Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has ignored calls by Human Rights Watch for an inquiry into reports of violence committed by Canada’s federal police against aboriginal women and girls.
On Wednesday, the rights organization issued a report that documented numerous accounts of murder and disappearance of females in the province of British Columbia.
“The threat of domestic and random violence on one side, and mistreatment by RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officers on the other, leaves indigenous women in a constant state of insecurity,” said Meghan Rhoad, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The report also documented a number of disturbing allegations of rape and sexual assault at the hands of the federal police.
The Canadian prime minister said the government had no information about the allegations of abuse committed by the RCMP. However, Harper said a commission would pursue the claims.
“I have asked the Commissioner for Public Complaints against the RCMP to follow up on some allegations that have been made. In fact, I would encourage anyone with information that bears on these matters to pass it along to the appropriate authorities,” Harper said on Wednesday.
The report was the outcome of an investigation into the ‘Highway of Tears’ – a name used to describe an infamous 800-kilometer stretch of highway in central British Columbia where 18 women have disappeared over the past several decades.
Two researchers, one from Canada and one from the United States, spent five weeks last summer in the province’s north, interviewing 42 women and eight girls in ten communities along the highway that connects the cities of Prince George and Prince Rupert in the westernmost province of Canada.
The researchers noted that all of the victims in the report were frightened about possible retaliation within their communities or by police, and insisted on having their identities protected.
Indigenous communities in Canada, also known as the First Nations, say they are frustrated with the government’s failure to address the social and economic grievances facing many of the 1.2 million aborigines.
Many of Canada’s natives live in poor conditions with unsafe drinking water, inadequate housing, addiction, and high suicide rates.
On December 19, 2012, Amnesty International called on the Canadian government to address human rights abuses in the country, particularly with respect to the rights of indigenous peoples.