A Culturally-Relevant Perspective on This Issue
Violence is defined as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation” . Data from the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) suggests that Aboriginal people are three times more likely than the non-Aboriginal population be victims of violence (319 incidents compared to 101 incidents per 1,000 population) . Aboriginal women make up the majority of violence victims and are 3.5 times more likely to experience incidents of violence compared to non-Aboriginal women.
Domestic violence is particularly prevalent among Aboriginal women, with nearly one-quarter of Aboriginal females having experienced spousal abuse within the past five years [2,3]. Aboriginal people are close to four times more likely (21% compared to 6%) to be physically or sexually abused by a spouse compared to the general population and are more 7 times more likely than the non-Aboriginal population to be homicide victims (8.8 versus 1.3 per 100,000 population). Also, Aboriginal people are 10 times more likely to be accused of homicide than non-Aboriginal people .
Economic factors, a history of colonization, and a cultural legacy of mistreatment and abuse contribute to high rates of violence in Aboriginal communities . Despite studies showing high rates of violence among Aboriginal communities, there is a major lack of data focusing on violence in these communities.
According to the First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS), 5% of First Nations adults reported having been a victim of violence in the year preceding the survey, a rate that was similar among men and women. First Nations women are more likely than men to experience domestic violence and sexual assault and are more likely to experience sexual assault in on-reserve compared to off-reserve communities [5, 6].
Although women are more likely to experience domestic and sexual violence, men are more likely to be involved in fights and brawls, explaining the similar rate of violence victimization between men and women. Alcohol use is strongly associated with violent incidents and was implicated in 57% of violent incidents in First Nations communities according to the 2002/03 Regional Health Survey (RHS) .
Data on violence against Métis women are lacking. The Métis National Council of women suggest that since the socioeconomic conditions of the Métis people are comparable to that of First Nations and Inuit people, the prevalence of violence against women may also be similar . Specific research into violence among Métis women and men is needed.
Although data on violence among Inuit communities is scarce, several studies and pilot surveys suggest that the prevalence of violence in Inuit regions is high. Results from the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) show that women living in the territories experience higher levels of violence compared to the Canadian population. Spousal abuse in particular has been identified as a problem , with the rate of spousal abuse in Nunavut 6.5 times higher than the national average. Possible explanations for the high incidence of violence include the stress due to a shift away from traditional ways and the inapplicability of traditional conflict resolution behaviours in the urban context. .
There may be undercoverage of Inuit people in surveys reporting violence since many Inuit live in rural and remote areas that are difficult to access and speak languages other than English and French . Further, individuals living in rural communities may not report spousal violence due to increased community pressure not to speak out about abuse [4 or 5].