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.
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.email@example.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.
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.”
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.
Fog from pepper spray drifts in front of police at the Manitoba Legislature on April 6, 1999, when protesters voicing concerns about poor First Nations housing, unemployment and land claims pushed past barricades and into the lobby. (CBC)
Manitoba has seen protests, but scene at U.S. Capitol this week was ‘a unique situation’: former premier
Opening day of Manitoba’s spring session of the legislature in 1999 became one marked by riot police, pepper spray and an angry crowd pushing its way through the doors.
“We have people trapped between the doors, please step back,” shouted a voice from a loudspeaker.
But even that day was a far cry from the scene at the U.S. Capitol this past week, which a former Manitoba premier — who later became Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. — describes as “a unique situation” incited by the president.
Back in April of 1999, a rally of about 500 people, led by Indigenous groups lobbying the Manitoba government for better housing and education and demanding action on poverty and unemployment, knocked down steel barricades and pushed past police to charge the front doors.
They were met by at least 70 police and sheriff’s officers, as well as riot police, who tackled some to the marble floor of the foyer.
“Somehow the Filmon government has to hear us, has to listen,” Bill Traverse, then-grand chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, said at the time about Gary Filmon’s Progressive Conservative government.
“We have to say what has to be said.”
WATCH | The Manitoba Legislature is stormed by protesters on April 6, 1999:
A large chunk of Traverse’s jacket was ripped off his back in the clash.
But it all quickly came to an end.
Several Indigenous leaders, such as Francis Flett, the grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, urged the crowd to let cooler heads prevail, according to a May 1999 report by Windspeaker News.
“We don’t want anyone injured here,” she said. “We’ve made our point and have sent a message to the government.”
Protesters pushed past the barricades at the Manitoba Legislative Building in 1999. (CBC).
It was a scene unusual in its intensity for the Manitoba Legislative Building, but as the provincial seat of government, the legislature has routinely been a rallying point for protests.
More recently, hundreds of people have descended on the legislative grounds for protests around Black Lives Matter, climate change, and against COVID-19 restrictions.
“Sometimes you almost have to have air traffic control, you know, when one or two groups are planning different issues to be protested at the same time,” said former premier Gary Doer, joking about how many people sometimes fill the grounds.
Usually, speeches are made, signs are waved and after a couple of hours the crowds peacefully disperse and move out.
But there have been times when the crowds pushed their way inside.
WATCH | Protesters storm through legislature doors in 1999:
Teachers storm the halls
In May 1996, about 300 teachers stormed the building to protest government proposals aimed at stripping their collective bargaining rights.
Crowding the hallways, they chanted “resign, resign” outside the office of education minister Linda McIntosh.
Earlier that day, at its annual general meeting, the Manitoba Teachers’ Society had denounced proposed government changes to collective bargaining. They then took their outrage to the legislative building.
“What had started as a few people muttering ‘Storm the Lege’ had turned into loud cries. Everyone looked at each other, and as soon as we had enough confidence in ourselves as a group, all it took was one signal. Then we stormed the Lege.”
While security looked on, students scrambled up the legislature’s main stairs and filled the second- and third-floor balconies of the centre block, the account says.
“People were going nuts. No thinking involved, just reaction.”
Everyone assembled for a sit-in as the university student union presidents met with Filmon and emerged about an hour later.
“All Filmon had ‘promised’ was a later meeting,” the Taché Hall account says, noting the students felt hollow but headed out.
Washington chaos ‘unique’: Doer
None of the events in Manitoba can be compared in any way to the chaos that erupted at the Capitol in Washington this week, when a mob supporting outgoing President Donald Trump pushed past barricades and forced their way inside the U.S. Capitol.
Five people have now died — including a Capitol Hill police officer — as a result of the riot that happened hours after a Trump said at a rally he would “never concede” to president-elect Joe Biden, and urged the massive crowd to march to the Capitol.
In the Manitoba incidents, protesters weren’t goaded by someone holding the highest seat of power; they did not attack any security or make it beyond the foyer to ransack offices. No windows were broken. No one died.
While the events at the Capitol will go down in history, the ones at the Manitoba legislative building hardly register in online searches. Doer, who was leader of the Opposition NDP at the time, doesn’t recall the 1999 protest at all.
“I never felt unsafe in the building, and I don’t recall anything that made me feel unsafe inside the legislative building,” said Doer, who is also familiar with the seats of power in the United States, where he was Canadian ambassador from 2009 until 2016.
“I noticed that when the Washington rioters were besieging the Capitol Hill, a lot of the windows were broken and the doors seemed to be pretty porous, which surprised me, having gone through that building a number of times when I was ambassador.”
That said, Doer noted he never felt unsafe in Washington, either.
“I witnessed the almost daily protests walking right by the embassy of Canada, on the way to the Capitol building … and there was never an experience of anything that represented a risk inside the building until this week,” he said.
When he attended the Capitol building for the state of the union address, “the security was incredible,” Doer says.
“So this [riot at the Capitol] was a unique situation, in my view. It was incited by President Trump,” he said. “It started with the president signaling it and messaging it and encouraging it this week.”
Given that, he’s surprised security wasn’t tighter.
Despite the rarity of such outbreaks of disorder, Doer has no doubt “every legislature in Canada” is re-evaluating security procedures.
“You don’t want to ever [reveal] what your security procedures are because you don’t want, tactically, to be conveying that to people that may be interested to know what your vulnerabilities might be,” he said.
“I’m sure the emergency measures people, and the security people are reviewing it, but quietly.”
Escalating confrontation in name of reconciliation
Emily Amos, a member of Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en, sings during a protest held in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en in British Columbia at Portage Avenue and Dominion Street in front of RCMP ‘D’ Division Headquarters in Winnipeg on Feb. 24. MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
By: Dylan Robertson, Winnipeg Free Press
Harrison Powder recalls the look of hate in a truck driver’s eyes as the tractor-trailer lurched towards a group of Indigenous protesters south of Morris.
In February, protests in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en pipeline opposition in B.C. were strangling Canada’s key supply routes, with demonstrators across the country blockading railways and main roads.
On Highway 75, two protesters holding flags stood in the middle of the road. An approaching semi-truck slowed down, but then swerved around the pair, gaining speed as it briefly pointed towards a group of elders and children.
“(The driver) was mad; he was swearing at us. There was this underlying tone of racism,” said Powder.
He jumped out from the group, standing squarely in front of the truck’s right tire. He jumped back in the nick of time.
“If I had slipped on ice, he would have ran right over me.”
This past winter, long-simmering grievances about broken treaty promises had boiled over. Protesters occupied Winnipeg MP Dan Vandal’s constituency office for 11 days, while railway blockades from Headingley to Halifax united under the hashtag #ShutDownCanada.
The disruption caused Quebec hospitals to start rationing propane and put the minority Liberal government on the back foot, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelling at the last minute a meticulously planned diplomatic trip to the Caribbean.
The pressure mounted right up until COVID-19 suddenly dominated the public’s attention in March.
The protests continued during the pandemic.
At the site of the Keeyask generating station megaproject, four Cree bands are nominally partners with Manitoba Hydro. They felt compelled to blockade the site’s access roads in May, as they felt the Crown corporation’s pandemic protocols did not address safety concerns.
This fall, Mi’kmaq fishers asserting their right to harvest lobster faced angry mobs and suspected arson in Nova Scotia.
“We’re not out there because we want to; we’re forced to be out there,” said Powder. “It’s the only time people pay attention.”
Indigenous rights protests aren’t new; many Canadians recall tense moments and tragedies during the Ipperwash and Oka crises.
Yet, the blockades and protests seem to be taking on an increased appeal. Indigenous people are younger than the general population, and they’re demanding Canada stop contributing to climate change, which threatens their traditions and connection with the land.
“We’re really understanding the true loss that we will have if we don’t fight,” said Victoria Redsun, a Winnipeg activist who was arrested in February at the epicentre of the Wet’suwet’en protest in northern British Columbia.
That dispute surrounds a court injunction to allow construction of a natural-gas pipeline. Bands elected under the colonial Indian Act supported the project, but it was opposed by clans with a hereditary leadership system that dates to before colonization.
Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Files A group of protesters supporting the Wet’suwet’en perform a sit in along with other allies at Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dan Vandal’s office on Feb. 4. Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Files.
It thrust questions about who speaks for Indigenous people out of stuffy legal precedents and onto the streets of Canadian cities.
“It’s going to continue escalating,” Redsun said in a call this month from Wet’suwet’en territory. Those braving the harsh winter want sustainability to trump resource extraction and profits for industry.
“What we’re asking for means their complete disruption, and the complete dismantling of the systems that be.”
Redsun, 21, grew up at in Manitoba’s far North at Northlands Denesuline First Nation. She visited the community this summer, and felt troubled to hear of lakes freezing late, and unpredictable caribou harvests.
“Even though I’m so far out from any civilization, I’m still going to be affected by capitalism and colonialism, which are creating global warming,” she said.
Redsun is buoyed by images of large protests that show Canadians of all origins rallying for societal change. Many of those came out for the 2019 climate marches appeared at Indigenous rights rallies last winter, and protests for racial justice this summer.
“I think for the first time in history we’re going to see real change.”
For that to happen, Powder says governments need to uphold the treaties that pledged equity and co-operation.
“These were words of promise, from your nation to our nation. And we want those promises kept,” he said. “If those things were done, Indigenous resistance movements wouldn’t be necessary.”
Yet, Canadian governments are on a collision course on how best to avoid disruptive protests.
Last month, the Manitoba government led by Premier Brian Pallister reissued a spring notice that it intends to pass a bill to ban blocking critical infrastructure, such as railways and dams.
Meanwhile, the Trudeau government is proceeding with another attempt to get the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples enshrined in Canadian law, which will require Indigenous consent for major projects and pipelines.
Vandal, the federal minister of northern affairs, had his St. Boniface constituency office occupied in February, which he says feels like a lifetime ago.
He feels the Liberals have made real progress by including Indigenous leaders in legislation meant to restore their autonomy, and putting up millions to start bridging decades-old gaps.
“There’s so much work to do because past governments, including some Liberal governments, have not invested what they should have, in partnership with Indigenous nations. So the gap is so large that it’s going to take decades to catch up,” Vandal said.
“Reconciliation is a process; there’s going to be no end point.”
That progress isn’t moving fast enough for Powder, but he says it’s a better approach than ignoring Indigenous people’s concerns and then arresting them for blocking a road.
“We’re not here to invade your territories or take anything from you; we’re on the receiving end of that,” he said.
“We’re pretty forgiving. We all want reconciliation in some form. But the only way to get there is to understand that we have rights, as the first peoples of this land.”