Author Archives: Red Power Media, Staff

Officers accused of mistreating woman in distress on bridge

WARNING: This story may contain elements some many find to be disturbing. 
By: Malak Abas · Winnipeg Free Press · 

Two community workers have filed a complaint with the Winnipeg Police Service, saying they witnessed officers berating and swearing at a woman who was attempting to hang herself on the Redwood Bridge.

Jasmine Smith and Angela Desrosiers were driving together on the Redwood Avenue crossing around 2 p.m. Monday, when they saw a female pedestrian slip something around her neck that appeared to be tied to the structure.

Smith and Desrosiers, who both work in Indigenous community support groups, said Friday they stopped their car on the bridge and approached the woman.

“We work in the community, so we’re trained to respond with trauma-informed care,” Smith said. “So we immediately just introduced ourselves, asked if we could help and what was going on.”

The pair said a length of material was tied to an A-frame beam and the woman was standing on the crash barrier between the roadway and sidewalk along the edge of the structure. The woman was responsive and, while in distress, was willing to speak; she lit a cigarette while talking to the duo.

Smith called 911, as Desrosiers attempted to calm the woman.

Within minutes, they said, a Winnipeg Police Service cruiser arrived.

Both women told the Free Press rather than attempt to talk her down, two officers yelled at her to get off the bridge as they sat in their vehicle.

“Not once did we hear them asking her, ‘Are you OK?’ when they pulled up. There was no concern for her well-being… they were annoyed,” Desrosiers said.

Smith said the officers eventually got out of their car and “charged” at the woman, and she became afraid and stepped off the barrier.

Both women say the WPS officers continued to swear at the women after they had pulled her up and cut the length of material attached to the bridge. They slapped the cigarette out of her hand and continued to handle her roughly, even as the woman cried and asked them to be gentle, the pair said.

“She was in pain, and they kept being rough with her and handcuffing her… they wouldn’t stop,” Smith said.

A spokesperson for the police service said Friday the woman in question “eventually went limp” while the officers were on the bridge.

The spokesperson added the matter had been handled appropriately.

“It is standard practice for the WPS to immediately handcuff someone once a high-risk incident has been resolved to ensure that they are unable to harm themselves or others in the immediate moments that follow,” the spokesperson said in an email.

“Based on the preceding steps this individual had taken, it appeared that she was focused on harming herself and needed to quickly be secured.”

The 32-year-old woman was taken to a nearby parking lot in the cruiser, and then transferred to an ambulance and taken to hospital in stable condition.

A family member, who asked not to be named, confirmed she remained in hospital Friday, as her family seeks a support system. The family member said the woman, who is transient, needs a safe place to go to before she is released from hospital.

A Facebook post published by Smith on Monday, which detailed the incident, had received nearly 4,000 shares and hundreds of comments, both supportive and critical of the officers’ alleged conduct.

The WPS said it was aware of the social media attention, and there was “more than one social media post that contradicts (that) version.”

Smith was firm in her stance on the events that day.

“She could have come down on the bridge on her own had she been given a conversation, had been given common decency, been treated with dignity… If they would’ve approached the situation like that, she could’ve come down on her own and gone to get the help she needed,” she said. “It did not have to go the way it went down.”

The situation has been “traumatic” for everyone involved, Smith said, noting she herself has had “terrible” experiences with police.

“I believe the police should have better training and interpersonal skills than that in dealing with somebody who’s in crisis,” Smith said. “It’s unbelievable to me.”

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: malakabas_

[SOURCE]

Manitoba introduces bill proposing tougher fines for protesters

FILE: Members of the Urban Warrior Alliance set up a blockade along a CN and Via rail line west of Winnipeg.

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government has introduced a bill that proposes tougher fines and possible imprisonment for people interfering with critical infrastructure.

Justice Minister Cameron Friesen said the Progressive Conservative government was looking for a balance between the rights of people to protest and the needs to maintain infrastructure.

“The intent there would be to allow for people to gather, allow for their voices to be heard but to keep them and everyone safe while ensuring the unfettered operation, construction or use of that infrastructure,” Friesen said Monday.

The bill allows for the owner or operator of the infrastructure to be able to apply for a court order to create a temporary protection zone.

Included would be oil or natural gas pipelines and provincial highways. It also includes courthouses, hospitals and animal processing facilities.

If a person were to go into the area, he or she could be fined $5,000 or jailed for up to 30 days. A corporation could be fined up to $25,000.

Each day a person doesn’t follow the court order, the fine can be imposed again.

A court would be able to designate an area where people could protest.

“There would be no desire to see the voices of Manitobans diminished in any way,” Friesen said.

A controversial bill targeting protestors became law in Alberta last year following cross-Canada demonstrations in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in B.C. who were opposed to pipeline construction in their territory.

That legislation forbids anyone from willfully damaging or interfering with essential infrastructure and also brings in fines and jail time.

It is facing a constitutional challenge from an Alberta labour union.

Friesen said Manitoba’s proposed legislation is different. The minister said the Tory bill doesn’t just target those protesting the oil industry and is clearer about what constitutes critical infrastructure.

Nahanni Fontaine, justice critic for Manitoba’s Opposition New Democrats, said the large fines can be devastating for people who are standing up for their rights. She accused the Tories of using the bill to silence anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

“It’s important for Manitobans and Canadians to have that opportunity to express their displeasure at whatever the issue may be,” she said.

By: The Canadian Press, published March 15, 2021.

[SOURCE]

Police Services Act must be improved to protect First Nations people, says AMC chief

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Arlen Dumas PHOTO BY JOSH ALDRICH /Winnipeg Sun

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Arlen Dumas would like to see changes in the Police Services Act (PSA) following the recent death of a First Nations man charged with assaulting a police officer.

Brian Halcrow from Tataskweyak Cree Nation was arrested by Thompson RCMP for throwing a hat at Const. Jeremiah Dumont-Fontaine in June 2019. Following the incident, Halcrow committed suicide after he was charged with three counts of assaulting an officer and causing a disturbance.

New video surveillance, obtained by the Independent Investigations Unit (IIU), shows the hat flew past Dumont-Fontaine and hit the ground. This indicates that the assault may not have occurred.

“This is yet another disturbing and tragic report of a First Nation citizen being brutally mistreated by officers, which may be a direct contributing factor in his decision to take his own life,” said Dumas in a press release.

In November last year, an independent review of the PSA came up with 70 recommendations to improve policing and police oversight in Manitoba.Among the recommendations were changes to the sections of the legislation that govern the IIU.

Among the recommendations were changes to the sections of the legislation that govern the IIU.

In this case, Dumont-Fontaine is protected by the provisions of the PSA that do not compel the subject officer to hand over notes about an incident to the IIU investigating officers or to be interviewed about the matter.

Due to this, IIU has decided to take law enforcement to court to gain access to Dumont-Fontaine’s report. Arguments over the disclosure of the occurrence report on the Halcrow incident will be heard in Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench on March 5.

“Unless this is changed in legislation, the IIU will continue to play a part in the disproportionate rates of First Nations arrests and incarcerations, and subject officers will continue to be found not responsible for acts of brutality and/or justified in the use of deadly force,” said Dumas.

Dumas urge the Province of Manitoba to implement the recommendations of the final report on the PSA to prevent and reduce similar tragic events from occurring in the future.

As well, changes to the PSA could bring closure and better administration of justice for many First Nation citizens such as Halcrow.

“It is disturbing and emotionally exhausting for First Nations in Manitoba to be continually exposed to reports and alleged incidents of the use of excessive force perpetrated on First Nations by police officers, conservation officers, and correctional officers in this province,” said Dumas.

“The PSA legislation is a contributing factor, and I continue to urge the Province and specifically Manitoba Justice to implement its recommendations, in partnership with First Nations in the spirit and intent of reconciliation and for a measure of justice for those First Nations lives lost as a result of police misconduct.”

Justice Minister Cameron Friesen said that the province has committed to introducing legislation this year that will strengthen the Manitoba IIU.

“We are sincerely interested in facilitating changes to the IIU that are designed to increase transparency and confidence and better reflect the communities it serves. These efforts are well underway and we are committed to that path,” he said on Wednesday.

By Nicole Wong • Winnipeg Sun Posted: Mar 03, 2021.

[SOURCE]

First Nation leaders make plea to provincial, federal gov’ts to eliminate anti-Indigenous racism in health care

First Nation leaders in Manitoba have shared that hundreds of Manitoba First Nation citizens have always been neglected in some aspect when it comes to health services.

First Nation leaders are making a plea to the provincial and federal governments to take concrete action to reduce and eventually eliminate anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health care system.

“It is hard to believe that in this day and age, we have to talk about racism,” said Grand Chief Garrison Settee, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. in a press conference on Facebook Live on Tuesday.

“I thought that we as a nation have evolved to a place that we are more tolerant and accepting of one another, but in our health care system, that is not the case. Anti-Indigenous racism is apparent, and stories from our First Nations confirm that it does exist.”

Organizations such as MKO and KIM have voiced out their frustrations as their members continue to face mistreatment in hospitals and nursing stations.

It has even come to a point whereby First Nations would rather suffer quietly in their own homes because they know they will not receive adequate health services as they are continually being doubted by health officials.

“No one should be doubted when they are looking for medical attention. They should be treated with respect and compassion. That is all we want,” said Chief Shirley Ducharme, O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation.

On Jan.11, O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation Councillor Brian Wood’s wife, Carol, had a car accident that caused tremendous pain in her right leg.

That day, Wood quickly brought her to the nursing station in South Indian Lake where a nurse attended to her for less than five minutes.

The nurse diagnosed her and stated that since her leg does not appear to be broken, Wood should return home with his wife and schedule a flight to Thompson so that she can be reassessed the next week.

When they got home, her leg started to swell and turned blue. Not trusting the nurse, he decided to call Ducharme about his dilemma. After speaking with her, he managed to approve his wife as an outpatient. Immediately, he and his wife drove four hours to Thompson so she could receive proper care.

“The health staff there noticed that she wasn’t doing very well. They took her to the emergency room right away and did some x-rays. They found that there were two fractures in her leg and that there was something wrong with her knee,” said Wood.

She was later sent to Winnipeg via medevac so that she could receive surgery. As of now, she is recuperating in Thompson with a 14-inch scar on her leg.

Wood noted that this is only an example of First Nations people who cannot access medical care in their home community due to negligence.

First Nations who have issues accessing medical systems in a culturally safe way may contact Bernice Thorassie, MKO’s Client Navigator for advocacy assistance at Bernice.thorassie@mkonorth.com or call 204-307-5066.

Dr. Barry Lavallee, Chief Executive Officer at Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin (KIM) Inc. said that racism in the health care system essentially promotes torture and suffering towards First Nation citizens attempting to seek help.

By Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun.

[SOURCE]

Kawartha Nishnawbe block reconstruction work on Burleigh Falls Dam

Burleigh Falls Dam is part of the Trent-Severn Waterway, now a national historic site operated by Parks Canada. The dam was originally constructed in 1912. (Dean Wood)

Group says barricades are over lack of consultation by Parks Canada

Members from an Ontario First Nation continue to block access to a dam reconstruction site because they say they were not properly consulted by Parks Canada.

Nodin Webb, leader and spokesperson for Kawartha Nishnawbe First Nation, said his community isn’t necessarily opposed to the work on the Burleigh Falls Dam, but Parks Canada should’ve involved them in the decision-making process.

Two barricades were erected last week that prevent access to the work site in Burleigh Falls, Ont., 130 kilometres northeast of Toronto.

“We’re out there defending the land until we can get confirmation from Parks Canada that there will be no further construction or demolition until they consult us, a procedure they are legally required to do,” he said.

The Kawartha Nishnawbe have vowed not to move until Parks Canada properly consults with them about the reconstruction. (Submitted by Amber Seager)

The Kawartha Nishnawbe created a community near Burleigh Falls in the early 1900s with five families from nearby Curve Lake First Nation who had lost their Indian status through enfranchisement.

The dam, which was originally constructed in 1912, is a part of the Trent-Severn Waterway, and is now a national historic site operated by Parks Canada.

The Parks Canada website indicates the dam is being fully rebuilt and construction is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2024.

Indigenous Services Canada said in an email Kawartha Nishnawbe is not recognized as an Indian Act band.

The community’s lawyer, Christopher Reid disagrees and has been exchanging emails with Parks Canada and the federal government.

“They took away status from these people and forced them off reserves, forced them to establish a separate community on their own where they literally cleared the land, built their homes without any assistance and built their community.”

Public safety

David Britton, director of Ontario Waterways with Parks Canada, said in a statement Parks Canada has offered to meet with the Kawartha Nishnawbe on the Burleigh Falls Dam replacement project both in 2016 and more recently to understand their concerns regarding the potential impacts of the project.

Britton confirms Parks Canada has met with Curve Lake First Nation and other Williams Treaties First Nations on the first phase of the project and is working to develop fisheries monitoring and mitigation plans.

Zhaawnong Webb, Nodin Webb and Jack Hoggarth at the blockade near the Burleigh Falls Dam construction site. (Submitted by Amanda Seager)

He also explained that in its current condition, the dam poses a risk.

“A significant void at the base of the dam undermines the dam’s structural integrity, and is cause for concern regarding both public safety, and the protection of properties and species, including an important walleye fishery.”

Webb denied there have been any offers of consultation but in email correspondence provided to CBC by Reid, Parks Canada offered to meet and share its plans with the Kawartha Nishnawbe in three separate messages.

Reid indicated the level of consultation offered by Britton and Parks Canada is different than that received by Curve Lake First Nation.

He said in a statement, “offering to meet is not nearly the same thing as engaging in the kind of consultations which are legally required and which they held with communities which have much less connection to Burleigh Falls than Kawartha Nishnawbe.”

Emily Whetung, chief of Curve Lake, wrote in a statement, “We recognize that the complicated history of the Kawartha Nishinawbe, their relationship to the land at Burleigh Falls, and their assertion with the federal government, and we respect that they have an independent perspective.

“However, the Burleigh Dam is located within the recognized pre-Confederation and Williams Treaties Territory, and we feel a responsibility to protect the environment and species in the area as the reconstruction project moves forward.”

By: Sean Vanderklis, Rhiannon Johnson · CBC News · Posted: Jan 21, 2021.

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