Indigenous people face higher rates of violence, statistics show
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.
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Andrea Pardy was attacked inside the Sand Bar Lounge in Happy ValleyGoose Bay in 2012.