Meghan Rhoad, Researcher, Women’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch
CBC reports that New York-based Human Rights Watch is calling on the Harper government to launch a national inquiry on claims of police threats, torture and sexual assault against Indigenous women and girls by the RCMP in British Columbia.
“Two researchers — one from Canada and one from the U.S. — spent five weeks last summer in the province’s north, visiting 10 communities between Prince George to Prince Rupert and hearing accounts from aboriginal women of alleged mistreatment at the hands of police. …The researchers interviewed 50 aboriginal women and girls, plus family members and service providers in northern B.C. They heard stories of police pepper-spraying and using Tasers on young aboriginal girls, and of women being strip-searched by male officers.”
“(Meghan Rhoad, a U.S. researcher with Human Rights Watch) told reporters (yesterday) that researchers found levels of fear among aboriginal women with negative stories about police ‘comparable to post-conflict situations, like post-war Iraq’. …(Apparently not acknowledging that finding), the RCMP says it wants to get to the bottom of abuse allegations against its officers in British Columbia involving aboriginal women and girls, but says individuals making the claims must come forward to allow police to conduct a proper investigation.”
“The international human rights organization’s report calls on the federal government to launch a national inquiry into the claims of abuse, and with the help of First Nations leaders, implement a national action plan to address violence against aboriginal women and girls. Human Rights Watch recommends the province hold a public inquiry, which could be part of a national commission of inquiry or a standalone inquiry. Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Jody Wilson-Rayboud, AFN regional chief for B.C., are calling on both levels of government to implement the recommendations, with cooperation from indigenous communities.”
Note – In October 2012, the Council of Canadians endorsed the ‘Sisters in Spirit Vigils – A Movement for Social Change’ statement that highlights the call for a national inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Their petition notes, “Such an inquiry would be a crucial step in implementing a comprehensive and coordinated national action plan.” Since the Sisters In Spirit initiative began in 2005, the Native Women’s Association of Canada has documented more than 582 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women and girls. For more on this, please go to http://canadians.org/blog/?p=16994.