Backgrounder A: Concrete Steps to Address the Issue of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women

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Violence against women remains a problem in Canada and throughout the world, affecting women's personal safety and their ability to participate in and contribute to society.

The risk of violence is compounded for Aboriginal women (First Nations, Inuit, Métis and non-status Indians), who are three and one-half times more likely to experience violent victimization than non-Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women report higher rates of violence committed by strangers and more serious forms of family violence. They are significantly over-represented as victims of homicide and are also three times more likely to be victims of spousal violence than non-Aboriginal women.

The Government of Canada has committed to taking concrete steps to address the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women by improving the responses of both law enforcement and the justice system to missing persons cases.

Seven initiatives will help fulfill the Budget 2010 commitment:

  1. Through a $4-million investment, the RCMP will establish a National Police Support Centre for Missing Persons, including one resource, linked to National Aboriginal Policing Services, specifically dedicated to the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women; enhance the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) to capture additional missing persons data; create a national registry for missing persons and unidentified remains so police have more comprehensive information on missing persons across jurisdictions; and create a national Web site to encourage the public to provide tips and information on missing persons cases and unidentified human remains.
  2. The Department of Justice will introduce amendments to the Criminal Code to streamline the application process when specific court orders or warrants need to be issued in relation to an investigation for which a judge has given a wiretap authorization. Currently, a law enforcement officer may make multiple appearances before different judges to obtain authority to use these related investigative techniques. This amendment will improve the efficiency of investigations into serious crimes, including those that involve missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Other amendments will be proposed to section 184.4 of the Criminal Code, which provides authority for wiretapping without a warrant in emergencies (exigent circumstances). These circumstances can include murder or kidnapping investigations relating to missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The amendments being proposed would enhance privacy safeguards by, among other things, adding notification and reporting requirements to section 184.4. The notification amendment would require notice to be given in writing to persons who were the object of an interception under this provision. The reporting amendment would require an annual report to be prepared on the use of electronic surveillance under this provision.
  3. In addition, the Department of Justice will provide $1 million to support the development of school- and community-based pilot projects to help heal, move forward and provide alternatives to high-risk behaviour for young Aboriginal women, including young offenders. The overall goal of the initiative will be to reduce the vulnerability of young Aboriginal women to violence.
  4. Funds will be added to the Department of Justice's Victims Fund to help the western provinces develop or adapt victim services for Aboriginal people and specific culturally sensitive victim services for families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Additional investments in the Victims Fund will also be made available to Aboriginal community groups to respond to the unique issues faced by the families of missing or murdered Aboriginal women at the community level. This funding will total approximately $2.15 million over two years.
  5. Public Safety Canada will provide $1.5 million over two years to develop community safety plans to improve the safety of Aboriginal women within Aboriginal communities. Community safety plans will be developed by Aboriginal communities with the support of the Government of Canada to improve community safety and wellness. The information gathered from this process will help the Government of Canada improve its programs and services and better respond to community issues.
  6. In 2010-2011, the Justice Partnership and Innovation Fund will also make available approximately $850,000 to develop materials for the public on the importance of breaking intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse that threaten Aboriginal communities across Canada. This funding will be made available to Aboriginal organizations and Public Legal Education groups working with Aboriginal groups.
  7. The Department of Justice will also invest almost $500,000 in the development of a national compendium of promising practices in the area of law enforcement and the justice system to help Aboriginal communities and groups improve the safety of Aboriginal women across the country. These “best practices” will be identified in a number of fields: law enforcement, victim services, Aboriginal community development and violence reduction.

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Department of Justice Canada
October 2010