Canada's 'femicide epidemic' brings calls for inquiry

In the province of Manitoba, half of female murder victims are aboriginal

When the body of 15-year-old Native Canadian Tina Fontaine was discovered by the docks in Winnipeg last Sunday, nobody was surprised. In the province of Manitoba, almost half of all women murdered since 1980 have been aboriginal.

Campaigners have described Ms Fontaine's death as symptomatic of an ongoing "undercurrent of racism and sexism". Oxfam Canada has said that she is just one casualty of an "epidemic of femicide".

Manitoba's aboriginal affairs minister, Eric Robinson, told the Canadian Press that when he heard about Ms Fontaine's murder, his first thought was "not another one". In May, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) report revealed that although aboriginal women make up 4.3 per cent of the national population, they account for 16 per cent of female murder victims and 11.3 per cent of missing women.

The First Nation community is calling for a national inquiry into violence against aboriginal women in Canada, a request that has previously been dismissed by the current Conservative government.

"Aboriginal women here in Manitoba are vulnerable," said Trudy Lavallee, executive director of Ikwe Widdjiitiwin, a crisis shelter in Winnipeg for aboriginal women at risk of violence. "There are elements of racism. There is an element of devaluing them, and aboriginal women are highest at risk of a huge number of social problems like addiction, poverty and homelessness."

Tina Fontaine spent the past 11 years being raised by her aunt in the Sagkeeng First Nation, but was placed in the custody of child and family services in Winnipeg a month before she went missing in August.

A week before the discovery of Fontaine's body, the remains of 26-year-old aboriginal woman Samantha Paul were identified near Kamloops, British Columbia. Last month, Marlene Bird, 47, needed facial reconstruction and the amputation of her lower legs after an attack in Saskatchewan.

Michèle Audette, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said that the Conservative government has failed to act because of an "undercurrent of racism and sexism". "If this number of women of any other group were murdered in the same time span and in such gruesome circumstances, there would be a public outcry," she said.

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed the possibility of a national inquiry. "We should not view this as a sociological phenomenon," he said on Thursday. "It is crime, against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such."

Oxfam Canada's Robert Fox added: "Canada is a diverse, multicultural country but we still haven't dealt with the legacy of colonialism. You judge a country by how it treats its most vulnerable, and by that measure Canada clearly falls far short."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future