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Tuesday, June 6, 2006
Aboriginal people as victims and offenders
Using data from victimization, police and corrections surveys, a new report provides a statistical portrait of the extent and nature of victimization and offending among Aboriginal people in Canada during the past few years.
The report, prepared by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, attempts to fill an information gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people on various aspects of victimization. These include fear of crime, spousal violence and the proportion of Aboriginal people who consider themselves victims of violent crime.
The report also examines a number of individual, economic and social factors that seem to be associated with a higher risk of criminal victimization and offending. All are more common among the Aboriginal population.
Aboriginal people are younger on average, their unemployment rates are higher and incomes lower; they are more likely to live in crowded conditions; they have higher residential mobility; and children are more likely to be members of a lone-parent family. They also have a lower level of education, although the education profile has improved noticeably in recent years among Aboriginal people aged 25 to 64.
Proportionally, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people feel equally safe from crime. In both cases, four out of five people were not worried at all while alone in their home at night.
About 4 in every 10 Aboriginal people aged 15 and over reported that they were victimized at least once in the 12 months prior to being interviewed. This figure was not statistically different from results in 1999 when the last victimization survey was conducted. However, the proportion is well above the level of 28% for non-Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal people were nearly twice as likely as their non-Aboriginal counterparts to be repeat victims of crime. They were also three and a half times more likely to be victims of spousal violence.
Overall, 21% of Aboriginal people, 24% of women and 18% of men, said they suffered violence from a current or previous spouse or common-law partner in the five-year period up to 2004. This compares to 6% of non-Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal people more likely to fall victim to someone they know
Information on victimization came from the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS). It asked respondents about their incidence of victimization in the 12 months prior to the survey.
Aboriginal people were three times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to be victims of violent crime, specifically sexual assault, robbery and physical assault. This is consistent with findings from the 1999 GSS, the last time the victimization survey was conducted.
The risk of self-reported violent victimization was highest among young Aboriginal people aged 15 to 34, whose rate was about 2.5 times higher than the rate for those who were 35 years or older.
Violent incidents against Aboriginal people were more likely to be committed by someone who was known to the victim. This was the case for over half of violent incidents committed against Aboriginal people, compared to 41% of those against non-Aboriginal victims.
On the other hand, Aboriginal people were victimized by a stranger in one-quarter of all violent incidents, a much lower proportion than the 45% of incidents against non-Aboriginal victims.
Despite their higher rates of violent victimization, Aboriginal people were no more likely than non-Aboriginal people to report their victimizations to the police. About 6 in 10 incidents of violent crime that were committed against Aboriginal people went unreported to the police.
Incidents involving Aboriginal victims did not typically involve the use or presence of a weapon such as a gun or a knife or result in injury to the victim. In 2004, the accused had a weapon in 30% of violent incidents committed against Aboriginal victims.
Aboriginal victims suffered an injury in about 27% of violent incidents committed against them.
Aboriginal people suffer high levels of spousal violence
Aboriginal victims of spousal violence were more likely to state that they were beaten, choked, threatened with or had a gun or knife used against them, or were sexually assaulted, according to GSS data.
They were also more likely to sustain injuries and to fear for their lives as a result of violence by a spouse or common-law partner than were non-Aboriginal victims.
Alcohol use is common during spousal violence incidents, particularly those involving Aboriginal victims. Almost half of Aboriginal spousal violence victims reported that their partner had been drinking during the incidents, compared to one-third of non-Aboriginal victims.
Results from the GSS also revealed that despite their high rates of victimization, Aboriginal people have relatively low levels of fear. About 92% of Aboriginal Canadians indicated being satisfied with their safety from criminal victimization, a proportion which was similar to that of non-Aboriginal Canadians.
Aboriginal people are more likely than non-Aboriginal people to be victims or accused in incidents of homicide
While Aboriginal people accounted for on average about 3% of the Canadian population between 1997 and 2004, they made up 17% of victims and 23% of those accused of committing a homicide over the same time period.
Between 1997 and 2000, the average homicide rate for Aboriginal people was almost seven times higher than that for non-Aboriginal people.
When taking population differences into account, it was found that Aboriginal people were 10 times more likely to be accused of homicide than were non-Aboriginal people.
However, Aboriginal people were less likely to be charged with the most serious type of homicide offence. Between 1997 and 2004, 20% of Aboriginal accused were charged with first-degree murder, compared with 46% of non-Aboriginal accused.
In homicides where an accused was identified over the eight-year period, 88% of Aboriginal victims were killed by someone who was known to them, compared to 83% of non-Aboriginal victims. In contrast, 12% of Aboriginal victims and 17% of non-Aboriginal victims were killed by a stranger.
Police-reported crime rates higher on-reserve
In 2004, Criminal Code incidents on reserves across Canada represented 4% of the national total, according to police-reported data examining crimes committed on reserve.
Over half of on-reserve incidents were classified as "other" Criminal Code offences, such as mischief and disturbing the peace, while 25% were violent and 21% were property offences.
Rates of violent crime committed on reserves were eight times higher for assaults, seven times higher for sexual assaults and six times higher for homicides than rates in the rest of Canada. The only violent crime with a lower on-reserve rate was robbery, which had a rate that was about half of that in the rest of Canada.
Aboriginal people highly represented in adult correctional services
In 2003/2004, Aboriginal adults represented 21% of admissions to provincial/territorial sentenced custody and 18% of admissions to federal facilities.
Among the provinces, the highest proportions of Aboriginal correctional admissions were in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. In Saskatchewan, Aboriginal people made up 80% of those who were admitted to provincial sentenced custody, compared to their representation of 10% of the provincial adult population.
In Manitoba, Aboriginal people represented 68% of admissions to provincial custody compared to 11% of the provincial adult population and in Alberta, 39% of admissions to provincial facilities were Aboriginal persons compared to 4% of the provincial adult population.
According to the Integrated Correctional Services Survey, Aboriginal adults involved in correctional services were on average three years younger than non-Aboriginal adults, with a greater proportion of Aboriginal persons between the ages of 20 and 29 compared to non-Aboriginal persons.
About three-quarters of Aboriginal adults involved in correctional services had not completed their secondary school education, compared to one-third of non-Aboriginal adults.
Aboriginal people were also less likely to be employed at the time of admission to correctional services compared to non-Aboriginal persons.
Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4504.
The Juristat: "Victimization and offending among the Aboriginal population in Canada," Vol. 26, no. 3 (85-002-XIE, free) is now available from the Our products and services page of our website. A paper version is also available (85-002-XPE, $11/$100).
For more information, or to enquire about concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Information and Client Services (1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
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