Canada fails to protect indigenous women from violence: Amnesty

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada must do more to address alarmingly high levels of violence and discrimination against indigenous women and girls, and systemic violations of the rights of its aboriginal people, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Noting it has raised concern about disproportionate violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada for 10 years, the rights group said in its annual report that Canada’s federal government is not protecting aboriginal women.

“(We have) again drawn attention to the shocking levels of violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada, and the urgent need for a public inquiry and national action plan to address the crisis,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.

Amnesty has long said the government has failed to reduce the marginalization of indigenous women, who are economically and socially disadvantaged.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said last May that 1,017 aboriginal women were murdered between 1980 and 2012. Another 108 are missing under suspicious circumstances, with some cases dating back to 1952.

The Conservative government has said the disproportionate violence against aboriginal women and girls is a criminal, not a sociological, problem that would not be helped by a national inquiry.

The country’s 1.4 million aboriginals have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians, and are more often the victims of violent crime.

Less than half of them live on reserves, according to Statistics Canada, and aboriginal children make up nearly half of all Canadian children aged 14 and under living in foster care.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Peter Galloway