Posted on June 14, 2006

Natives More Likely To Be Murdered, Jailed: Study, Jun. 6

OTTAWA — New statistics say native people are many times more likely to be murdered, jailed or the victims of crime.

Aboriginal people were seven times more likely to be murdered between 1997 and 2000 than non-natives, says a report Tuesday.

The study by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics says 40 per cent of aboriginals over age 15 reported being crime victims in the previous year, compared with a national average of 28 per cent.

Native people were twice as likely to be repeat victims, three times as likely to be robbed, assaulted or raped, and three and a half times more likely to be attacked by their spouse.

On reserves, the numbers were more grim — aboriginals were eight times more likely to be assaulted and seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted, compared with national averages. Only robbery was less often committed, at a rate of roughly half that for the rest of Canada.

Jodie-Anne Brzozowski, a senior analyst with the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, said aboriginal offenders share several traits that can help guide law and policy makers.

“Being young, having low education, having low incomes, having higher levels of unemployment, being a child raised by lone-parent families, higher rates of mobility and crowded (housing) conditions.

“Those are all things that tend to raise the risk of anyone being a victim or offender. But they tend to be more common among the aboriginal population.”

Native people serve an especially disproportionate amount of jail time.

Aboriginal adults make up just three per cent of the population but comprised 21 per cent of provincial inmates and 18 per cent of federal prisoners in 2003-04, says the study.

In Saskatchewan, aboriginals account for 10 per cent of the population but 80 per cent of those sent to provincial jails.

Young native people have a greater chance of landing behind bars than graduating from university, said Larry Chartrand, head of the aboriginal governance program at University of Winnipeg.

“That’s pretty stark.

“I think they should rethink their failure to uphold the Kelowna Accord,” he said of the Conservative government.

Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice says he supports the goals of improved living standards that underpinned the $5.1-billion agreement struck last November by the former Liberal government, native leaders and every premier.

But the Conservatives promised just $150 million this fiscal year and $300 million next year for such efforts.

Prentice says his government will commit more money and set its own course to fight native poverty.

“Those are very sad numbers,” he said Tuesday of the latest crime figures.

“There were things discussed at Kelowna in terms of targets and objectives which I’ve said are positive.

“But we’re going to do it with a Conservative plan to move forward.”

Peter Dinsdale, executive director of the National Association of Friendship Centres, says there’s no time to waste.

His group represents 117 front-line centres in cities across Canada.

“It’s stunning, the crimes we’re doing against ourselves and how we’re internalizing . . . oppression and the legacy of all this.

“There’s years of us not graduating from high school, not being employed, not having access to the full benefits of Canadian society.

“The violence is going to increase. We’re starting to see some of these trends.”

Kelowna didn’t focus enough on native people living in cities but the accord was a rockbed for real commitment to change, Dinsdale said.

“It’s why events like Kelowna were so important from a First Nations perspective — to get to the roots of some of these homicides and sexual assaults.”