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JJ June poised this question: Fact Check “Harper says ‘most’ cases of murdered aboriginal women are solved.” CP Oct. 6/15
Kathryn Blaze Baum, a national reporter who covers the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women for The Globe gave this response:
First, it is important to note that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comment was made in the context of an inquiry into both missing and murdered indigenous women. Indigenous leaders and Canada’s premiers have been calling for a federal probe to better understand why aboriginal women are disproportionately more likely to disappear or be killed and also to determine how to tackle the violence.
In 2014, the RCMP released an unprecedented report looking at police-recorded incidents of missing and murdered indigenous women across the country. It found that between 1980 and 2012, there were 1,017 homicides and 164 outstanding missing-person cases. Within that time period, there are 225 unsolved cases: 105 women have been missing for more than 30 days and their disappearances are categorized as either “foul play suspected” or “unknown,” and 120 homicide cases have not been solved.
It is true, then, that most homicides involving indigenous women have been solved. As stated in the RCMP report: “The majority of all female homicides are solved (close to 90%) and there is little difference in solve rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal victims.”
But this is not the whole picture.
It is important to understand what the RCMP means when it says “solved.” The report indicates that, for the purposes of the study, the term is used synonymously with “clearance rate.” Here is how clearance rate is defined, in one of the footnotes:
“Clearance refers to whether or not a homicide incident was cleared: (1) either by the laying, or recommending of a charge to the Crown; or (2) where at least one suspect has been identified and against whom there is sufficient evidence to lay a charge, but where the incident is cleared otherwise (e.g. the suicide or death of the chargeable suspect … ).”
This means that if police recommend charges but the Crown decides not to proceed, or if an accused is charged but later acquitted, the case is still considered solved. A killing, then, could be deemed solved without a conviction.
Put simply, the police might consider a case cleared, but the victim’s family may still be waiting for justice.
Furthermore, it is possible that some of the 105 unresolved cases involving missing indigenous women, whose disappearances are categorized as “foul play suspected” or “unknown,” are actually unsolved homicide cases.
Finally, a couple of questions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.