APTN National News
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said during a private meeting in Calgary last Friday that unreleased RCMP data shows Indigenous men were responsible for 70 per cent of murdered Indigenous women cases, according to two chiefs who were at the meeting.
Valcourt met with Treaty 7 Grand Chief Charles Weaselhead, who chaired the meeting, Treaty 8 Grand Chief Steve Courtoreille, and Treaty 6 Grand Chief Bernice Martial last Friday in Calgary at the Delta Bow Valley Hotel. There were about 20 people in the room during the meeting including Lubicon Lake Band Chief Billy Joe Laboucan.
Martial and Laboucan told APTN National News on Tuesday evening Valcourt said that according to the RCMP’s statistics, Indigenous men were responsible for 70 per cent of the murders of Indigenous women.
“He said that 70 per cent of the murdered and missing women is by Native men, that is what he stated right at that meeting,” said Martial.
“He said that yes,” said Laboucan. “It was something that he quoted saying it was an RCMP investigation and that it was perpetuated by Native men, the deaths or the murders.”
Laboucan’s daughter Bella Laboucan-McLean’s death is still unsolved. She fell 31 floors from a Toronto condo in the early morning hours of July 20, 2013, during a small party with three men and two women present. None of the men in the condo were First Nation, Metis or Inuit.
Laboucan said he approached Valcourt in the hallway after the meeting to share his first-hand experience with the subject.
“I guess what it boils down to is that 30 per cent is perpetuated by non-Aboriginal males,” said Laboucan.
He would like the RCMP or Valcourt to release the full report on the numbers.
“I would like to see that report myself and see how accurate those statistics are,” he said.
Martial said she demanded Valcourt release the full report during the meeting, but the minister didn’t respond.
“I stated to him that I wanted proof of what he just stated to me. He said 70 per cent. So I said, ‘I want those stats from you.’ He did not say anything to me after that.”
Martial and Laboucan’s statements are supported by a source who was present at the meeting but requested anonymity. APTN National News also obtained notes written by a second source during the meeting that also back the chiefs’ claims.
Valcourt appears to have quoted a statistic from an unreleased portion of the RCMP’s data set on murdered and missing Indigenous women. Valcourt told the grand chiefs he could reveal the statistic because “there is no media in the room,” according to the notes.
The publicly released parts of the RCMP’s report said Indigenous women were killed by an acquaintance in 30 per cent of the reviewed cases. Nowhere in the publicly available part of the report, which was released last spring, does it break down numbers by communities, whether urban centre or reserve, or by ethnicity.
In an interview with APTN National News in December 2013, RCMP Supt. Tyler Bates said only some of the findings would be released publicly from a review of cases from 200 police departments dating back to 1980.
According to notes of the meeting, Valcourt mentioned the statistic while responding to concerns raised by the grand chiefs over remarks the minister made in the press last December. Valcourt essentially blamed First Nation men for the majority of 1,181 murdered and missing Indigenous women cases.
Treaty 8 Grand Chief Courtoreille told Valcourt that he took the minister’s statement personally, according to the notes. Valcourt initially denied he made the statement. Then Martial read the Dec. 12, 2014, Ottawa Citizen article aloud to the minister where he is quoted saying First Nation men had “a lack of respect” toward women on reserves, according to the notes.
Valcourt then told the grand chiefs, “We all need to deal with it.”
Courtoreille also raised the unsolved murder case of Amber Alyssa Tuccaro who is from his home community of Fort Chipewyan.
Valcourt reiterated the government’s position against holding a public inquiry while repeating 40 studies have already been done on the issue, according to the notes. He told the grand chiefs colonialism, residential schools, poverty, lack of housing and lack of education all contribute to the level of violence, according to the notes.
The minister’s office refused to confirm or deny the version of events contained in the notes and stated by the two chiefs.
“Last week, the minister did a tour of the prairies and met with several First Nations to discuss a wide range of issues,” said a statement from Valcourt’s office. “While we don’t disclose specifics of closed-door meetings, the discussions were productive and our government will continue to work with First Nations to address these issues.”
Martial said Valcourt took an aggressive posture during the meeting, cutting off speakers and forcing chiefs to raise their voices.
“He was the aggressor, just like when a person always tries to overpower us and when we spoke he tries to overpower us,” she said. “I just addressed my concerns to the point where I had to raise my voice for him to listen to me. That is the only way I got things across to him.”