Lorna Martin’s mother went missing in October 1987.
She hasn’t read the RCMP’s updated report on missing and murdered Aboriginal women. She doesn’t know what the statistics released this week have to say about the thousands of Indigenous women who have been killed or disappeared.
What she does know is that when her mother, Mary Jane Kreiser, was reported missing in Edmonton by her sister, the police officer didn’t seem very concerned.
“They asked if my mother drank,” she says.
“The police comment on that day, he said: ‘There you go. They go off for a week, or so, and then they come back.’”
She never came back.
Police have told the family that foul play is suspected but the first search took place more than a decade after she was reported missing and none since.
“In 28 years, there’s been very little done to find her,” Martin, 53, tells Yahoo Canada News from her home in Ottawa.
She and her sisters and brother would still like answers. It seems like those answers will never come.
“There’s no body,” Martin says. “In a sense, we’re still looking for her. It’s unsolved.”
An additional 32 names have been added to the list of murdered and 11 to the list of missing in RCMP-policed communities in the 13 months since the national police force released their last report, which found 1,181 murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada from 1980 to 2012.
Like women murder victims in general, Aboriginal women most often die at the hands of people they know, the report says.
Dawn Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, says that’s not a revelation.
“The fact that they knew the person who was the perpetrator… holds true for every group, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity,” Harvard says. “That is just the tragic nature of female homicide in general.”
While there may be value in knowing the statistics released by RCMP, they should not be used as a justification for inaction, she says.
Aboriginal women and children remain the most vulnerable groups of people in the country, Harvard says.
“We need to address the root causes, the systemic problems, the ongoing poverty, the lack of opportunities for education and employment that make particular sectors of the population more vulnerable in these circumstances, less able to escape violence, less able to have access to a safe environment, less able to have access to the kind of opportunities that would allow them some real options and support,” Harvard says.
The report strongly focuses on prevention efforts to address family violence as a means to address a murder rate that is three to four times higher than that of non-Aboriginal women.
The force made the controversial decision to include “criminal relationships” in the acquaintance murder statistics – sex workers killed by clients or drug users killed by dealers.
That is “ludicrous,” Harvard says.
Both Harvard and Cameron Alexis, a regional chief and lead for policing for the Assembly of First Nations, reiterated their calls for a public inquiry.
Alexis commends the RCMP for taking important steps to work with First Nations but he points out that a national forum on aboriginal policing has never taken place, despite repeated requests.
“There is still no evidenced action,” Alexis says, citing a lack of resources for prevention and safety initiatives.
Harvard says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released earlier this month makes it clear that the repercussions of long-term, systemic racism run deep and include family breakdown, addictions and violence.
“There needs to be some accountability from those who created that problem. It’s not enough to come out and say you’re sorry, get over it and move on,” she says.
Martin says it is time to stop pointing fingers: “To put this in the lap of the community, I think it’s irresponsible.”
Martin would like a public inquiry. The federal government says there have been many studies and reports already.