidemic proportions in neighbourhoods, streets and highways in every part of this country.

    This very heavy, dark and painful truth is a reality that affects every single person who calls Canada home.

    Yet, in the very words of the prime minister: "… it isn't really high on our radar, to be honest."

    And when he weakly tried to defend the efforts of his government, the Harper distinctly removed himself completely from the equation.

    "Our ministers will continue to dialogue with those who are concerned about this," he said.

    There are many who are concerned about this. Many who have lent their voices to call on the Conservative government for a national inquiry. Towns, cities, police forces, schools, unions, artists, musicians and families of those who've lost their mother, sister, daughter, auntie or grandma.

    More than 1,200 human lives inexplicably gone, stolen. Children left motherless. Mothers left daughterless. And grandmas and aunties, gone.

    Not just an issue on reserves

    The prime minister continually says his government is making new laws, taking action and wants to ensure everyone is afforded the same protections.

    Yet there is no evidence whatsoever that these new laws (applicable only to First Nations on reserve) have made any difference in the face of this crisis.

    continued below

  77. The Conservative government seems to be committed to making Canadians believe the violence is attributed only to First Nation men, on reserves. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt recently made a comment in this regard, but in doing so, put his finger squarely on the problem.

    "Obviously, there's a lack of respect for women and girls on reserves," he said. "So you know, if the guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that is how they are treated."

    It would seem that it's the Conservative government's attitude he is describing, not the attitude of First Nations men on reserves.

    Lack of respect? Absolutely.

    If someone grows up believing that others don't have rights, then they treat them as if they don't have rights? Yes, yes indeed.

    The Conservative government does not believe First Nation people have rights, and make their profound lack of respect painfully clear.

    Harper assault a travesty, not a 'situation'

    Recently, Rinelle Harper, who survived a brutal assault, challenged everyone to push for a national inquiry. And to that, Valcourt, gave a response that made me sick to my stomach.

    "Listen, Rinelle, I have a lot of sympathy for your situation. And I guess that victims … have different views and we respect them," he said.
    Rinelle is 16 years old. She is still a child. A child who survived a brutal physical and sexual assault meant to kill her and the aboriginal affairs minister refers to the assault as her "situation."

    It should never be OK to refer to such a brutal act as a situation, let alone one that was inflicted on a child.

    To allow the federal government to continue this approach is to accept the same results – more missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

    I do not believe that this is what Canadians want.

    A national inquiry must be part of the action taken. Together.

    Indigenous people will always take responsibility for what belongs to them, including fault when appropriate and will always work towards solutions for the benefit of all.

    It's time Canadians demand their government do the same.


  78. First Nations appalled by Ministry comments

    Eric Plummer / Alberni Valley Times December 22, 2014

    A tribal council representing First Nations in the region had strong words for the federal government Friday in response to recent statements by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs regarding the plight of indigenous women in Canada.

    In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen released on Dec. 12, Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, addressed the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. The RCMP has reported 1,181 such cases since 1980 - reflecting a murder and missing persons rate several times larger than the average for all Canadians.

    In the Citizen interview Valcourt emphasized the responsibility of individual First Nations to address underlying societal problems.

    "Obviously, there's a lack of respect for women and girls on reserves," he said. "If the guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that's how they are treated."

    In her response to Valcourt's comments, Debra Foxcroft, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, stated the federal minister was "disgusting and contemptuous" by attempting to minimize issues affecting aboriginal women in Canada.

    "The minister's disrespectful and judgmental comments have undermined any trust we might have in the federal government's ability and willingness to work together respectfully in our best interest," said Foxcroft in a statement released by the tribal council Friday. "Such blatant stereotyping cannot help but influence public opinion, creating a perception in the minds of Canadians that First Nations communities are lawless, violent, dangerous places to live."

    During the interview Valcourt discussed a push this year for a federal inquiry into the higher murder rate among aboriginal women. His comments came days after the Assembly of First Nations met in Winnipeg to insist that such attention to the issue is critical, with a speech from 16-year-old Rinelle Harper, who was found severely beaten on a riverbank in Winnipeg last month.

    Valcourt echoed previous statements from Prime Minister Stephen Harper that a federal inquiry isn't the most effective means to tackling the problem.

    "If you really have heart, and if you take this at heart, you will not ask the government of Canada to spin its wheels for years over an inquiry that will bring about what? Exactly what we know today," said Valcourt. "The solution is at the community level. Now, who are the chiefs and councils assembling [in their] communities to address this issue?" Vigils have been held annually at the Port Alberni Friendship Centre to honor aboriginal women lost to violent crime. Local victims include Margaret Delaine Cloutier, a 39-year-old who was stabbed in a Fourth Avenue apartment in 2001.

    The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council have joined the push for a federal inquiry into why so many indigenous women have been violently targeted in Canada. Foxcroft demanded that Valcourt apologize for his statements or resign.

    "The social issues faced by First Nations communities today are internationally recognized as the direct result of an aggressive and systematic colonial campaign of oppression, cultural assimilation, physical and emotional abuse," she said. "We call for an immediate public apology and retraction of these insensitive, disrespectful, prejudiced and absolutely unacceptable comments."


  79. Mountie takes aboriginal woman home from jail cell to pursue relationship

    'It’s a gross abuse of power,' Manitoba’s grand chief says of officer, who was docked 7 days of pay

    By Holly Moore, CBC News January 08, 2015

    RCMP Const. Kevin Theriault took an intoxicated woman he had arrested out of a cell and drove her to his northern Manitoba home to pursue a personal relationship, according to RCMP adjudication documents obtained by CBC News.

    Fellow officers teased and goaded him by text message to see “how far he would go,” and another constable observed flirting between Theriault and the indigenous woman, saying he “jokingly made a comment about having a threesome” with her.

    The senior officer in the detachment first said “it wasn’t right” for Theriault to take the woman out of custody but finally said: “You arrested her, you can do whatever the f--k you want to do.”

    The incident occurred on Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, near Thompson, Man., in 2011. A written decision was not delivered until 2014.

    The constable admitted to the allegations, got a reprimand and lost pay for seven days.

    'Horrendous breach of trust'

    “It’s a gross abuse of power,” said Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, who called the incident “appalling.”

    Theriault and another constable had arrested the woman at a party and placed her in a cell until she sobered up. Six hours after she was brought in, Theriault returned to the detachment out of uniform and asked for her to be released into his care.

    He and the woman left the detachment in his personal car.

    Two of Theriault’s co-workers followed in an RCMP cruiser and later alerted the corporal of the detachment. That officer called Theriault and ordered him to take the woman home, which he did.

    “It’s a horrendous breach of trust,” Nepinak said, adding the officer who allowed the release should face discipline.

    The report doesn't indicate if he did or not.

    “They have to hold one another to standards of conduct,” Nepinak added. “We expect to be protected, just as every Canadian expects to be protected by a policing agency."

    Nepinak called Theriault’s punishment “a slap on the wrist” and said it sends the wrong message to the aboriginal community.

    Theriault worked in a small aboriginal community where “maintaining public support and trust is always a delicate balance,” according to the adjudication committee’s decision.

    “I certainly think it’s a piece of a larger equation,” Nepinak said.

    Call for independent investigations

    RCMP investigate their own members for allegations of misconduct. An inspector and two superintendents served on Theriault’s disciplinary adjudication board.

    “It seems to me that the standard is that there should be independent civilian investigation of these kinds of allegations,” said Meghan Rhoad, a women’s rights researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch.

    Her group’s report, "Those Who Take Us," documents serious misconduct involving Northern British Columbia RCMP officers and indigenous women in custody, many of whom were intoxicated.

    She said that police misconduct compounds the historic tension and distrust between police and aboriginal communities.

    Her report attempts to link the way RCMP treat aboriginal women and girls in custody to the larger problem of missing and murdered women.

    “If communities can’t trust police to behave properly how can indigenous women and girls feel that these are people they can go to for protection?” she said.

    Theriault didn’t return calls for an interview and the RCMP will not comment on specific cases.


  80. Murdered and missing aboriginal women deserve inquiry, rights group says

    Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been studying issue in B.C. for 2 years

    CBC News January 12, 2015

    A new report into missing and murdered indigenous women in B.C. is breathing new life into an acrimonious debate between advocates of a public inquiry and the Canadian government, which says it is taking action to address the problem but refuses to call an inquiry.

    The report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which is affiliated with the Organization of American States, said it "strongly supports the creation of a national-level action plan or a nationwide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls."

    The report came to several conclusions, including:

    -The high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in B.C. are concentrated in Prince George and the Downtown Eastside.

    -The police have "failed to adequately prevent and protect indigenous women and girls from killings and disappearances."

    -Multiple policing jurisdictions in B.C. have resulted in "confusion" between the RCMP and Vancouver police.

    The report acknowledged the steps already taken by Canadian governments at both the federal and provincial levels to address some of the problems and challenges that indigenous women face.

    Last fall, the federal government committed to a five-year plan to address violence against aboriginal women and girls.

    Today, the office for the Kellie Leitch, the minister for the status of women, said the government was reviewing the report.

    "Our government has received the IACHR’s report and is reviewing the report’s findings, comments and recommendations."

    The report's recommendations include calls for:

    -Providing a safe public transport option along Highway 16 in Prince George.

    -Mandatory and ongoing training for police officers, prosecutors, judges and court personnel "in the causes and consequences of gender-based violence."

    -A national action plan or public inquiry in consultation with indigenous peoples.

    continued below

  81. Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett urged the government to heed the report's recommendations.

    "The prime minister’s shocking indifference to this ongoing tragedy is not only a national disgrace, but an international embarrassment" Bennett said.

    The IACHR has been studying the issue for more than two years.

    Its investigation was requested by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) and Feminist Alliance for International Action in March 2012.

    At a press conference in Ottawa to respond to the report, Dr. Dawn Harvard of the NWAC called it "truly groundbreaking."

    "This report is the first in-depth examination of the murders and disappearances by an expert human rights body. These women and girls are being stolen from our families, from our communities, and it is time that somebody is taking it seriously," Harvard said.

    Holly Johnson, of the Feminist Alliance for International Action, said the commission has spoken "loudly and clearly."

    "Canadian governments have a lot of work to do," she said. "Contrary to our prime minister's assertion, this is not a sociological phenomenon ... [It] goes way beyond policing. Social and economic factors must also be addressed."

    The report includes recommendations on how governments at both the federal and provincial/territorial level can address the situation.

    The Conservative government has so far refused calls for a national public inquiry on the issue, saying it is more interested in taking action. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in reaction to the recent murder case of Tina Fontaine that it was not part of a "sociological phenomenon," but rather a crime and should be treated as such.

    The federal government agreed to attend a roundtable meeting after Canada's premiers emerged from their annual meeting in August calling for a national forum. It's expected to be held in February.

    Read the report at:



  82. Inside the RCMPs biggest crisis

    Hundreds of women are complaining about sexual harassment inside the RCMP.

    A special report by Nancy Macdonald and Charlie Gillis

    MACLEAN'S February 27, 2015

    The role of RCMP spokesperson in B.C. is a big one. Mounties confident and clever enough to land the job become the effective voice of policing in a province where one third of the national force’s officers serve. So when two officers who held that position became embroiled in separate sexual harassment cases in recent years—one as a female complainant; one as a male accused—the symbolism was hard to ignore. These were, after all, people who personified the organization.

    One was Insp. Tim Shields, the face of the force at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, who held the post for 10 years until 2011. Coal-eyed and square-jawed, Shields has been accused in separate civil suits of serial harassment against two female RCMP members, and the specific allegations are ugly. He is alleged, among other things, to have exposed his genitals to one woman while riding in a police cruiser; another woman claims he tried to undress her and, at one point, confined her in a washroom, where he forced her to touch him.

    Yet Shields has held his place within the RCMP hierarchy as he deals with the suspicion hanging over him. His current position of district duty officer comes with a desk at the force’s posh new Green Timbers headquarters in Surrey, B.C., and sends him to major incidents across the Lower Mainland. Only after the second woman’s lawsuit landed did he go off on what the RCMP described as “administrative leave” and, even then, a laudatory biography of him remained on the force’s B.C. website.

    Not so Catherine Galliford. The 48-year-old went public in 2011 with her story of chronic sexual harassment and bullying by male colleagues that ultimately cost her her career, her home, multiple friendships and her health. (Shields is not implicated in her case.) Once a familiar face from media interviews and RCMP news conferences, she is now a recluse, trapped inside her mother’s suburban Vancouver home by agoraphobia and crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Doctors fear she will never regain her health. Nor will she ever work again.

    What drives her is a hope that in telling her story, she’ll help make the RCMP more accountable and welcoming to the women coming up behind her. In 2012, she filed a lawsuit against the attorney general of Canada, the minister of justice for British Columbia, and four fellow officers, alleging “persistent and ongoing” sexual harassment and workplace intimidation. She tells Maclean’s that much of her 16 years on the force were spent “either fending off my bosses who were trying to have sex with me, or trying to fend off the senior officers who were trying to destroy my credibility behind my back—individuals who wanted the high-profile jobs I was getting.” By 2004, “going into work was actually making me physically ill,” she says. “I would have to wait outside in the parking lot for 15 minutes to stop myself from shaking. I was terrified of going inside.”

    There is much yet to be told of these two officers’ stories: The allegations against Shields have not been proven. His lawyer, David Butcher, refused to comment. A civil trial of Galliford’s case was postponed two weeks ago for lack of sufficient court time.

    But the peverse logic of their respective fates in many ways exemplifies the challenge before the RCMP. Four years after Galliford shone a light on a crisis of sexual harassment and retribution within the force, female Mounties tell Maclean’s that the same old syndrome persists: Faced with a revelations of harassment, they say, the RCMP too often manages to protect the accused harasser while punishing the victim.

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  83. The Mounties insist they’ve recognized the problem and, armed with new tools, are poised to act. Laws that came into force two months ago have beefed up Commissioner Bob Paulson’s powers to fire perpetrators, while long-awaited processes for resolving harassment complaints are on the books. “I think, if you step back from it, you can see that the organization has taken this seriously,” says Assistant Commissioner Craig MacMillan, the RCMP’s officer in charge of professional responsibilities. “It’s taken some fairly dramatic steps in a relatively short period of time.”

    Yet the accusations have kept coming. Five women have followed Galliford’s example by filing sexual harassment lawsuits. And, later this spring, an Ontario lawyer will seek to certify a class action lawsuit against the RCMP on behalf of 380 female claimants, representing all 10 provinces. Former RCMP constable Janet Merlo is the lead plaintiff. She says she endured near-daily harassment on the job— everything from sexualized banter and sex toys left in her desk, to a dressing-down for getting pregnant. She quit the force in 2010, taking a medical discharge. Sandy Zeitzeff, the lawyer on the class action, expects the number of plaintiffs to grow to 1,500.

    In short, Canada’s police force is on the brink of a massive credibility test, with no shortage of women saying its fixes are too little, and that they come too late.

    Atoya Montague believes two factors can curse a female Mountie’s career: confidence and intelligence. “The more beautiful you are, the more feminine you are, the more willing you are to speak up, the worse you’ll be treated,” she says.

    Montague was 27 when she became a civilian member of the RCMP in 2002. The outspoken former senior communications strategist for Canadian Tire was thrilled to land the job, and thrived in the endless crises that made up her 10- to 13-hour days as second-in-command of communications for the RCMP’s B.C. operations, known as “E Division.” Early in her career, she was identified as articulate, intelligent and level-headed. She was “the strongest woman I’d ever met,” says her friend Mary Roka, co-founder of the tech start-up GoTo.

    Montague, now 39, is a shell of her former self. “She’s unrecognizable,” says Roka. She won’t answer her phone and has difficulty leaving her small rented condo. She has crippling osteoarthritis and high blood pressure, both related to stress. “They broke her,” says her friend Siobhain Andreasen, a Toronto actuary. “She was an unbreakable person.”

    In her 13 years with the RCMP, Montague claims she was the repeated target of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. Her former co-worker Sherry Wright says she witnessed Montague being pushed out of meetings and ignored by their all-male senior management staff. When Montague was named to the RCMP’s integrated security unit for the 2010 Olympic Games, Wright says Montague’s desk was placed in a storage closet, where she was stationed for months, isolated from the team’s male leadership, despite having a senior leadership position as director of communications.

    By then, Roka was begging her to quit the force. When Montague first started with the Mounties, the pair would grab lunch together in the E Division cafeteria. But, over time, Roka says she grew so uncomfortable with the sexual comments and innuendo directed at her by Montague’s boss at the time (not Shields) that she stopped visiting. Still, Montague refused to complain.

    But by 2011, the near-daily indignities had pushed Montague to the edge. She was plagued by migraines and anxiety. She distanced herself from her family and friends. Eventually, her partner left, too. The former gym rat could no longer find the energy to ride her bike. Eventually, after seeing her family doctor, she took a medical leave.

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  84. Then, one day in 2013, a young, female Mountie told Montague she was being sexually harassed by her male superiors. Montague became enraged: “I realized if I didn’t say something, this was going to keep happening.” In August 2013, she filed a lawsuit against Tim Shields, the attorney general of Canada and the minister of justice of B.C., alleging sexual harassment and discrimination.

    In her statement of claim, Montague alleges she was sexually harassed and discriminated against by several male superiors, including Shields. She alleges that while driving to the B.C. Interior in 2003, Shields showed her “his erection through his jean shorts and made sexual advances.” She alleges Shields asked her to “have sex with him and advising her that he could easily pull over the car so that he could perform oral sex on her.” Montague alleges Shields exposed himself to her in a similar incident in a police car in 2008 and “again made similar unwanted and unprompted sexual advances.” None of the allegations against Shields has been proven in court.

    In her lawsuit, Montague alleges Shields was not alone in harassing her. In one incident, she alleges she was surrounded by the male members of the police canine unit “making sexually suggestive comments, taunting . . . pushing and rubbing up against her,” leaving Montague, who ran away, “terrified.”

    Last July, 10 months after Montague filed suit, Anitra Singh, an E Division senior communications adviser, filed a sexual harassment suit against Shields and the attorney general of Canada. Singh, a civilian member of the force, alleges in her statement of claim that over a two-year period ending in 2011, Shields exposed himself to her, told Singh he’d like to perform oral sex on her, made regular comments about her breasts and, on several occasions, requested to “meet her at home to have sex.” On one occasion, the statement of claim alleges, he confined her in a washroom and forced her to “touch him in an inappropriate manner.” (Montague says she was unaware of Singh’s lawsuit and has not spoken to her since 2011.)

    In his statement of defence in the Montague lawsuit, Shields denies all allegations made against him. In it, he specifically denies that he made “sexual advances or exposed his genitals” to Montague. He says that “at one point during the trip” to the B.C. Interior, he and Montague shared “intimate personal information,” adding that “the conversation was mutual” and Montague was a “willing participant.” He further states that in the workplace, Montague “openly engaged in conversations with her colleagues about personal and sexual aspects of her life” and “participated in sexual banter and frequently made sexual remarks and jokes, including comments and jokes about her own breasts.”

    In a statement of defence in the Singh lawsuit, filed this week in Vancouver, Shields denies he sexually harrassed or assaulted Singh. He says Singh “initiated and pursued” an intimate relationship with him, invited him to her residence, and repeatedly dropped into his office “with arms outstretched, commanding a hug with her body language.” Shields claims she engaged in “consensual personal conversations and physical contact” with him while he “attempted to avoid frequent personal contact with the plaintiff.” He goes on to say in the statement that the publicity surrounding the suit has harmed his career, though he does not specify how.

    The attorney general of Canada and the minister of justice for B.C. echoed Sheilds’ denials and added in their responses to both suits that Montague and Singh should have used the RCMP grievance process and, given they did not, have no claim against either the provincial or federal governments.

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  85. Montague has not shared her story with media until now. “If I thought there was any other way, I would,” she says. “But there’s no safe, fair and objective way for women to complain internally and emerge unscathed. The only way to do that is through the courts.” Montague recently sold her Vancouver condo and left Canada on the advice of her lawyer and doctor. “There’s no hope for me,” she says. “I’m doing this for the next generation of women.”

    A few years ago, Ainsley Brand, a young female Mountie, was invited out, believing she was meeting a group of fellow officers from her detachment; she was new, and keen to get to know them. (Because she fears for her job, Maclean’s has agreed to change her name. RCMP regulations prohibit members from publicly criticizing the force. She has provided the magazine with documentation to illustrate her claims.)

    When she arrived, the only Mountie there was the supervising officer who’d invited her out. Brand says that when she announced she wanted to go home, the officer began pushing hard alcohol on her, to “celebrate” her new posting. She is a non-drinker and repeatedly told him this, she says, adding: “I couldn’t turn it down. In the RCMP,  you can’t be seen not to be a team player.” She was relatively new to the force, still in her twenties. “From the time you’re at Depot, you’re taught to treat corporals like gods.”

    When Brand said she needed to leave, she says they went elsewhere and he began making sexual advances. She says she told him she needed to go home. She had never drunk this much before, she says. She claims she was incapacitated and that the sex was coerced: “I’m a police officer. This was sexual assault,” she says. “He brought me out on a pretext—to meet people that were never there. He used alcohol to lessen my resistance. And he has a history of doing this. Another woman at the detachment later warned me to steer clear of him. He’d done the same thing to her.”

    Brand believes the officer was guilty of criminal behaviour, but she settled instead on filing a harassment complaint. When Brand eventually complained, the RCMP responding officer ruled that her complaints were “unsubstantiated” and that the relationship was “consensual,” noting that Brand and the officer had engaged in a relationship after the incident. Brand, who claims she was depressed and having trouble coping, says she engaged in a friendship with the officer for one month in an attempt to lessen her anxiety when seeing him at the detachment. The RCMP further concluded that no “workplace conflict” had occurred. Therefore, no formal harassment investigation was ever ordered.

    Brand says she spoke out about the harassment, knowing it could tarnish her reputation and harm her professionally, because she felt this officer needed to be prevented from hurting other women. “I still love my job,” she says. “I love the adrenalin. I love the law. I like to help people. It’s the internal stuff I can’t deal with.”

    The revelations—especially Galliford’s—reverberated widely outside the RCMP, as critics asked how Canada could allow such behaviour to persist in its most recognized institution. If the Mounties couldn’t protect their own, they reasoned, why trust them to protect civilian Canadians?

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  86. In November 2012, the Senate directed its standing committee on national security to tackle the problem and, seven months later, the committee issued a searing report that called for a “cultural transformation” within the force. Among its recommendations: a zero-tolerance policy that would hold senior management to account in harassment cases; the addition of harassment to the RCMP’s code of conduct as a specific offence; and an end to the practice of simply transferring accused harassers—or, in some cases, victims—to other places in the force. “Immediate, meaningful steps must be taken to enhance the public’s trust in the force,” the report said, “and bolster members’ trust in the disciplinary systems designed to protect them.”

    A report by the Office for Public Complaints against the RCMP reached similar conclusions. But by then, Paulson had produced his long-awaited “action plan,” and the Harper government was anxious to get key changes enshrined in law. In the spring of 2013, it introduced to the Commons a package of amendments called the Enhancing RCMP Accountability Act, which empowered the commissioner to establish a new harassment-complaints process and streamline dispute-resolution mechanisms. Both Conservatives and Liberals welcomed the changes and, on Dec. 1, 2014, the day they came into force, Paulson appeared at a celebratory news conference alongside Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney.

    MacMillan touts new features he says make the process more transparent, fair and efficient. Complainants and accused harassers will both be granted access to the investigative report before a decision is made, he says, and invited to respond. Each case will be received by a special office at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa and, while investigations may be carried out at the divisional level, the national office will monitor the progress of each file. “Most of our members are conducting themselves well,” says MacMillan. “But when you do have conflicts or complaints of harassment, you have to be organizationally responsive. People have to have the confidence you’re going to do something about it.”

    The changes have left some underwhelmed. The controversial measure of transferring troublemakers remains an option for RCMP brass, critics note, while timelines within which cases must be heard remain vague. Some wonder whether a new power granted to the commissioner to fire officers for the “promotion of economy or efficiency” within the force might be used to get rid of officers who take medical leave while they fight back against harassers. “It reads to me like a get-rid-of-the-victim clause,” says Rob Creasser, spokesman for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, an organization seeking to unionize the RCMP’s officers. “It enhances the power inequity that already existed in the RCMP.”

    As for gaining officers’ confidence, the force’s history of reprisal and recrimination against complainants will make that hard. “When people come forward, they are re-victimized,” says Krista Carle, a former RCMP constable who sued the force in 2003 after she and three other women came forward, claiming they were sexually assaulted by a fellow officer. An RCMP harassment investigation in her case concluded her harassment allegations were “unfounded.” The RCMP settled the suit with the four women out of court. Coming forward “destroyed my life,” says Carle, who was in the same RCMP graduating class as Galliford in 1991. She says she was shunned by her colleagues for speaking out, and her marriage couldn’t withstand the strain. She moved to Alberta and changed her last name.

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  87. Then there’s the recent case of Stephanie Johnson, who began working for the RCMP as a public servant after immigrating to Canada several years ago. (Because she, too, fears for her job, Maclean’s has agreed to change her name.) Johnson says she was bullied and shunned by fellow employees in her detachment for filing a sexual harassment complaint, which was deemed unfounded by the RCMP. Relations with her co-workers deteriorated to the point that she was barred from the workplace and made to work from home. To gather her assignments, she says she had to knock on the door of her detachment every day for a year and a half: “I felt like a criminal.”

    Johnson refused the RCMP’s offer of a buyout. “I’ve done nothing wrong,” she told the force. But, in so doing, she was seen as adversarial: “I just wanted to work. I wanted to contribute and be good at what I did. I was driven and ambitious despite the setbacks.” She says she was eventually allowed to return to her detachment, where her superiors began auditing her performance. Her once-exemplary performance evaluations now listed her work as “unsatisfactory” and a disciplinary process was initiated. The stress began affecting her health. She couldn’t sleep, suffered from severe migraines and was diagnosed with PTSD. An independent psychiatric evaluation has described her work environment as “profoundly toxic.”

    The day Johnson was served with disciplinary paperwork for poor performance, she says she had a nervous breakdown. Last year, she was transferred. Her mental health diagnosis was divulged to her new detachment. Often, she wishes she’d never immigrated to Canada. “I dream of going home,” she says ruefully, “of escaping the RCMP.”

    Would the RCMP’s new harassment regime have spared what Johnson views as obvious retaliation? Possibly. Along with the new investigation and resolution protocol, the force has introduced a policy forbidding reprisals against harassment complainants and anyone else involved in the process—with punishments up to, and including, dismissal. If an employee doesn’t trust her commanding officer to stop the recriminations, she can complain directly to the national officer for the coordination of harassment complaints.

    The question is whether that’s enough to change behaviour at the detachment level, where, victims say, shunning and retribution are part of a code meant to discourage people from complaining. The force’s “protect-your-own” philosophy “makes it almost a mortal sin to speak out against fellow members,” says Jennifer Berdahl, a professor of organizational behaviour at Simon Fraser University. “And it can be very dangerous for colleagues not to distance themselves from the so-called troublemaker. They don’t want to be tarred by the same brush.”

    Greg Passey, a psychiatrist with the Operational Stress Injury Clinic of British Columbia, has seen stories like Johnson’s again and again; Passey treats RCMP officers and military staff in both B.C. and Saskatchewan. “The RCMP is a totally dysfunctional organization,” says the 63-year-old, pointing to the cause of the psychological disorders afflicting the “vast majority” of his RCMP patients: harassment and abuse from fellow officers inside detachments. “It boggles the mind,” says Passey. “If you come forward, they label you a troublemaker. They do everything they can to make you go away, and the supervising officers doing the harassing get promoted. Are you kidding me? What kind of organization does that?”

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  88. Passey who spent 22 years in the military and served in Rwanda, has never publicly criticized the RCMP before. But he’s lost his patience, saying he cannot stay quiet any longer. “I’m very frustrated. It’s like I’m walking up to my nose in s–t,” he says. “I’m trying my best to help my patients. My colleagues and I shake our heads at the things we are told, at the breaches in medical confidentiality, the delays.” Passey is from an RCMP family: Both his uncle and father-in-law were Mounties. “I used to be very proud of our force,” he says, but now, “there is no way I would ever allow my daughters to serve in the RCMP.

    “These guys are supposed to enforce laws and seek justice,” Passey goes on. “They’re totally flaunting rules and regulations, at times, even laws. How do you trust an organization like this? The RCMP is accountable only to itself—and run by an old-boys’ network. Old boys don’t punish themselves; they go after the victim.”

    Like Creasser, Passey is deeply suspicious of the provision in the newly amended RCMP Act allowing the commissioner to medically discharge officers for the promotion of economy and efficiency. “It’s the equivalent of giving the schoolyard bully the power to get rid of his victims.” Passey says he knows several members in the process of being discharged under the new system; most are on medical leave due to harassment. There is one reason for this amendment, he says: “So they [the victims] won’t have the financial resources to continue their legal fight.”

    He speaks out at considerable risk, since the last medical professional to publicly criticize the force, police psychologist Mike Webster, was blacklisted by the RCMP for declaring the organization “sick” and needing reform. Webster, a former B.C. Mountie, now works for the Canadian military. But Passey is unafraid: “I don’t care what they do to me. It’s an organization I don’t trust at all.”

    The fates of officers like Johnson and Montague are key to the RCMP’s attempts to fix its harassment problem, because they raise a basic question of fairness: Why does the force’s handling of these cases seem to destroy complainants, while hardly denting the careers of the men accused of mistreating them?

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  89. Until recently Shields was a case in point. For 10 months after Montague filed her lawsuit, he continued to speak for the force in media interviews. By then, he’d been promoted to the rank of inspector and served as assistant of operations at the RCMP’s Burnaby detachment, where he oversaw 150 uniformed officers. In 2013—as Montague struggled with anxiety and feelings of hopelessness—Shields landed the position of regional duty officer, one of just four in B.C. Only after Singh filed her lawsuit against him last July did he disappear from public view, though he still holds his high-flying post.

    Another troubling instance: Staff Sgt. Tim Korman was named commanding officer of the RCMP’s Meadow Lake detachment in Saskatchewan, even though sexual-harassment allegations against him remained unresolved. Korman received his promotion to staff sergeant on March 19, 2009, six weeks after the complaint, filed by an officer named Laura Lehne, was dismissed because it had taken too long to be heard. “I don’t blame anyone for not coming forward,” Lehne, who left the force in disgust, told reporters at the time, “because it only makes your life hell and nothing’s done.” Only last June, after new, unspecified allegations of “inappropriate workplace conduct” were levelled against Korman, did his bosses suspend him with pay.

    At least some women in positions of influence share Lehne’s concern. B.C. Premier Christy Clark voiced dismay after the RCMP transferred an Edmonton-based officer, Sgt. Don Ray, to her province following his reprimand for having sex with subordinates, drinking at work, sexually harassing female colleagues and exposing himself. “I hope that they find a way to do something about it, because I just don’t think it contributes to public confidence,” Clark told a Vancouver radio station in May 2012. “A lot of women are watching and saying, ‘This isn’t right.’ ”

    All of which may explain why so few officers have bothered to use the internal process. According to the force’s own count, published in early 2013, only 26 filed formal sexual harassment complaints between 2005 and 2012, a number dwarfed by the hundreds who have signed on to the class action suit. “If you talk to people who tried to go through whatever system was available in the past,” says Creasser, “they’ll say, ‘Why would I put myself through that again? I just felt revictimized.’ ”

    As for Galliford, by her admission, it is too late for the RCMP to fix this. For the past two years, she’s been readying herself for her trial, which she considers her only opportunity to hold her “abusers to account.” It was slated to begin last week, on Feb. 16. But, earlier this month, it was suddenly adjourned: The witness list was deemed too long for the trial’s scheduled six weeks. It could take another two years for Galliford to get another court date. Her lawyer tells her the opposition legal team is trying to bleed her dry. Galliford says the process has cost her her life savings—“the price you pay for complaining about sexual abuse, harassment and exploitation, I guess.”


  90. Most murdered and missing aboriginal women victims of indigenous perpetrators: RCMP

    BY DOUGLAS QUAN, National Post APRIL 10, 2015

    Seventy per cent of the perpetrators in Canada’s cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women are indigenous, the RCMP commissioner has confirmed.

    The suggestion was first made last month by Bernard Valcourt, the aboriginal affairs minister, in a private meeting with First Nations chiefs in Alberta. Aboriginal leaders questioned the veracity of the number because a report last year from the RCMP about those cases did not specify perpetrators’ ethnicity.

    But in a letter made public Thursday, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said data obtained from 300 police agencies “has confirmed that 70 per cent of the offenders were of aboriginal origin.”

    However, the letter, addressed to Bernice Martial, grand chief of the Treaty No. 6 First Nations, stressed that it is not the ethnicity of offenders that is relevant to investigators, “but rather the relationship between victim and offender that guides our focus with respect to prevention.”

    Paulson said that the force previously chose not to disclose this data “in the spirit of bias-free policing” and because such disclosure had the potential to “stigmatize and marginalize vulnerable populations.”

    The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network first reported last month that Valcourt had shared the unpublished information during a March 20 private meeting in Calgary with First Nations chiefs.

    “I will tell you, because there is no media in the room, that the RCMP report states that up to 70 per cent of the murdered and missing indigenous women issue stems from their own communities,” Valcourt reportedly said, according to a news release issued later by the Treaty No. 6 First Nations.

    Aboriginal leaders accused the minister of being disrespectful and called on the RCMP and Valcourt to share what more information they had.

    A report released last May by the RCMP stated that 1,181 aboriginal women and girls were murdered or went missing between 1980 and 2012. The report said that 62 per cent of homicide victims were killed by a spouse, family member or someone they were intimate with. However, it did not delve into the ethnicity of offenders.

    “We had never intended to publicly discuss the ethnicity of the offenders. Rather our focus has been on the relationship between the victim and offender, which has pointed our prevention efforts to familial and spousal violence,” Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong said in an email to the National Post earlier this month.

    The RCMP is scheduled to release a follow-up report at the end of May, which will include updated statistics and a review of actions taken since the first report, Armstrong said.

    Following the release of the first report, all RCMP divisions were asked to look at outstanding cases to ensure all investigative avenues had been explored. The RCMP said it would also use the data to identify communities most at risk of violence against women and develop prevention strategies.

    The release of the report renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.