If Aboriginal women had the same socioeconomic position as non-Aboriginal women, their risk of violence against them could drop by 40 per cent

The contribution of socioeconomic position to the excesses of violence and intimate partner violence among Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal women in Canada. Nihaya Daoud; Janet K Smylie; Marcelo L Urquia; Billie Allan; Patricia O’Campo; Canadian Journal of Public Health. 2013 Jul 25;104(4):e278-83.

Issue: Violence against women (any abuse and intimate partner violence) was about 4 times higher for Aboriginal women compared to non-Aboriginal women.

What we did: In keeping with current standards for Aboriginal health research, we collaborated with the Native Women’s Association of Canada on this project. We conducted a series of statistical tests to measure relationships between income, education and violence against women. We used weighted data from the 2006/07 Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey, representing 54,129 new mothers, including 3,143 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis mothers.


– Aboriginal women were about 4 times likelier to experience gender violence, compared to a non-Aboriginal woman.

– Aboriginal women were also likelier to live in a low income household (37.6% vs 13.8%) and to have lower education (less than a high school education was 24% vs 6.7%), compared to non-Aboriginal women.

– If Aboriginal women had the same household incomes and education as non-Aboriginal women, their experience of violence could drop almost in half: by 40%.

– Even with such a dramatic improvement, risk of violence would still be twice as high for Aboriginal women.


Colonial policies past and present have resulted in the socioeconomic exclusion of Aboriginal women. This study shows that socioeconomic position is a critical factor underlying violence against Aboriginal women. Poverty can lead to violence by triggering financial and social stress, and alcohol or drug use to cope with stress. Costs associated with moving and living alone can prevent women from leaving violent situations. Raising Aboriginal women’s socioeconomic position is a necessary precondition for ending the violence.

However, violence against Aboriginal women is more complex than socioeconomic status alone. Colonization disrupted gender balance, changed women’s roles, and introduced new forms of violence to Aboriginal peoples. Ending violence against Aboriginal women will need more research and reflection into the legacy of colonial trauma, and community-driven initiatives that revitalize traditional values of respect between genders and anti-violence within communities.