Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Figures on killings of women and girls reveal some disturbing realities

Recently published figures show that 160 women and girls were killed in Canada last year. This is very much in line with previous years (the number has fluctuated between about 130 and 165 over the last few years), and clearly this is not good.

Some of the detail behind this single number is illuminating, though. 128 of that 160 were killed by men (and an additional 18 or so are marked "no killer identified", probably also men, so the overall percentage is probably around 90%; no big surprise there).

Of that 128 women and girls killed by men, 30 were Indigenous, i.e. nearly a quarter, whereas the Indigenous population makes up about 5% of the Canadian population, i.e. Indigenous women and girls are about 5 times over-represented. (These figures also include the anomaly of the 13 women killed in a single mass murder in Nova Scotia in April of last year, without which the proportion of Indigenous deaths would probably have been even higher, even if the overall numbers would have been lower.) We have known about this inequality for years, and it doesn't seem to be getting a lot better, despite our knowing it.

Digging further, a disproportionate number of these women were killed in rural areas, despite the vast proportion of the population being concentrated in urban areas, and about three-quarters were killed in their homes, often one shared with their killer. So, it is no surprise that most of the killings were by current or former partners (about 50% of those cases where a relationship was determined), other family members (26%) or friends and acquaintances (14%). Only 10% were killed by "strangers" (which presumably includes police officers).

So, if most of the 30 Indigenous women and girls who were killed in mainly rural areas, in and around their homes, were killed by male partners, family members or friends/acquaintances, then it follows that most of those doing the killing were Indigenous men. This is, of course, a generalization, but a necessary corollary of the data, and not just a racist opinion.

Which means we need to have a very frank conversation about the toxic culture and grim conditions that Indigenous men are being brought up in. Most of them are not out there hunting and trapping and living off the land. Many are addicted to alcohol, drugs and who knows what else. Violence, crime, gangs and machismo is a way of life for many, however much we might not want to admit it. 

This also probably at least partially explains why such a disproportionate number of Indigenous men are stewing in our prisons. White racism is not the only (and possibly not even the most important) force at play here. We need to look deeper.

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