In a report released on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that many aboriginal women in British Columbia have been the victims of discrimination, aggressive use of police force, and even sexual assault by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
The report, titled “Those Who Take Us Away,” features in depth interviews with 50 aboriginal women along the “Highway of Tears” in British Columbia where numerous aboriginal women have gone missing or have been murdered. Researchers also interviewed 37 family members of missing or murdered women and girls. The women interviewed describe scenes of excessive use of force on girls under the age of 18, abuse of strip searches, and even accusation of rape and beatings.
Meghan Rhoad, who helped write the HRW report, said in a press release, “The threat of domestic and random violence on one side, and mistreatment by RCMP officers on the other, leaves indigenous women in a constant state of insecurity. … Where can they turn for help when the police are known to be unresponsive and, in some cases, abusive.” She told the BBC, “There’s frustration, there’s distrust of authority… There’s not only a feeling that the police don’t take their reports seriously, but that they will themselves be responsible for mistreatment.”
In a statement released by the RCMP in response to the report, the force wrote “In a written response to a series of questions posed by Human Rights Watch in fall 2012, the RCMP emphasized the seriousness of allegations of police misconduct and that these allegations must be brought forward for proper investigation. We also explained that complaints could be made to the RCMP directly, to the Commission of Public Complaints against the RCMP or to other independent investigative bodies without fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, five months later and none of these allegations have been brought forward for investigation.” The statement concluded with the RCMP stating that it would need time to thoroughly review the report.
At the end of the report, the HRW calls on the Canadian government to issue an inquiry into the allegations as well as work with indigenous communities and the RCMP to reform investigative policies relating to women and girls.