WINNIPEG — A new report from the RCMP says between 1980 and 2012, there have been 1,181 homicides and unresolved missing person cases involving aboriginal women.
Of those, 1,017 women were murdered, while 164 remain missing.
The RCMP called it the most comprehensive report on missing and murdered aboriginal women and said it is a "first step" towards a national strategy to help prevent future deaths and disappearances.
"It is important to have a snapshot in time with respect to what the data is, what the numbers are, what the vulnerability factors are," said RCMP Supt. Tyler Bates. "The next phase of this is that we're really excited about is the broader social conversation that needs to take place with community agencies, with aboriginal leadership, health and social services that are participating in looking at these vulnerability factors and providing recommendations and working towards, hopefully, preventing these occurrences in the future."
Claudette Dumont-Smith, executive director of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said the RCMP report validated their concerns about missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The group’s own research found 582 had gone missing or were murdered, a number dwarfed by the new report.
"We're very pleased with the outcome of the report, which supports what we've been saying all along— that there is a disproportionate number of aboriginal women and girls that go missing or are murdered," she said.
"It's going to be a wake-up call for Canadians and policy-makers and the politicians that it really is a problem.
"We feel that a national public inquiry will really address the issue as it should be addressed."
The Assembly of First Nations said the RCMP report reaffirms the magnitude of the crisis and said there is an urgent need for action by governments, First Nations, police and others.
"The AFN continues to call for a co-ordinated national action plan, including a national public commission of inquiry, as well as immediate direct investment in shelters and preventative support measures to keep the most vulnerable of our citizens safe and secure," AFN regional Chief Cameron Alexis said in a statement.
According to the study, aboriginal women face higher rates of unemployment, substance abuse, and involvement in criminal activity.
Forty-four per cent were more likely to have a criminal record compared with 13% of non-aboriginal women, while 63% of murdered aboriginal women had consumed intoxicants prior compared with 20% of non-aboriginal victims.
"The reality is that there are difficult social and economic circumstances that need to be considered and discussed as we move forward," Bates said.
Data on perpetrators of aboriginal female homicides also show the higher risks for aboriginal women. The report showed 53% of perpetrators were likely to have been convicted of a violent offence, compared with 27% for murderers of non-aboriginal women. Seventy-one per cent were likely to have a criminal record, compared with 45% of killers of non-aboriginal women.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the government will focus on new tools for police and prevention for the future, but didn't address calls for a public inquiry.