Misguided ‘progress’ on “missing OR murdered” Aboriginal women (updated September 19, 2014)

This video took some time to find as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives CCPA 30th Anniversary Conference and Dinner page links either don’t work or are outdated. The morning session presentation (video linked above) at the November 18, 2010 event covered a popular ‘progressive’ campaign that’s recently been trotted back out as a social wedge issue to kick off what’s looking to be a year-long federal election campaign: A federal inquiry into nearly 500 “missing OR murdered” Aboriginal women in Canada.

The popular phrase is first mentioned at about 5:35 into the presentation. It’s attributed to a 2004 (not, as the speaker notes, 2005) Amnesty International report:

NWAC (Native Women’s Association of Canada) believes that the incidents that have come to light are part of a larger pattern of violent assaults, murders and disappearances of Indigenous women across Canada. The organization has estimated that over the past twenty years more than five hundred Indigenous women may have been murdered or gone missing in circumstances suggesting violence. (emphasis added)

According to the 2006 Census, there were about 625,000 women age 15 or older of Aboriginal ancestry in Canada that year (400,000 deemed to have Aboriginal identity). Averaging out 25 “(assaulted OR) missing OR murdered” Aboriginal women per year, that’s 0.004%, or about 1 in 25,000 Aboriginal women age 15+ falling into one of those categories each year (0.00625% or 1 in 16,000, based on Aboriginal identity). Or so NWAC believes. Or estimates. Maybe.

Context is important when it comes to stats  (not that the NWAC guesstimate constitutes stats). Keeping 2006 as the reference point, Transport Canada estimated about 203,000 “injuries OR fatalities” in Canadian motor vehicle collisions that year. The 2006 Census estimated total population age 15 or older at about 25 million, meaning about 1 of every 125 Canadians was injured OR killed in a motor vehicle accident the same year.

Assuming the rate applies to Aboriginal women, they would have been about 200 times more likely to be injured OR killed in a motor vehicle incident than to be “(assaulted OR) missing OR murdered” that year (128 times, based on Aboriginal identity). Where’s the outrage demanding a federal inquiry into the nearly 200,000 Canadians injured OR killed in a motor vehicle accident each year? Over twenty years, that would be a huge share of the population.

Reasonable people would find it rather disingenuous to lump motor vehicle fatalities in with injuries. And they’d be right, hence the facetious use of ‘or’ in CAPS. Of the cited 203,000 motor vehicle incidents in 2006, only about 3,000 were fatalities. Likewise, most of the “missing OR murdered” Aboriginal women are likely missing.

Of the twenty or so Aboriginal women referenced in the 2004 Amnesty report who went missing and were eventually found dead or murdered, it’s not a mystery why they went missing, what they ended up doing nor why they ended up doing it. The 36-page Amnesty report includes 10 references to ‘assault’, 32 to ‘sex trade’, 18 to ‘drug(s)’ and 8 to ‘addict(ion/s)’.

A number of thoughtful critiques, including a column by the Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson, have pointed out the numerous inquiries that have taken place over the years, along with the myriad policy proposals they’ve generated. The 2004 Amnesty report dedicates a fair bit of coverage to a rather extensive and thorough Manitoba Justice Inquiry, noting the inquiry generated 150 provincial and federal policy recommendations, few of which had been implemented by the time the report was published.

So if the causes and policy options regarding missing Aboriginal women are known, then why has so little been done? Because the real underlying problem is far more complex, missing and murdered Aboriginal women – and, as the Toronto Star dutifully points out, missing and murdered Aboriginal men – but symptoms of that greater problem.

While yet another inquiry, as proposed by the ‘progressives’, amounts to little more than political posturing, the hollow proposals put forward by the conservative federal government today are likewise politics as usual. As if reminding the RCMP to be a bit more diligent and a bit less racist in their interactions with and disposition towards Canada’s Aboriginal people, along with vague programs to ‘empower’ Aboriginal women, will do the trick.

Canada’s colonial heritage and its indigenous people have a long and sordid history that pre-dates Canada itself. For fear of committing sociology, the dire living conditions and self-destructive tendencies prevalent among far too many First Nations communities today are rooted in that long and unfortunate history. Real, lasting solutions will require honest and substantial redress of some long-lingering historical sleights.

Update 19/09/2014

To underscore the referenced ‘progressive’ priority problem, the NDP used a procedural tactic on Friday to force a debate. The rare opportunity was wasted repeating the party’s call for a national inquiry into missing OR murdered Aboriginal women, flagging the issue as a top (hypothetical “first 100 days”) priority.

Likely in response to critiques of its misguided priorities (including this one), the NDP tried, but ultimately failed, to frame the issue in broader historical context. An impassioned speech by NDP MP Romeo Saganash referenced Canada’s colonial heritage and its treatment of indigenous people (sound familiar?), and shared a personal anecdote that had nothing to do with violence against Aboriginal women.

Apparently the personal anecdote was meant to suggest that a federal inquiry would provide ‘closure’ for the families of missing OR murdered Aboriginal women. It’s unclear how such an inquiry would provide any more closure than regular police investigations into the circumstances of missing Aboriginal women subsequently found dead or murdered (as undertaken for all missing persons subsequently found deceased).

Is the hope that a federal inquiry will somehow lead to finding more missing Aboriginal women? If so, how? And how will it be any more effective or informative than myriad inquiries that have already taken place, including the Manitoba Justice Inquiry covered in great detail in the 2004 Amnesty report that ‘progressives’, including Mr. Saganash, regularly mis-cite? (See original quote above – Amnesty International did not ‘find’ anything; it just cited NWAC in its report.)

Canada’s labour data fail to shine proper light on self-employed (updated September 10, 2014)

Canada’s labour data fail to shine proper light on self-employed
Sam Boshra, The Globe and Mail September 9, 2014

Also see accompanying chart.

We’ll add back a few comments that were (reasonably) struck for being overly editorialised.

One’s already been kind of added back in the comments, and that’s the apparent sleight-of-hand used to de-emphasise less desirable economic news in the The Daily write-ups accompanying the various StatsCan economic data releases, not just the LFS. One would hope that the national statistical agency would provide the public an honest, impartial assessment of the economic data instead of cherry-picking and cheer-leading.

Another was that the fantastic(al) 2006-07 labour market data was among other positive, although likewise questionable, economic data that was used to justify rather questionable policy decisions during that period, including a GST rate cut, further CIT rate cuts and 0-40 mortgages. It’s rather remarkable how little analysis has gone into figuring out how the Canadian economy went from supposedly record prosperity into worst recession since the Great Depression in the span of a year. What’s that famous saying, about how if you don’t learn from history you tend to repeat it?

Lastly, there was a brief comment about how hundreds of ‘perma-temp’ workers currently work at StatsCan, to underscore the rather disingenuous exclusion of the self-employed from being asked about job permanence. Part of the reason reporters can’t write about what many Canadians anecdotally feel is becoming a more precarious labour market is that the LFS numbers, specifically the job permanence stats, don’t reflect any dramatic change over time. The answer may lie in the self-employed, who may be increasingly working as perma-temps. Contrary to popular belief, mostly perpetuated by employment agencies themselves and right-wing think-tanks peddling increasingly precarious employment as a positive economic development, perma-temps rarely end up finding permanent employment (hence, ‘perma-temp’). In addition to the ‘flexibility’ to not renew their contracts, employers also have no obligation to provide benefits nor a reasonable wage to otherwise desperate temp job-seekers. Thankfully, the LFS doesn’t collect wage info for the self-employed, either.

August 2014 LFS: An alternative view. More on the R word and unions, illustrated

Chart 1 Unemployment by visible minority status and place of birth

Source: Census of Population, 2006 [Canada] Public Use Microdata File, Individual File: Canada. 2.7% sample, Statistics Canada

We’ll get to the chart in a sec. The August 2014 Labour Force Survey (LFS) release this morning reported a 97,800 actual (payroll) job loss, and a corresponding 86,900 (obviously questionable) self-employment jump. We can’t think of anything more to add, so self-employment blah, blah, blah, blah.

Union ‘research’ underscores diversity problem

A couple days ago, we followed up on an interesting critique of the labour movement’s glaring diversity deficit. Apparently the critique may have been written in response to an episode that saw mostly white union supporters (mis)appropriating a comment by Martin Luther King, Jr. against ‘right to work’ laws.

That MLK comment was made at a time when the US labour movement held great promise for and common cause with the civil rights movement; it was the same year Cesar Chavez set off to organize California’s (and eventually the nation’s) poor, mostly minority farm labourers.

MLK likely didn’t envision half a century on that a wholly unqualified ‘research associate’ (RA) with a predominantly white, supposedly progressive, pro-union think tank condescendingly dismissing a black woman’s concern over Canadian Labour’s apparent lack of diversity as “overly simplistic and lacking nuance”…

… then proceeding to immediately validate her concern by blurting out “immigrants have higher union density rates than white Cdns”. Because clearly, as the recycled chart illustrates, all Canadian immigrants participating in the labour force are non-white – give or take 43%.

RA then went on to cite a 2000 research draft, to presumably enlighten his misguided critic — a paper he clearly didn’t read himself.

Nor is it likely he made it past the first sentence of the critique he found “overly simplistic and lacking nuance”. The short piece contains no less than 17 references to “(visible / racial) minorities”. Its references to immigrants are likewise to minority immigrants… however, seeing as RA is oblivious to the existence of non-minority immigrants, that ‘nuance’ was lost on him.

It’s also worth noting the critique RA callously dismissed actually references (with a corresponding link) the final (2004) version of the draft paper he’d shared – it’s even highlighted in a text box.  So effectively, he didn’t read that paper twice over. Otherwise he’d have realised the research he’d cited was also critical of labour’s lack of diversity.

It’s all a bit much, even for a hack playing twitter-conomist. But this is someone entrusted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to help its readers get Behind the Numbers. To be blunt, any org that puts such an individual, even on a volunteer basis, in such a position has credibility issues. We’ll just leave it at that.

Aside: It’s worth mentioning the referenced paper(s) use data on race/ethnicity from a voluntary, relatively small sample survey (SLID); the authors make clear their results are far from reliable and suggest unions consider collecting their own data. As noted, they don’t.

So as not to just criticise, a couple of points:

As touched on previously, Europe has a much longer history with organised labour, and large European employers such as Volkswagen prefer the administrative convenience of ‘works councils’.

Canada’s white, mostly European immigrants have a significantly higher rate of union coverage than the Canadian-born, balancing out the significantly lower union coverage rate among racial minority, mostly Asian and African immigrants.

The balance of immigration has significantly tipped to non-European source countries over the last 30 years. Meaning most of the white, European immigrants who are still active in the labour force will tend to be older, age 55-65, if not 65+.

The preceding post notes older Canadian workers are doing far better both in terms of employment and union coverage, even in decimated industries like Manufacturing. It’s pretty easy to put two and two together from there.

A labour movement that doesn’t represent the young, racial minorities and recent immigrants is one without a future. It’ll take more to turn its fortunes around than throwing up pictures of young, racial minorities or making empty promises to young workers.  Unfortunately, as our ‘progressive’ RA helped illustrate, the movement’s prospects are pretty dim.

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: Quebec police hit cyclist, run him over, twice, killing him… for going wrong-way on one-way (updated September 10, 2014)

Guy Blouin ID’d as cyclist run over by Quebec City police car
Witness says he saw cruiser run over man twice; bicycle and police car moved from scene by officers
CBC News, September 4, 2014

Can’t wait to read about how the officers got away without murder charges, on account they couldn’t reasonably have foreseen that running over a human being, twice, with a police cruiser, could kill them.

You can be sure their union, the Police Brotherhood, will do its utmost to see to it these thugs not only get away with murder, but that they don’t even lose their jobs, if a day’s pay. Remember that the next time you see one of these camo-pantsed fools protesting.

Update 10/09/2014

The story’s made it to VICE magazine

A recent cop-related fatality has revealed the flaws in Quebec’s police review system
Simon Van Vliet, VICE  September 10, 2014

To paraphrase Johnnie Cochrane (of O.J. trial fame): “Who police the police?” As VICE points out, in Quebec, the police police the police. And apparently, they have a hard time finding fault with themselves:

Over the past 15 years, there have been on average 30 people a year who died or were seriously injured in police operations in Quebec. Police-led investigations have resulted in accusations against police officers in less than one percent of cases.

How the labour movement has failed minorities in Canada

How the labour movement has failed
Rachel Decoste, Huffington Post Canada September 2, 2014

Kudos to Rachel for her thoughtful and informative critique of the Canadian labour movement’s historical under-representation of racial minorities. It’s actually more cleverly written than it first appears (and it’s pretty clever as-is); the embedded web links make some interesting implicit connections.

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