(Source: HRW, edited by Issa Sikiti da Silva). Canadian Police officers have been fingered by a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report of failing to protect indigenous women and girls from violence, after several indigenous women and girls have gone missing, or murdered in the vicinity of the infamous Highway 16, nicknamed ‘Highway of Tears’ in the northern British Columbia.
The 89-page HRW report, “Those Who Take Us Away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, published today, slams the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in northern British Columbia of meting abusive treatment, including excessive use of force, and physical and sexual assault to indigenous female populations.
“Police failures and abuses add to longstanding tensions between the RCMP and indigenous communities in the region,” Meghan Rhoad, HRW women’s rights researcher, said.
The New York-based rights organisation urged the Canadian government to establish a national commission of inquiry into the murders and disappearances of indigenous women and girls, including the impact of police mistreatment on their vulnerability to violence in communities along the northern British Columbia’s ‘Highway of Tears’.
“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,” Rhoad said.
“Where can they turn for help when the police are known to be unresponsive and, in some cases, abusive?”
HRW said that it conducted research along Highway 97 and along the 724-km stretch of Highway 16 that has become infamous for the dozens of women and girls who have been reported missing or were found dead in its vicinity since the late 1960s.
HRW said its researchers in July and August 2012 interviewed 50 indigenous women and girls, and conducted an additional 37 interviews with families of murdered and missing women, indigenous leaders, community service providers, and others across 10 communities.
Indigenous women and girls told HRW that the RCMP has failed to protect them. They also described instances of abusive policing, including excessive use of force against girls, strip searches of women by male officers, and physical and sexual abuse.
“I will never forget that day,” Lena G* was quoted in the report as saying. Lena G*’s 15-year-old daughter’s arm was broken by a police officer after the mother called the police for help during an argument between her daughter and her daughter’s abusive boyfriend. “It’s the worst thing I ever did. I wish I didn’t call,” she said.
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*Photo by Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch. The infamous Highway 16 nicknamed ‘Highway of Tears’ in Canada’s northern British Columbia.