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

Part II: Research Gaps, Framework and Future Agenda (continued)

5. An Aboriginal Victimization Research Agenda

Table of Possible Projects
Research Gap Priorities Possible Projects Proposed Methodology

A. There is a need for a national profile of Aboriginal criminal victimization. This survey should have as major components the examination of child and spousal violence and the victimization of people with disabilities. This national study should also have a longitudinal component so that changes in victimization rates and perceptions can be measured over time.

Impacts such as colonization, the residential school system, normalization of crime and lack of services generally and culturally appropriate services specifically could be examined within this study.

In addition, there is a need to learn how Aboriginal communities themselves perceive the extent of the problem and what actions should be taken to address the problem.

A comprehensive national survey of Aboriginal victimization issues should be undertaken. This survey would examine many of the factors and issues of the 1999 GSS survey and thus allow for comparison between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities of equivalent social and economic status. In addition to the factors raised in the GSS survey, additional factors unique to Aboriginal peoples should also be surveyed such as the impacts of cultural and language maintenance and racism on victimization rates.

Emphasis should be on learning more about sexual assault victimization and offending patterns.

A general survey instrument should be prepared which allows for Aboriginal identity along the lines discussed in the above framework and should also allow for a breakdown by rural and urban categories. Socio-economic data should also be collected in a manner that allows for comparison to the general population.

Partnerships with national Aboriginal organizations should be developed at the initial stages of survey design. Experts in Aboriginal studies should also be consulted and involved as researchers.

The survey would ideally be administered to a cross-section of Aboriginal communities representative of the diversity of Aboriginal communities in Canada.

A sampling of those Aboriginal respondents who have been the victim of childhood abuse should be identified and asked if they would be willing to participate in a separate study to examine the effects of childhood victimization of Aboriginal peoples.

B. There is a need to understand the experiences of Aboriginal victimization over time and how rates of crime and victimization change on a community level. A cross-section of Aboriginal communities in Canada would be identified and surveyed several times over a period of many years (e.g., a survey every 5 years for 25 years) based on the above national survey design for consistency and comparison.

Certain communities would be singled out as a "panel" group for subsequent future surveys to enable a monitoring of change over time. These communities would be representative of Indian, Métis, Inuit, rural and urban communities.

Research partnerships would be formed with these communities.

C. There is a need to better understand the relationship between positive Aboriginal identity and cultural connection and victimization experiences and rates within Aboriginal communities.

A quantitative and qualitative study of several Aboriginal communities should be undertaken that focuses on the impact that a positive Aboriginal identity and cultural health and connectedness has on the prevalence of victimization in such communities.

Communities that are perceived as already relatively victim free and safe communities should be a part of study to better understand the factors that contribute to positive community resilience and social order.

In addition, a sampling of neighbouring communities perceptions of the subject Aboriginal communities levels of the cultural health and connectedness should be conducted.

In partnership with regional and local Aboriginal organizations, a number of Aboriginal communities representative of the diversity of Aboriginal peoples in Canada should be identified for research. Individual surveys and focus groups should be conducted to measure the perceived impact of culture and identity on crime and victimization levels in their communities. This information would be compared to available crime and victimization statistics from other sources for each community.

If possible, similar questions and survey design from the national survey should be incorporated to allow for national and local comparisons.

D. There is a need to measure the effectiveness of Aboriginal alternatives to mainstream criminal justice processes on victim satisfaction and reducing victimization in Aboriginal communities.

Healing programs need to be assessed and measured in terms of their ability to reduce victimization rates in the community.

A number of Aboriginal communities have established Aboriginal alternatives to the mainstream justice system and have been implemented for several years. The impact that these alternatives have on victimization within their communities should be measured.

In addition, the perceptions of victims of such alternatives should be obtained. For example, their fairness from the victims perspective and level of victim involvement should be measured. In addition, a general survey should be conducted to determine the desirability within the Aboriginal communities of establishing alternatives to the mainstream system and to what extent they are perceived as traditional or otherwise. (Is there widespread support for such alternatives or is it the influence of a few influential and vocal members?)

In partnership with national, regional and local Aboriginal communities and experts in Aboriginal justice, a catalogue of alternative Aboriginal justice processes should be designed. For example, there are communities that have very comprehensive "healing" models for dealing with Aboriginal offenders and victims and there are communities that use "Elders panels" during sentencing.

There is a need for evaluative research in this area. Communities representative of the various models of alternative justice should be identified and their effectiveness on victimization rates and victim satisfaction should be measured.

E. There is a need to understand why some communities have "normalized" violence. A related gap is the need to identify the barriers that exist in some Aboriginal communities for victims of family violence to seek safety and help. A number of communities that are identified as having high family violence rates, but low reporting rates of such victimization should be studied with a view as to understanding the social and cultural factors that contribute to the "normalization" of violence and the "helplessness" of victims to seek help.

The national survey should be designed in such a way that communities that fit this profile can be identified. (i.e., communities with high levels of family violence but low levels of reporting).

As a part of these studies, the theory that Aboriginal men become abusive because they have lost their traditional roles and hence sense of power and dignity in society should be tested.

F. There is a need to understand the relationship between racism and discrimination and Aboriginal victimization. In addition, a survey of non-Aboriginal offenders that caused harm to Aboriginal victims should be studied to determine from their own perspectives whether their actions were racially motivated or based on stereotypical and discriminatory views of Aboriginal peoples. A study of Aboriginal victimization (as a component of a national survey or separate study) should examine the extent to which Aboriginal people feel that their victimization was in part due to the existence of racist or discriminatory attitudes of the offender. Although the literature so far supports the finding that the majority of Aboriginal victimization was caused by Aboriginal offenders, there is a significant number of Aboriginal victim and non-Aboriginal offender scenarios. A survey instrument should be designed that identifies whether specific instances of victimization involved non-Aboriginal offenders and whether the victims perceived that the offender was racially motivated to cause harm.
G. A study on the issues of youth victimization should be undertaken that is comprehensive quantitative study. This project should involve an analysis of reasons for Aboriginal youth victimization and youth involvement in gangs and the sex trade and strategies to decrease such involvement. This study should be national in scope, involving a statistically significant number of Aboriginal youth. Partnerships with Aboriginal youth organizations may ensure that the target group is adequately reached.

H. Research on the relationship between victimization and disability is needed.

Although disability and criminal victimization would be an issue to learn more of through a national general survey as discussed above, we believe the area requires separate treatment so that more specific research and analysis can be undertaken.

This should also include an examination of the relationship between HIV/AIDS and sexual assaults.

Research projects in this area should be both quantitative and qualitative. Surveys could be conducted on a community level. In addition, much could be learned from focus group discussions. In developing the methodology for projects in this area, inclusion of Aboriginal organizations that represent Aboriginal people with disabilities is essential.

The above chart represents seven general areas where further research on Aboriginal victimization would be desirable to facilitate our understanding of the factors that contribute to Aboriginal victimization and those factors that may reduce the incidence of victimization in Aboriginal communities. Although we have listed the research gaps in a particular sequence, our numbering should not be viewed as a priority list. We are uncomfortable in concluding that one research gap is more important than the others. However, we do feel that the national survey is an essential first step to subsequent research and therefore have prioritized those projects that relate to a national Aboriginal survey of victimization as the first research gap priority.

5.1 Short Term Projects

The Policy Centre for Victims Issues asked us if we would identify projects that might reasonably fall within a two-year time frame. It is obvious that many of the above gaps and projects listed in the chart would require long-term implementation beyond two years. Consequently, we have identified the following projects that might be undertaken in a two-year time frame.

  1. A limited and scaled-back national survey that examines basic questions such as the incidence of victimization in Aboriginal communities in Canada by selecting a sampling of communities that would be said to be representative of Aboriginal communities in Canada may be possible. The survey could also be limited to obtaining basic incidence rates of victimization, social and economic data and cultural health. Questions that attempt to identify the level of cultural health of a community would need to be developed in consultation with Aboriginal communities and organizations.
  2. A project could be undertaken to measure the impact on victimization rates between communities that have implemented different types of justice and healing programs. Do certain types of programs have greater success on victimization rates than others? This would not be a longitudinal study, but rather a comparison between various programs.
  3. A project that examines the issue of "normalization" of violence through focus group workshops in various communities and with various Aboriginal stakeholders may be possible. The information that would be obtained could then be used to examine the issue on a broader national level in a subsequent survey.
  4. A case study of non-Aboriginal offenders that committed crimes against Aboriginal victims could also be undertaken to examine the prevalence of racism in the motivation of such crimes. Potential informants could be accessed from those who have been sentenced for crimes where the offender was white and the victim was Aboriginal. A cross-section of penal institutions may be identified for study.
  5. A specific and targeted project that tries to examine, in depth, the extent and nature of youth sex trade involvement may be possible. Case studies of two or three cities where the over-representation of Aboriginal youth have been perceived as a serious problem may be possible in a two-year time frame.

The above list includes projects that could reasonably be undertaken within a short time frame of two years. Other research gaps, which examine victimization patterns over time, evaluations of programs to measure victimization impacts and broader large-scale comparisons are unlikely to be possible in such a short time frame.

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