Canadian police accused of abuse and failure to help natives

Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:51pm EST
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By Russ Blinch

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are failing to protect aboriginal women in northern regions from violence, according to a report from an international human rights group that also alleged abusive behavior by police officers themselves.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged the Canadian government to probe dozens of murders and disappearances of females along a northern strip of highway in the Pacific province of British Columbia known as the "Highway of Tears".

"The threat of domestic and random violence on one side, and mistreatment by RCMP officers on the other, leaves indigenous women in a constant state of insecurity," said Meghan Rhoad, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"Where can they turn for help when the police are known to be unresponsive and, in some cases, abusive?"

Human Rights Watch said it sent researchers to the area between Prince George and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, last July and August and interviewed 50 indigenous women and girls, while also talking with affected families and native leaders.

The group said it was told of excessive use of force, strip searches of women by male officers, as well as physical and sexual abuse.

"One woman said that in July, four police officers took her to a remote location, raped her, and threatened to kill her if she told anyone," the report stated.

Police in British Columbia noted that no one linked to the report had officially filed a complaint.   Continued...