A Review of Research on Criminal Victimization and First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples 1990 to 2001

Part I: Literature Review (continued)

11. Services for Aboriginal Victims

An in-depth description of services for Aboriginal victims is beyond the scope of this review. However, we would like to make a few overall comments regarding common themes from the literature we reviewed. Every Canadian province and territory offers programs for victims of crime.[40] However, the difficulty with the majority of programs and services for victims of crime provided by provincial and territorial governments is their failure to be Aboriginal specific. Moreover, there is a lack of victim's services particularly for northern and remote communities (Levan, 2001). However, many Aboriginal social programs aimed at the causes of Aboriginal offending and resulting victimization (i.e., alcohol abuse, effects of colonization, poverty, etc.) are not categorized as programs for victimization although they accomplish many of the same goals. Indeed, a comprehensive healing program that addresses both the needs of the offender and the victims could be classified as a service for victims.

Frank (1992) found that:

Aboriginal peoples who use mainstream services may find that their linguistic, cultural and spiritual differences and needs may not be understood, respected nor met. A report in British Columbia identified the following issues concerning the use of mainstream services: racism; women's fear of losing children; fear of re-victimization by institutions; fear of not being understood; not culturally relevant; lack of follow-up; fragmentation of services; lack of resources; ineffective communication; and jurisdictional disputes.

Other studies have found that there is both a shortage of programs particularly for the north (Levan, 2001; Evans et al., 1998) and a lack of sufficient funds to ensure existing programs are meeting essential needs (Heatherington & Mackenzie, 1994). For example, in the survey of victims services in Nunavut, Levan (2001) found that all respondents expressed frustration and concern over an almost complete lack of safety and recovery programs for victimized individuals. Van der Put (1990) provides a good literature review of issues pertaining to Aboriginal victim services. A project that updated the Van der Put review to the present day may be sufficient to obtain a comprehensive overview of the area.

In terms of studies that examine service delivery, one key report is a government report that summarizes a consultation of national Aboriginal organizations on the issue of sexual exploitation of children and youth (Blondin-Andrew, 1999). The recommended government action is to create an Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth centre to provide programming that encourages Aboriginal youth to complete their education and employability. If the answer were only that simple! We know from the above synthesis of the literature that youth who have experienced violence in the family or who have been exposed to violence are at greater risk of being sexually exploited. Based on a synthesis of the literature, such programs may be a partial answer to addressing the needs of youth once they have been alienated and marginalized due to abusive situations, but they are not preventative in nature. They may provide some surface assistance, but such approaches to addressing victimization fail to address the complexities and depth of the socio-economic problems that lead to the continuation of the cycle of abuse. The solutions need to be much more multi-faceted to be effective in breaking the cycle of abuse.

12. Conclusion

This literature review provides an overview of research needs of Aboriginal peoples (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) in the area of victimization. The effects of colonization must be understood as the foundation to the current over-representation of Aboriginal victims if adequate solutions are to be found. Studies have shown that victimization of Aboriginal peoples in Canada is pervasive, as compared to rates of victimization of other Canadians. Statistics confirm these conclusions. However, more research needs to be completed regarding the high rates of under-reporting of crime by Aboriginal people and why there is such reluctance.

Power imbalances lead to a particularly high level of victimization amongst the following groups: Aboriginal women, children and people with disabilities. This vulnerability without any supportive intervention can lead to prostitution and street gang activity. Thus, troubled or victimized Aboriginal youth are further victimized by their street activity. Studies show that Aboriginal youth who are victims to these activities have often experienced victimization as children, in terms of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse.

The solutions to addressing Aboriginal victimization may lie in supporting the development of alternative dispute resolutions processes such as community healing models. However, as has been noted by Aboriginal women, there is a tendency by the criminal justice system and Aboriginal communities to develop models that fail to provide adequate protection to victims, particularly women in situations of domestic violence. If victims, primarily Aboriginal women and children, are to be protected there is a real need to ensure that community processes have certain precautions that recognize the gender power imbalances that often exist in Aboriginal communities.

[40] For a review of these services, see the Victims of Crime website at http://www.acjnet.org/victims/english.htm.

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