Crime co­nun­drum

Indige­nous peo­ple face higher rates of vi­o­lence, sta­tis­tics show

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMES MCLEOD

In 2012, Andrea Pardy was clos­ing the bar where she worked in Happy Val­ley-goose Bay when a man came in.

The man checked to make sure the two of them were alone, and then came around be­hind the bar and at­tacked her, hit­ting Pardy and smash­ing her head against the floor.

The attack lasted a couple of minutes, and as Pardy screamed, the man put his hand over her mouth to keep her quiet.

When one of his fin­gers went in­side her mouth, Pardy bit down hard, nearly sev­er­ing the fin­ger.

Then she ran down the road.

“I was cov­ered in blood, and I was screech­ing and scream­ing, and the clothes were hang­ing off me. I stood in the mid­dle of the road, and I could see lights com­ing down the road,” Pardy said. “I just stood there with my arms in the air in the mid­dle of the road, cry­ing, and this cab driver went around me, and then the sec­ond ve­hi­cle com­ing be­hind drove around me as well.”

Pardy, an Indige­nous woman orig­i­nally from Cartwright, told the story to The Tele­gram to il­lus­trate the way peo­ple re­act to vi­o­lence in parts of Labrador.

“I mean, these ve­hi­cles drove around me,” she said.

“It’s not an un­com­mon oc­cur­rence to see an Indige­nous per­son in the road, cry­ing or drunk.”

RCMP data from 2015, pro­vided to The Tele­gram by the St. John’s Sta­tus of Women Coun­cil, bear this out.

Ac­cord­ing to a Tele­gram anal­y­sis of the data, peo­ple liv­ing in pre­dom­i­nantly Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties in Labrador are roughly eight times more likely to be vic­tims of vi­o­lence, com­pared to peo­ple liv­ing in RNC cov­er­age ar­eas of St. John’s, Cor­ner Brook and Labrador West.

In the data, there are other mea­sures in­di­cat­ing that the rates of vi­o­lence in Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties are higher than in the rest of the prov­ince.

In 2006, ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tics Canada, 7.4 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion iden­ti­fied as hav­ing Abo­rig­i­nal ori­gins. But ac­cord­ing to the 2015 RCMP data, 27 per cent of the re­ported vi­o­lent crime of­fences within RCMP ju­ris­dic­tion hap­pened in Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties.

In She­shat­siu in 2015, 307 peo­ple were vic­tims of vi­o­lent crime, which rep­re­sents 30 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion of the community.

The Tele­gram made many attempts to get com­ments from the RCMP on the data, and the polic­ing is­sues when it comes to Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, but no one was made avail­able to com­ment as of press time.

The data pro­vided to The Tele­gram is far from per­fect. It iden­ti­fies Hope­dale, Nat­u­ashish, Makkovik, Happy Val­ley-goose Bay, Nain, Rigo­let, She­shat­shiu, Cartwright and Conne River as Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties.

It’s re­ally dif­fi­cult to get ex­act num­bers, ac­cord­ing to Amelia Reimer, cul­tural sup­port co-or­di­na­tor out­side and at the St. John’s Na­tive Friend­ship Cen­tre.

“Sta­tis­tics over who’s Indige­nous and who’s non­indige­nous is not some­thing that’s kept. The RCMP flat-out tells you they don’t keep those records,” Reimer said.

Ac­cord­ing to RCMP sta­tis­tics from 2015, vic­tims of vi­o­lent crime were 60.2 per cent fe­male and 39.8 per cent male. When it comes to sex­ual of­fences, the num­bers skew to 91.3 per cent fe­male vic­tims.

Mul­ti­ple sources who spoke to The Tele­gram talked about al­co­hol abuse and ad­dic­tions as a ma­jor driv­ing fac­tor for the vi­o­lence in Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

Reimer said ad­dic­tions and vi­o­lence flow di­rectly from the decades of trauma Indige­nous peo­ple have ex­pe­ri­enced.

Most peo­ple know about the res­i­den­tial schools, and the 1960s scoop, but Reimer said the trauma is still go­ing on to­day.

“Indige­nous kids are bounced around so much, I’ve talked to many peo­ple who were in 17 homes grow­ing up, 12 homes grow­ing up, and that was all within the foster care sys­tem in New­found­land and Labrador. That’s ac­tu­ally pretty stan­dard and it hap­pens to a lot of Indige­nous chil­dren,” she said.

“It’s the new res­i­den­tial school in so many ways.”

The provin­cial govern­ment is grap­pling with the issue of Indige­nous chil­dren, who are dis­pro­por­tion­ately rep­re­sented in provin­cial govern­ment so­cial ser­vices cus­tody.

An in­quiry is ex­pected to be called into Innu chil­dren in care. Reimer called it the “mil­len­nial scoop” — tak­ing Indige­nous kids from their fam­i­lies.

“Twenty years from now, they’re go­ing to be ex­plain­ing them­selves away for the mil­len­nial scoop,” Reimer said.

Jenny Wright, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for the St. John’s Sta­tus of Women Coun­cil, said she sus­pects the num­bers are higher when it comes to the ac­tual vi­o­lence hap­pen­ing, espe­cially against women.

She said women don’t re­port it be­cause vi­o­lence is most of­ten com­mit­ted by fam­ily mem­bers and in­ti­mate part­ners, and women are wor­ried they won’t be be­lieved.

“It’s not just the me­dia and the courts,” Wright said. “I can’t tell you how many women we’ve coun­selled that said, ‘I told my fam­ily, and I wasn’t be­lieved.’”

Reimer said she had her own ex­pe­ri­ence with that, when she was at­tacked by a man who at­tempted to sex­u­ally as­sault her in 2012.

She said she tried to re­port it to the Royal New­found­land Con­stab­u­lary, but the of­fi­cer she spoke to didn’t want to take pho­to­graphs of her bruises, and she felt like he didn’t be­lieve her.

“The way the RNC treated me was hor­ri­ble. I would never want to go there and re­port any­thing ever again, and I would cer­tainly have a hard time re­quest­ing a client or a community mem­ber to go there and re­port, be­cause you get treated so badly.”

Reimer said she knows it’s been five years since her ex­pe­ri­ence, and she hopes things have im­proved.

SUB­MIT­TED

The Nu­natsi­avut and fed­eral gov­ern­ments have signed a state­ment of in­tent, with the in­ten­tion of pro­tect­ing the wa­ters within the Nu­natsi­avut land claim area. Two of the sig­na­to­ries are Cather­ine McKenna, the Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change and Min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for Parks Canada, left, and Nu­natsi­avut pres­i­dent Jo­hannes Lampe.

FILE PHOTO

Andrea Pardy was at­tacked in­side the Sand Bar Lounge in Happy Val­leyGoose Bay in 2012.

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