National homicide rates released by Statistics Canada last week included unprecedented clarity on data from the Aboriginal population.
For the first time, the homicide statistics sourced from Canadian police services have “complete” information on the Aboriginal identity of victims and people accused of homicide. As well, police-reported data on the Aboriginal identity of female homicide victims is now available from 1980 to 2013.
Information from 2014 showed Aboriginal people accounted for 23 per cent of homicide victims in 2014, 117 of 516, despite representing less than five per cent of the population. They represented about one-third of the 431 people accused of homicide as well.
Aboriginal people were killed at a rate six times that of the general population, or 7.2 per 100,000 people, compared to 1.13 victims per 100,000 non-Aboriginal people. Aboriginal males were seven times more likely to be a victim of homicide than non-Aboriginal males, and three times more likely to be killed than Aboriginal females. That said, Aboriginal females, killed at a rate of 3.64 per 100,000 in 2014, were still six times more likely to fall victim to homicide than non-Aboriginal women.
The data is consistent with research conducted by Dr. Adam Jones profiled in the Journal last week. Jones advocates for a gender-inclusive inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous people, men and women, because StatCan data show more than twice as many indigenous men have been killed or reported missing than women since 1980.
The homicide rate for Aboriginal people was highest in Manitoba (13.29 per 100,000), which had the highest overall murder rate in Canada in 2014 despite a 15 per cent drop from 2013 (3.43 per 100,000), in Alberta (11.55 per 100,000), and in all three territories. This marks the eighth year in a row Manitoba has held the dubious distinction. Aboriginal people were also most overrepresented among homicide victims in Manitoba, in other words, Manitoba featured the biggest difference between the homicide rate among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people; Aboriginal people were killed at a rate nine times that of non-Aboriginals. Following Manitoba were Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta, where the rates were six times higher, and Saskatchewan where the rate was five times higher.
The lowest homicide rates for Aboriginal people were reported by Quebec (2.24) and Nova Scotia (2.56).
From 1980 to 2014, police services across Canada reported 6,849 homicides involving female victims. For that same period, Aboriginal female victims accounted for 16 per cent (1,073) of all female victims of homicide. Since 1991, however, the number of non-Aboriginal female homicide victims has been shrinking, driving the proportion of Aboriginal female homicide victims up, from 14 per cent in that year to 21 per cent in 2014.
Overall, Alberta saw the largest increase in the number of homicides, with 22 more than in 2013. In the NWT there were four homicides in 2014, up one from 2013; according to the RCMP, there have been five homicides so far in 2015, including that of May Elanik, found outdoors in Aklavik Nov. 11.
Most Aboriginal homicides solved
In 2014, a higher proportion of homicides of Aboriginal victims were solved by police compared with non-Aboriginal victims, 85 per cent compared to 71 per cent. As with non-Aboriginal victims, the majority of solved Aboriginal homicides were perpetrated by someone known to them (81 per cent and 87 per cent, respectively), according to Statistics Canada.
Spousal homicide was more common among non-Aboriginal female victims than their Aboriginal counterparts. While 45 per cent of non-Aboriginal female victims were killed by a current or previous spouse (including common-law), the same was true for one-third of Aboriginal female victims.
The incidence of homicide by other family members was more common among Aboriginal female victims compared with non-Aboriginal victims. Acquaintance homicide was more common among non-Aboriginal female victims than Aboriginal female victims (14 per cent versus 8 per cent), while stranger homicide was similar between the two (five per cent versus four per cent).
The extent of spousal homicide for Aboriginal male victims was higher than for non-Aboriginal male victims (nine per cent versus one per cent).
No surprises for NWT
During the Dene National Assembly held in Fort Smith in 2014, a resolution was passed for the Dene Nation to “immediately” conduct an independent inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The resolution also supported an inquiry at the national level.
The motion was moved after a presentation by the chair of the Assembly of First Nation’s women’s council, Terry Villeneuve, who also sits on the Native Women’s Association of the NWT.
“In the NWT, there were up to 20 cases of missing and murdered women in the past 30 years, and 17 of those were Aboriginal,” she told the Journal at the time. “That means 85 per cent were Aboriginal, even though only 50 per cent of the population is made up of Aboriginal people. More has to be done to prevent violence and to hold people accountable when violence is done.”