OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's murder rate in 2014 edged down to a near 50-year low, but aboriginals accounted for a disproportionately high number of victims, official data showed on Wednesday.
Almost one-quarter of the 516 homicide victims in 2014 were aboriginal, a group that accounts for just 5 percent of the Canadian population, said Statistics Canada.
The figures reflected the dire living conditions for many of Canada's 1.4 million aboriginals as well as the high levels of violence against women and children.
Almost one-half of the indigenous population lives on reserves, which often have high rates of poverty, addiction, joblessness and suicide.
Canada's new Liberal government, which took power earlier this month, has promised an official inquiry into the cases of 1,017 aboriginal women who were murdered between 1980 and 2012. Another 108 are missing.
A spokesman for the federal justice ministry said the cases of the dead women were "a national tragedy that require a national response." Ottawa would start public consultations on how best to tackle the crisis, he added, but gave no details.
Statistics Canada said aboriginal males were seven times more likely to be homicide victims than non-aboriginal males. The rate of homicide for aboriginal women was six times higher than for the rest of the female population.
The overall homicide rate in 2014 dipped to 1.45 victims per 100,000 people, the lowest since 1966, from 1.46 in 2013.
By contrast, the murder rate in the neighboring United States was 4.6 per 100,000 people in 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)