By Valerie Dittrich
Journalists behind the investigation hope to make victims’ voices heard.
CBC News is bringing public awareness to the disappearances and deaths of Indigenous women and girls nationwide through an interactive inquiry.
The investigation aims to educate viewers about the violence that Indigenous women and girls face. It is displayed as an interactive website that provides insight into the cases of 287 women and girls across Canada. Readers can access stories by clicking on a profile. The inquiry was announced in early August 2016.
“These are not just statistics,” said Duncan McCue, a reporter for CBC Indigenous. “These are Canadian women and Canadian families who have endured a tragedy and there needs to be solutions proposed to ensure the tragedy doesn’t continue.”
Out of those 287 cases, CBC found 36 of them to be unsolved. In 34 of those cases, the police had ruled out foul play as a cause of death. However, the authors of the inquiry state on the website that many families do not accept the findings of the police and believe that their loved one’s death involved foul play.
Many of the unsolved cases revealed evidence that has stirred public suspicion, like unexplained bruises and other injuries. Such as 36-year old Beatrice Adam, whose body was found floating in the North Saskatchewan River on Oct. 12, 2014. Her autopsy revealed she had broken ribs and bruises on her nose and body, but the police report stated she had drowned.
“I think the one thing families say most of the time is they are being treated lesser because of the fact that they’re Indigenous,” said Jillian Taylor, another reporter for CBC Indigenous. “The stories I’ve heard from families about the way they were treated versus the way non-Indigenous families were treated, there’s definitely a difference.”
McCue said that most of the families he has spoken to believe their case was not handled seriously by the police, who often took months to publicize Indigenous missing persons.
“Families have said when they reported their loved one missing, the police were slow to respond, if they responded at all.”
A 2014 report by the RCMP suggested that Indigenous women were at a higher risk of falling victim to violence than non-Indigenous women. Although the inquiry publicizes the problem, McCue said not all of the families have faith that it will result in significant change.
“I think you’ll find divided opinion among the families of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry,” said McCue. “There are definitely families out there that worry that this will just be another report that will be filed away in a couple of years and not much will change for Indigenous women and girls.”
McCue also said the intentions of the reporters are good and aim to address broader issues by making the public aware of what Indigenous women and girls face. He said he believes the attention will encourage action.
Taylor has been covering stories around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women since 2008 and said she believes the formal inquiry has been “a long time coming.” She said many of the families felt like their voices were finally being heard.
“I think that seeing them feel listened to is a really good feeling for someone who’s heard their stories and listened to them cry,” Taylor said.
McCue and Taylor said the inquiry and its findings are sure to leave a lasting impact on Indigenous communities across the nation.