First Nations leaders acknowledge that violence is a problem on the reserves – which are beset with poverty, drug abuse and unemployment. But only 40% of the country’s indigenous people actually live on reserves, and activists and analysts say the abuse and murder visited on Canada’s indigenous women reflects a broader history of marginalization and abuse.
That view is shared by the United Nations, which has repeatedly called for a national inquiry into violence against First Nations women, similar to the investigation launched into the murder of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.
The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) concluded last year that the Harper government’s refusal to investigate the violence was “a grave violation” of indigenous women’s rights.
“The victimisation of native women is partly the legacy of colonial heritage where gender-based violence is linked to the lack of realization of their economic, social, political and cultural rights,” said the authors of the report, Niklas Bruun and Barbara Bailey in an email.