WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada has committed a “grave violation” of aboriginal women’s rights by failing to adequately investigate their numerous disappearances and murders, a United Nations committee said in a report on Friday.
The U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said the Canadian police and justice system failed to effectively protect Aboriginal women and hold perpetrators to account.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said last year that 1,017 aboriginal women had been murdered between 1980 and 2012.
“Aboriginal women and girls are more likely to be victims of violence than men or non-aboriginal women, and they are more likely to die as a result,” committee members Niklas Bruun and Barbara Bailey said in a statement.
“Yet, despite the seriousness of the situation, the Canadian state has not sufficiently implemented measures to ensure that cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women are effectively investigated and prosecuted.”
The report is an embarrassment for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which is expected to call an election for October. Harper has resisted calls to set up an inquiry, saying the situation should be viewed as crime, not a sociological problem.
Bruun and Bailey visited Canada in 2013 to research allegations by non-governmental organizations. They concluded that Canada violated articles of the U.N.’s convention for the elimination of discrimination against women, including their rights to equal protection, effective remedy and adequate living conditions.
Canada’s 1.4 million Aboriginals have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians, and are more often victims of violent crime.
The U.N. committee made 38 non-legally binding recommendations, including that the government call an independent inquiry into the missing and murdered cases.
A spokesman for Kellie Leitch, Canada’s minister of status of women, could not be immediately reached. In Canada’s official response to the committee, which the U.N. committee released, the government said it disagreed with the finding of grave violations of rights and the recommendation for an inquiry.
Close to 90 percent of all cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women have been solved and investigations are ongoing, Canada said in its response, in which the government accepted 34 recommendations.
Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Editing by Andre Grenon