Hello, I'm Kathryn Blaze Baum, The Globe and Mail’s beat reporter dedicated to covering the issue of Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women. Over the past 15 months, I have traveled to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Regina, Ottawa and remote First Nation communities such as Manitoba’s Garden Hill and Pinaymootang in search of compelling stories and answers to some of the big questions: What renders indigenous women so vulnerable? Who is perpetrating these crimes? What are police, governments and indigenous leaders doing about it? I have sat with grieving families who are still searching for those answers, and more – many cases remain unsolved, including that of Tina Fontaine, the 15-year-old Sagkeeng First Nation teen whose 2014 death reignited calls for a national inquiry into the violence.

My colleague, Matthew McClearn, is a Globe data journalist who has been spearheading The Globe's months-long effort to compile and vet a database of homicide and missing-person cases involving indigenous women. We started digging into how serial killing fits into the broader tragedy of Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women about six months ago. Matthew obtained and crunched data from an American researcher, allowing The Globe to determine just how over-represented indigenous women are among Canada’s female serial-homicide victims.

Our analysis revealed aboriginal women are roughly seven times more likely to die at the hands of a serial killer than non-aboriginal women. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/prime-targets-serial-killers-and-indigenous-women/article27435090/) The investigation also found that at least 18 indigenous women were slain by convicted serial killers since 1980. To illuminate the human element of all this, we recently launched The Taken, a multimedia project that traces the lives of five indigenous women slain by different serial killers. (http://tgam.ca/thetaken)

We are here from 2-3 p.m. ET and are ready for your questions.

Social media proof: https://twitter.com/KBlazeBaum

Comments: 2336 • Responses: 13  • Date: 

kushglo387 karma

What is the weirdest unsolved case that you guys have come across?

kathrynblazebaum744 karma

One of the cases that has captured the nation's attention is that of Amber Tuccaro, a 20-year-old indigenous woman who disappeared about five years ago from the Edmonton area. Her skull was found in an area where several indigenous women's remains have been discovered. The RCMP have recently said a serial killer may be responsible for the deaths.

In 2012, police asked the public to help identify the "voice of a person of interest," releasing a recording of a cell-phone conversation Ms. Tuccaro had while driving in a vehicle with an unknown male. Project KARE investigators say the voice belongs to "someone who could assist them in their investigation."

You can read more here: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ab/news-nouvelles/archives/2012/120828-edm-tuccaro-eng.htm

The voice recording is chilling. The case remains unsolved.

alex_skynet101 karma

How much would you say their community (bands) have contributed to help, or not, these women?

Is living remotely, physically or social-culturally, a factor here?

It appears that improvement on Canadian law enforcement agencies is necessary, is this done with their communities in mind?

kathrynblazebaum157 karma

It is difficult to quantify the support of band councils as it relates to this issue, since there are hundreds of First Nations communities across the country.

In my travels, chiefs have been receptive to allowing me to visit the reserve, meet with families and try to get a sense for what is going on there. Certainly, there are some communities that have had more success with tackling violence against indigenous women than others.

The RCMP, for instance, has identified 10 communities where indigenous women are a significantly elevated risk of violence. Six of them are in Saskatchewan, two are in Manitoba and there is one each in B.C. and the Northwest Territories.

Living remotely is certainly a factor. Consider the so-called Highway of Tears, where indigenous women have been dying and disappearing over the course of several decades. In some cases, the women were hitchhiking, since the communities along that stretch are so remote and there's no consistent public transit.

As for law enforcement, police across the country say many improvements have been made to, for example, missing-person investigations, including as it relates to the creation of dedicated task forces that examine historic cases.

Examples of this are Manitoba's Project Devote and Alberta's Project KARE.

Podcaster51 karma

Have any trends or patterns been identified? Also, I'm curious as to what some of your hypothesis' may be in regards to the motives behind this particular tragedy.

kathrynblazebaum112 karma

In examining our database of homicide and missing-person cases involving indigenous women, a Globe team noticed a pattern: Several names were listed in connection with more than one killing.

We set out to determine the extent to which serial killing fits into the broader tragedy of Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women. The discussion had so far centered on the RCMP's confirmation that 70 per cent of indigenous female homicide victims died at the hands of an indigenous men. The Mounties have emphasized a "strong nexus to family violence." There was also the assertion from former cabinet minister Bernard Valcourt, who said these tragedies came down to a lack of respect of indigenous women by indigenous men on reserves.

We were able to determine that indigenous women are roughly seven times more likely than non-indigenous women to be slain by a serial killer. Our investigation also found that at least 18 indigenous women died at the hands of convicted serial killers since 1980.

The majority of those women were killed in or near cities by non-indigenous men.

As for motive, it is difficult to establish that when, even in solved, cases a motive may never be revealed. Some indigenous leaders believe these are crimes of opportunity -- that offenders operate under the assumption that because the women are indigenous and, potentially vulnerable in some way, the cases will spur less response.

faithfuljohn38 karma

Why do you think the Harper government was so resistant to really investigating this issue? If this many women had disappeared from the street of Toronto, I doubt the same resistance would happen.

kathrynblazebaum51 karma

It is impossible to get inside the minds of government officials, but let's examine what the former Conservative said publicly.

In the wake of the death of indigenous teen Tina Fontaine in Winnipeg, former prime minister Stephen Harper dismissed the need for an inquiry, saying the tragedies were not part of a sociological phenomenon but rather crimes best handled by police.

The government said the issue had been studied enough, over the course of many years, and that the time was nigh for action. There were some among the indigenous community who felt (and continue to feel) the same way.

Since being voted out of office in October, the Conservative Party has changed its tone. Interim leader Rona Ambrose has said she will support the Liberal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, which is expected to get off the ground by the summer.

Lawls9127 karma

Has the attitude towards this topic changed with the government?

kathrynblazebaum58 karma

The former Conservative government long said it would not launch a national inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women. The Liberals, meantime, campaigned on a promise to swiftly set about initiating a probe.

The new Indigenous Affairs minister told me last week that the government would launch a national inquiry by this summer, saying Canadians have waited long enough.

In a departure from the party's tone while in power, the new Conservative leader, Rona Ambrose, has said the party will support the work of the inquiry.

The proof will be in the pudding. It remains to be seen what resources will be devoted to the inquiry, and whether the recommendations will be implemented. Certainly, the tone of the government on this issue is markedly different from that under the Conservatives, and victims' families have told me they have taken notice.

devereuxbros17 karma

What areas are most dangerous?

kathrynblazebaum25 karma

The RCMP's unprecedented 2014 report found that about half of all female homicide victims in the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan were indigenous.

In that report, the Mounties promised to home in on 10 communities where indigenous women were at a significantly elevated risk of violence. It has since identified those 10 communities: Six are in Saskatchewan, two are in Manitoba and there is one each in B.C. and the Northwest Territories.

As for serial predation, we should note serial killing is exceedingly rare.

Our investigation determined that at least 18 aboriginal females were victims of convicted serial killers since 1980.

The majority of those women were slain in or near cities, and most were killed by non-indigenous men. The cases were prosecuted in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, with the cities of Vancouver, Prince George, Saskatoon and Winnipeg most commonly listed as the woman’s last place of residence.

kathrynblazebaum7 karma

Thanks so much for your questions! Unfortunately, we weren't able to get to all of them. We appreciate your patience and hope our answers, where we provided them, were insightful.

If you have any information about specific cases or insights that relate to our investigation into how serial killing fits into the broader tragedy of Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women, please email us as [email protected]

Thanks again for your interest! It's an important issue -- one that we plan on continuing to cover and investigate, so please stay tuned:) KBB

Spellca7 karma

Speaking as one deeply interested in the destruction of the native people on the North American continent, how do you feel thsee murders and the response to them fits into Canada's colonial and national history in regards to their indigenous people?

kathrynblazebaum13 karma

Indigenous leaders and advocates have long said that historic wrongdoings, as well as more modern social ills, factor into this tragedy in a significant way.

Take, for example, the residential-school system. Thousands of indigenous children were taken from their parents and placed in government-funded, church-run schools, where abuse was oftentimes rampant. The children were stripped of their indigenous identity and robbed of their parents' love.

This has left a legacy of challenges for those who were affected, as well as those whose parents or other relatives were affected.

A recent Truth and Reconciliation report said the residential school experience is tied to the disproportionate rate of indigenous children who are currently in the child-welfare system.

Let's look more specifically at the case of Tina Fontaine. Her father, Eugene Fontaine, was killed by two men in 2011. During their sentencing, their connection to the residential school system was discussed. A few years later, struggling with her father's death, Tina was placed in Manitoba's child-welfare system. In Winnipeg, she found drugs and sex work, and ended up being placed in a downtown Winnipeg hotel.

She disappeared from there and ended up in one of the city's rivers. Her 2014 case remains unsolved.

theYTSR5 karma

Is it possible that a very high number these cases are remaining unsolved due to the relative isolation of many indigenous communities in Canada? Do these numbers fit into the average of solved homicides/disappearances of small or isolated communities in Canada?

kathrynblazebaum8 karma

The RCMP's unprecedented 2014 report said homicide cases involving indigenous women had nearly the same solve rate as those involving non-indigenous women. It said: "The majority of all female homicidesare solved (close to 90%) and there is little difference in solve rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal victims."

It's a good question about solve rates in remote communities. Strictly anecdotally speaking, I remember having this discussion with someone in Garden Hill First Nation, where 11-year-old Teresa Robinson was killed earlier this year. The community member said people there were afraid to speak with police about what they had been hearing about the case, for fear the perpetrator(s) may retaliate. There are pros and cons about investigating in a small community I'm sure -- it works both ways that everybody knows everybody.

A key issue when it comes to solve rates, as I understand it, is getting the police involved as soon as the person is determined to be missing. Those first few hours (and days) are critical to the police effort.

devereuxbros4 karma

What are conceivable policy recommendations that could come from the Trudeau government's inquiry? Eg. the Harper government emphasized rule of law.

kathrynblazebaum4 karma

When I spoke with Indigenous Affairs minister Carolyn Bennett last week, she said the government has no preconceived notions about what the inquiry will investigate or what it might recommend.

The government is now in the process of conducting consultations to determine such things as mandate, terms of reference, names of potential commissioners, timeline etc.

In speaking with indigenous leaders, it appears there is a desire to create recommendations as they relate to such areas as policing standards, data collection and funding of social programs on reserves.

Im_Freee1 karma

Why do you think indigenous woman are a target?

kathrynblazebaum1 karma

Researchers and law enforcement have said they don't necessarily view this as a matter of indigenous women being targeted based on race, but rather based on vulnerability. Vulnerable people, of course, are more likely to be preyed upon and victimized.

Unfortunately, in Canada, indigenous women are over-represented among our most vulnerable females. Sex work is a good example of a factor that can render a woman increasingly vulnerable.

Check out today's column by Kim Rossmo, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Texas State University, and a former detective inspector in Vancouver where he specialized in the geographic profiling of serial killers.