Category Archives: Contemporary Issues

Current Events and Politics

‘We Want The Violence to Stop’: Dozens Gather at Vigil for Jeanenne Fontaine

Lana Fontaine sat on a stool outside her largely burned-down home on Saturday evening at a vigil for her daughter, Jeanenne Fontaine, who died on Wednesday after being taken off life-support. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Fontaine, 29, and Shania Chartrand, 21, were both shot, killed in Winnipeg this week

CBC News Posted: Mar 18, 2017

When Kimberley Kostiuk thinks about the two young Indigenous women who were shot in Winnipeg within 48 hours of each other, she is afraid for her own daughters.

“I have two young daughters that are that age. I worry for them all the time. You just don’t know … what’s going to be next. Two young women shot and killed in one week,” she said.

Shania Chartrand, 21, was shot late last Sunday night on the 200 block of Spence Street.

On Tuesday, Jeanenne Fontaine, 29, was found in her home after she was shot in the back of the head, according to her family, and the house was set on fire. She was rushed to hospital but died on Wednesday morning, after being taken off life-support.

A vigil for Fontaine took place on Saturday at 7 p.m. outside her home on the 400 block of Aberdeen Avenue.

“The whole community is sad. We are all sad. We are very scared,” Kostiuk said.

“We want the violence to stop. It’s enough, we are losing too many of our young women too soon. This shouldn’t be happening.”

Mourners came forward to offer Lana Fontaine condolences throughout the evening. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Fontaine was the cousin of Tina Fontaine, the 15-year-old girl whose death sparked public outrage and calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Sandy Banman was one of around 50 people who attended the Saturday evening vigil. Banman hadn’t known Fontaine or Chartrand, but came to support the families and community.

“It just seems like something has shifted in the last few years, where the crime [in the North End] seems to be getting extremely … violent,” she said. “It’s just absolutely shocking what’s going on here this week in the city, with Shania’s loss as well as Jen’s loss.”

A member of Winnipeg’s Urban Warrior Alliance, Banman said she’s been to too many vigils in the past. She wants to see change.

Sandy Banman

Sandy Banman, a member of the Urban Warrior Alliance, said she wants to see more accessible detox programs for men, women and families in Winnipeg. (CBC)

“We just keep saying over and over, ‘This has got to stop,’ every vigil I do,” she said. “We do these vigils because the community needs to heal as well as families. This violence has to end. It has to stop.”

Banman said she wanted to see more accessible detox programs for men, women and families.

“We need to be healing families so this kind of crime and violence will end,” she said.

‘They are human beings’

Kostiuk is a member of Drag the Red, an organization that started searching the Red River for bodies after Tina Fontaine was found there.

Kostiuk joined the group in order to heal and to help others after her 16-year-old daughter’s death in 2000.

While Fontaine struggled with drug use and had a criminal record, Kostiuk said she was also a mother and sister.

“You hear a lot of negativity also about these people but people don’t know them,” she said.

“They are human beings. They are women. They are our women. They are mothers. They are sisters. They are grandmas. They don’t deserve this. Nobody does.”

Kimberley Kostiuk says the violence needs to stop after two young Indigenous women were shot in Winnipeg within 48 hours of each other. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The vigil was intended to give the community an opportunity to mourn Fontaine and Chartrand and “remember the good that they had in them,” Kostiuk said. But they are becoming too frequent for the Fontaine family, she added.

“That poor family, I can’t imagine what her mother is going through right now,” Kostiuk said, adding the little cousins have lost too many family members.

“They’ve been to so many vigils already. They shouldn’t even have to think of this at a young age.”


Ottawa Community-Police Group Raise Concerns about Reinforced Gloves after Officer Charged in Death

Ottawa police Const. Daniel Montsion is facing charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in the July 2016 death of Abdirahman Abdi. Sources tell CBC News he was wearing a pair of Oakley Standard Issue ‘assault gloves’ at the time of the attempted arrest.

Deadly weapon? Police assault gloves scrutinized 

Members of a community-police advisory board say they have concerns about the use of reinforced gloves by officers in the Ottawa Police Service following the death of a man last year in an altercation that led to charges against a constable.

Const. Daniel Montsion is facing charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon, which were laid last week by Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit.

The charges relate to Montsion’s involvement in a confrontation with a Somali-Canadian man, Abdirahman Abdi, on July 24, 2016.

On cellphone video footage taken that day just minutes after the confrontation, Montsion is wearing what looks to be a set of Oakley Standard Issue “assault gloves.” The gloves feature a thick piece of carbon fibre over the knuckles, among other modifications.

The 37-year-old Abdi lost vital signs during the confrontation and was pronounced dead the next day.

Abdirahman Abdi, 37, lost vital signs during a confrontation with Ottawa police on July 24 and was officially pronounced dead the following day. (Abdi family)

Questions about if and why gloves were issued

A police source close to the investigation said the gloves are central to Montsion’s assault with a weapon charge. Montsion’s release conditions state he’s prohibited from possessing weapons, and also prohibited from possessing “any gloves with hardened knuckle plating.”

According to a police source, Montsion was issued the reinforced gloves in his role as a member of the direct action response team, or DART, which monitors street gang activity for the guns and gangs unit.

Ketcia Peters, a member of the Community and Police Action Committee (COMPAC) said she will be raising the issue of the gloves at the next meeting on April 13.

“My main question is: was this a service-issued assault glove?” Peters said.

“We need to understand why this officer, or even the DART unit, are being issued those types of equipment for work.

It’s an assault glove … So, it’s a bit troublesome. [DART] is supposed to be an outreach team, so I don’t really understand the use of those types of weapons — or equipment — for work.”

Oakley Standard Issue assault glove

Oakley Standard Issue assault glove

It’s an assault glove … So, it’s a bit troublesome. [DART] is supposed to be an outreach team, so I don’t really understand the use of those types of weapons — or equipment — for work.”

Community-based approach to policing

Peters said she would like see the Ottawa Police Service put a greater emphasis on community policing and take a more proactive approach to dealing with vulnerable members of the public.

Abdi’s family and friends said he suffered from unspecified mental health issues, something they tried to communicate during his arrest.

“We’re really advocating for the police to have a certain mentality and mind-set …[and] to learn how to communicate better with the community when they’re interacting with them.”

César Ndéma-Moussa

COMPAC member César Ndéma-Moussa said there needs to be a clear protocol around the use of assault gloves. (CBC)

COMPAC member César Ndéma-Moussa — who worked as a bodyguard for more than a decade — said he is familiar with the gloves.

“It hasn’t been discussed within the circle of COMPAC, but I had personal knowledge of them.”

Police chief orders audit of gloves

Ottawa police CFO Jeff Letourneau sent a letter to Ottawa police inspectors Monday afternoon, advising them that police Chief Charles Bordeleau wants an audit of all gloves issued to officers for on-duty use.

Ndéma-Moussa said he believes this is the right thing to do.

“I think that’s a very good step forward,” Ndéma-Moussa said.

“I think it’s beyond just a question of assault gloves. I think it’s a matter of safety. Anything that can constitute a threat, in terms of personal safety, is a matter of discussion.”

Ndéma-Moussa also said he’d like to get clarity on when and how such gloves are used. “We’ve got to ask the questions about proper training and proper protocol.”

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services said Tuesday that protective equipment including gloves, helmets and vests are not classified as weapons and, therefore, don’t need to be approved.

A ministry spokesperson said the Ontario Police College — which is responsible for the basic training of all police in Ontario — does not teach use-of-force techniques related to gloves, including assault gloves.

Originally posted by By Idil Mussa, CBC News: Mar 16, 2017


Tina Fontaine’s Cousin Dies after Being Shot in Head, Home Set on Fire, Family Says

Family of Aberdeen fire victim speaks out

Family pleads for information in death of 29-year-old Jeanenne Fontaine

CBC News Posted: Mar 15, 2017

A Winnipeg woman was shot in the head before her home was set on fire, her family says.

Jeanenne Fontaine, 29, was found in a home on Aberdeen Avenue, between Powers Street and Salter Street, on Tuesday after reports of a fire which is now being investigated by the homicide unit.

Jeanenne Fontaine

Jeanenne Fontaine, 29, was a kind, bubbly mother of three, says aunt Rhonda Flett. (Facebook)

The mother of three was rushed to hospital in unstable condition, but around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday she was taken off life-support, her family says.

They say Jeanenne was shot in the back of the head before the home was set on fire.

Her mother, Lana Fontaine, says Jeanenne’s brother was also at the home and heard the gunshot, but escaped unharmed.

The family is pleading for anyone with information to come forward to help them get answers.

Kind, full of laughter

Rhonda Flett, Jeanenne’s aunt, says her niece was a bright-spirited girl.

“She was a lively, beautiful Native girl … everybody wanted to be around her. She was kind. She liked to laugh. She made us laugh,” Flett said.

“She’s going to very missed. We’re going to miss her a lot. A piece of our family got taken and can’t be replaced.”

Flett says her niece moved into the home on Aberdeen Avenue following the death of Flett’s other niece and Jeanenne’s cousin, Tina Fontaine.

The 15-year-old was killed in August of 2014. Her death became one of the most well-known cases of murdered Indigenous women in the country, at a time many were calling for a national inquiry into unsolved cases.

Jeanenne shared the Aberdeen home with her mother, Lana, who Rhonda says is now homeless.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Lana Fontaine.

“She has nothing. She has no clothes, no furniture, nothing. She has nowhere to go,” Flett said. “All she’s concentrating on right now is her daughter.”

Flett said the family is desperate for answers.

“If anybody had answers out there for us, please come forward,” Flett said. “Our family needs closure. We’ve been through enough with Tina.”

Winnipeg police are asking anyone with information about the fire is asked to call police at 204-786-8477.

aberdeen house fire

Jeanenne Fontaine was found at this home on Aberdeen Avenue on Tuesday. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Vigil planned for Saturday

Jeanenne’s death is the second time an Indigenous woman was shot and killed in Winnipeg in the past three days.

On Sunday, Shania Chartrand, 21, was shot and later died of her injuries. The young woman was from Lake Manitoba First Nation and Chief Cornell McLean said her death devastated the community.


Kim Kostiuk, a volunteer with Drag the Red, said she was shocked and heartbroken at the pair of deaths and the news Jeanenne was related to Tina Fontaine. She’s organizing a vigil for Jeanenne on Saturday at the Aberdeen home.

Kim Kostiuk

Kim Kostiuk says she’s shocked and heartbroken by two deaths of Indigenous women in three days in Winnipeg. (Facebook)

“We want this to be out there. We want this to stop. We need this violence to stop,” Kostiuk said. “…We are human beings just like everybody else. We don’t deserve this. Nobody deserves this.”

Kostiuk said women in her community no longer feel safe and she wants to see change.

“We need more resources, for certain. We need more women’s shelters, definitely. More addictions programs,” she said.

“We need to do more marches to support women. We need to put it out there in the community. We need to do these vigils to let people know that we need to take back what is rightfully ours: the community. We need to stand up and say let’s stop this violence, we’ve had enough.

With files from Courtney Rutherford, Caroline Barghout


Family of Lake Manitoba Woman Shot in West Broadway Devastated, Chief Says

Winnipeg police say Shania Chartrand, 21, died after being shot in West Broadway over the weekend. She is from Lake Manitoba First Nation, and Chief Cornell McLean says her death has left the community devastated. (Facebook)

Shania Chanel Chartrand, 21, died after being found shot on Spence Street Sunday night

CBC News: Mar 15, 2017

Members of Lake Manitoba First Nation are devastated after the killing of a woman from the community in Winnipeg last weekend, the First Nation’s chief says.

Shania Chanel Chartrand, 21, was taken to hospital after being found in West Broadway with gunshot wounds Sunday night, but died of her injuries.

“She’s been taken too soon by this tragic event,” Lake Manitoba Chief Cornell McLean said.

“I’m devastated myself for the community. She touched a lot of hearts.”

Police investigate the homicide scene on Spence Street on Monday morning. (CBC)

McLean said Chartrand came from a large Lake Manitoba First Nation family.

“She was the second youngest child … It’s been very hard on the family,” he said.

McLean said Chartrand was living in Winnipeg and he often gave her rides to the city after she came back to Lake Manitoba to visit her family.

He said while there are rumours swirling about what may have happened to her, there are still more questions than answers.

“I know that she wasn’t involved in any gang activity. I do know that for sure,” Mclean said.

“It could have just been wrong place wrong time for her,” McLean said.

After reports of gunshots in the area, police located Chartrand on Spence Street, between Portage Avenue and Broadway, just after 10 p.m. Sunday night.

There haven’t been any arrests related to the shooting yet.

Homicide investigators are asking anyone with information or surveillance video to contact them at 204-986-6508 or through Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).


Family Sues Manitoba Government over Death in Winnipeg Remand Centre

Errol Greene suffered from two epileptic seizures, and later died, while in custody at the Winnipeg Remand Centre. An autopsy report revealed that he was not administered his epilepsy medication.

Statement of claim alleges staff failed to provide the necessities of life

CBC News | March 13, 2017

The family of Errol Greene — the man who died in the Winnipeg Remand Centre last May — is suing the government of Manitoba, alleging it is responsible for failing to provide him with the necessities of life and causing his death.

Greene’s common-law wife Rochelle Pranteau is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for herself and their four children for Greene’s death, which was allegedly caused after the 26-year-old epileptic was denied his seizure medication at the remand centre for three days.

“The actions and/or neglects of the Remand staff … were an operative and material cause of [Greene’s] death,” reads the statement of claim filed in Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench on Feb. 10.

An inquest into Greene’s death was called by the province’s chief medical examiner in December.

An autopsy report obtained by CBC News, dated Oct. 13, pointed to concerns around how Greene’s seizure was handled by corrections officers, and said he was not administered his seizure-controlling medication while in custody at the remand centre.

A statement of defence has not been filed by the government. A spokesperson for Manitoba Justice said the department is currently reviewing the statement of claim to determine Manitoba’s position.

“Since this is an ongoing court matter, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” said the spokesperson in a prepared statement.

Seizure medication denied

Errol Greene holds two of his four children. His son, Errol Junior, was born five months after Greene’s death. (Courtesy of Rochelle Pranteau)

Greene was placed in the remand centre on April 29 for breaching a probation order not to consume alcohol. He was under the probation order for a mischief under $5,000 charge.

According to the claim and previous statements made by Pranteau to CBC News, Greene repeatedly asked for his seizure medication, which he required three times a day to prevent a seizure from occurring.

He allegedly asked for the medication nine times before he made a phone call to Pranteau, voicing his concern that he was on the verge of a seizure, before collapsing mid-sentence.

When staff responded to several calls for help from other inmates, instead of providing medical attention, they allegedly shackled Greene and forcibly placed his face to the ground.

He suffered a second seizure while shackled and restrained, the claim states.

Greene was transported to Health Sciences Centre and was later pronounced dead.

Pranteau previously told CBC News she received a call from the chief medical examiner’s office in December, saying the details around her husband’s death were suspicious and an inquest could prevent the same thing from happening in the future, she said.

The family is seeking an unspecified amount for the loss of “guidance, care and companionship” due to Greene’s death. Since the government of Manitoba is the owner and operator of the remand centre, it is named as the defendant in the suit.

The suit also seeks all medical and funeral costs related to the death.

“As a further result of the death of Bradley, the plaintiffs have suffered damages and will continue to suffer damages in the future,” reads the claim. “Full particulars of which will be provided at or prior to the trial of the within action.”

The claim also alleges that Greene has previously been held in custody in the remand centre, suffered a seizure and had to be hospitalized — meaning the staff “ought to have been aware” of Greene’s condition.

Greene’s death is one of five that occurred in the remand centre in 2016, a sharp increase from previous years where only two deaths occurred between 2010 and 2015. The remand centre houses roughly 300 people.

With files from CBC’s Kim Kaschor and The Canadian Press

Quebec First Nation Can Expel Drug Dealers Under New Rules Aimed At Curbing Abuse

The Atikamekw community of Obedjiwan is located about 600 kilometres north of Montreal. (Yoann Dénécé/Radio-Canada)

Obedjiwan residents approved banishment policy in referendum last November

By CBC News | Mar 08, 2017

A First Nations community in northern Quebec has taken a novel approach to cracking down on drugs: banishing dealers from its territory.

Last week, the Atikamekw community of Obedjiwan, located about 600 kilometres north of Montreal, expelled a suspected cocaine dealer who was from outside the community using provisions under the Indian Act, which the band says allows a First Nation to determine who can live on its territory.

Under new regulations introduced Jan. 1, three people from Obedjiwan who are band members could also be forced to leave the community if they are found guilty of drug-related offences in provincial court.

Residents approved a proposal to ban drug dealers from the reserve for five years in a referendum last November.

A resounding 81 per cent of people who cast a ballot voted in favour of the idea, amid concerns children as young eight were buying drugs.

“People wanted action in this direction, and why? Because they saw things were getting worse in our community,” Philippe Dubé, the band councillor responsible for public safety, told Radio-Canada.

Immediate effect

Marie-Anne Mequish, who works at the local high school, said she has already noticed a change since the new regulation was introduced two months ago.

She said there was an urgent need for action, explaining that students were being targeted by dealers outside the school.

Éric Cutnam, a local police officer, says the new regulation has improved the situation in Obedjiwan. (Amélie Desmarais/Radio-Canada)

Eric Cutnam, a member of the local police force who spends a lot of time in the community’s schools, said he has also noticed a change.

“There were a lot of young people who were not attending school [that is, not registered] who were lurking around the schools,” he said. “To be very honest, there are even today with the regulation, but there has been a decrease, for sure.”

He believes the new regulation is more dissuasive than a prison sentence for many in the community, who rarely leave the isolated territory more than 300 kilometres north of La Tuque, Que.

“People say, ‘I’ll have a probation order, or I’ll go inside the walls for a month and then I’ll be lodged, fed, and then I’ll come out and go on with what I was doing,” Cutnam said.

“But with the five-year rule, it’s clear and straightforward.”

Other communities take similar approach

Obedjiwan, a community of roughly 2,000 people located on the north shore of Gouin Reservoir in the Mauricie region, isn’t the first Indigenous community to try such an approach.

Other First Nations, including several in Saskatchewan, have recently experimented with banishment, a form of sanction that was once common among some Indigenous groups.

Obedjiwan has a population of about 2,000. (Amélie Desmarais/Radio-Canada)

The chief of Saskatchewan’s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said last fall he would support formal banishment guidelines on First Nations across the province.

“If it means getting rid of drug dealers, sure,” Bobby Cameron said. “If it means not losing any more youth to alcohol and drugs, you bet I [would].”

Tina Fontaine’s Alleged Killer Going Straight to Trial

Raymond Cormier will be directly indicted in a Winnipeg court on Tuesday afternoon. (Tom Andrich/ CBC)

Raymond Cormier will be directly indicted in a Winnipeg court on Tuesday afternoon. (Tom Andrich/ CBC)

Raymond Cormier will be directly indicted and will not have a preliminary hearing

By Katie Nicholson, CBC News Posted: Feb 21, 2017

The man charged with second-degree murder in the death of Tina Fontaine will be directly indicted in a Manitoba court Tuesday afternoon.

A preliminary hearing had been scheduled for Raymond Cormier in May but that’s all out the window now. Cormier’s case will now proceed directly to trial.

“That is, quite honestly, a problem for us,” said Tony Kavanagh, the senior counsel on Cormier’s defence team.

“A preliminary inquiry is a very useful tool for the criminal justice system, Crown and defence alike,” said Kavanagh, a former Crown prosecutor.

“What it really allows us to do is to zone in on the key issues. Who are the main witnesses? What’s the key issue of contention in terms of this case and in a case as serious as this? It’s perhaps the most important tool the defence and Crown has.”

Without a preliminary hearing, Kavanagh said he and his client will have to sift through a vast volume of evidence without being able to hone in on the specifics of the case against Cormier.

“One of the difficulties, in fact, is because the preliminary inquiry was taken away from our client we have less of a chance to do what I would call the discovery process where we might test a few witnesses,” said Kavanagh. “That’s been yanked away from him.”

Lawyer Tony Kavanagh says preliminary hearing "yanked away" from client Raymond Cormier. (Lyza Sale/ CBC

Lawyer Tony Kavanagh says preliminary hearing “yanked away” from client Raymond Cormier. (Lyza Sale/ CBC

Cormier was charged with second-degree murder in connection to the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine in December 2015 following a months-long elaborate Mr. Big Sting. Since that arrest, he has been in segregation, mostly at the Brandon Correctional Centre

Manitoba Department of Justice Prosecutions policy states “normally a preliminary inquiry should be held and a direct indictment should not be considered unless exceptional circumstances exist that outweigh the benefits of holding a preliminary inquiry.”

According to the policy, “overriding the right to a preliminary inquiry by preferring direct indictment is an extraordinary step.”

According to the province’s policy, the Crown can press for direct indictment if:

  • There is danger of harm, trauma or intimidation to witnesses or their families.
  • Reasonable basis to believe that witnesses will attempt to subvert court process.
  • The age or health of victims and witnesses is factor.
  • A lengthy court process creates a substantial inconvenience to witnesses.
  • The need to protect ongoing police work.

Perhaps most relevant to an investigation, which included a Mr. Big Sting, the policy states “the Crown can seek direct indictment if the outcome of the case will be largely dependent on the outcome of Charter challenges to Crown evidence that cannot be advanced at a preliminary inquiry,” for example, whether or not wiretap evidence could be used.

‘A great concern’

Kavanagh said he doesn’t know which arguments the Crown made to proceed to direct indictment.

“It’s always a great concern when the Crown takes this step,” said Kavanagh.

“It does bring with it consequent dangers and one of the dangers especially in a case with a Mr. Big — especially in a case with other tenuous evidence and our client strongly denies this allegation — it takes away that opportunity to discover,” said Kavanagh. “So it won’t be until the trial itself that we’ll actually get to see what we’re dealing with.”

Although rare, Manitoba Justice has granted direct indictments in high-profile cases before. In 2010, a preliminary hearing was scrubbed in the case against Denis Jerome Labossiere, who was later convicted of slaying his parents and brother.

A preliminary hearing was also scrubbed in the case of Jeffrey Cansanay who was facing charges of second-degree murder.  In 2007, the original case against Cansanay was thrown out after going straight to trial because two witnesses ended up refusing to testify. Cansanay was re-arrested, retried and convicted three years later.

Kavanagh said Cormier is disappointed and concerned by the decision.

“He thought it was yet another step in the process of curtailing what he sees as his rights, his ability to defend himself against some of the most serious charges in the criminal justice system,” Kavanagh said.

Kavanagh estimates the earliest a trial date will be set will be the end of 2017 or early 2018.

Crown attorney James Ross declined comment.

The direct indictment will also delay another legal matter Cormier is grappling with — an appeal before the Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA). Cormier filed a complaint in 2016 with LERA claiming Winnipeg police fabricated evidence against him in the death of Tina Fontaine.

Cormier had a LERA court date scheduled for Wednesday but it will now be put over to another date.

Heartbreak in KI First Nation after Suicide of 11 year-old Girl

(Alyssa Nanokeesic, 11, from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, died from suicide. Facebook)

(Alyssa Nanokeesic, 11, from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, died from suicide. Facebook)

Jorge Barrera | APTN National News,  Feb 14, 2017

An 11 year-old girl was found dead in her grandmother’s home last Friday in the fly-in community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation (KI).

Her name was Alyssa Nanokeesic.

Her death has been ruled a suicide, according to KI Chief James Cutfeet.

On Facebook, friends and family posted their grief.

“Why Alyssa? You should have told me you were in so much pain,” said one cousin.

“Rest easy beautiful,” wrote one friend.

“I miss video chatting with her…rest easy my best friend,” wrote another.

“I miss you,” wrote a friend.

“I miss you my little cousin. I wish you never did this,” wrote another cousin. “I was crying so much at school. I miss you Alyssa. It doesn’t feel the same without you. I want you back.”

Cutfeet said a crisis team coordinated by the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is currently at the community hall. He said crisis staff from NAN, the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and from Bearskin Lake First Nation are on the ground providing support to the community and keeping a close watch over the children.

Cutfeet said he also spoke in a teleconference with Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins and federal Health Minister Jane Philpott earlier in the day Monday. He said the ministers agreed to send a working group to the community with the aim of developing “community-based youth solutions.”

Alyssa’s death has cut this community of about 1,000 people, which sits roughly 600 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, deeply.

“One of my councillors visited the homes and his comment was the parents are numbed by what happened,” said Cutfeet. “They are making every effort to keep an eye on their children and there is exhaustion. I was seeing it in all of us and the ones on the front lines.”

Cutfeet said police did not find any evidence of cyberbullying after combing through Alyssa’s social media data.

This is at least the fourth suicide death of a girl in an Indigenous community since the beginning of the year.

Last week, a 12 year-old girl died by suicide in the Manitoba community of God’s River, according to Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson.

In January, two 12 year-old girls in Wapekeka First Nation died by suicide days apart. Health Canada initially ignored the community’s plea for help after residents uncovered a suicide pact among girls last summer.


Alyssa Nanokeesic, 11, from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation. Facebook

The grieving is far from over in KI.

Alyssa’s body is returning home Tuesday afternoon from Kenora where it underwent a postmortem. She was flown out of KI on Saturday.

The service and burial is scheduled for Wednesday.

“We are having difficulty getting our children past 11-12 years-old,” said John Cutfeet, chair of the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority. “There is nothing in this world that will bring you to your knees quicker than losing someone you love so dearly to suicide. It is only through faith that the strength comes so you can get back on your feet again.”

John Cutfeet’s own young granddaughter died from suicide.

John Cutfeet is Chief James Cutfeet’s brother.

Alyssa was former KI councillor Sam McKay’s grand-niece. McKay was one of the “KI 6” imprisoned in 2008 for opposing exploration on the community’s traditional territory.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Promises Probe of Red Sun Gas Bar


Red Sun Gas Bar using status card numbers to sell tax-exempt gas and cigarettes to non-status customers

APTN Investigates | Feb 10, 2017 

Carolyn Bennett came out swinging when confronted with an APTN Investigates hidden camera report that shows a Manitoba gas bar surreptitiously using status card numbers of some customers to sell tax-exempt gas and cigarettes to non-status customers.

“I’m appalled,” said the minister, who is touring Iqaluit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “It’s totally unacceptable. This issue of rights is hugely important and (the tax-exempt right) is for Indigenous people. Anybody in the business allowing this — it’s not right. It’s fraud.”

In a separate APTN Investigates episode ‘Where There’s Smoke’ revealed her department has allowed the gas bar in question to operate on the Roseau River First Nations urban reserve for the past 10 years, despite community opposition and in violation of the department’s own rules that require reserve land to be designated for commercial lease.

Where the gas bar sits was rejected for such use in a 2008 referendum. But INAC never bothered to enforce the result.

A management and sublease agreement between the band and businessman David Doer sees him pay a $10 a year lease to run the gas station and in exchange, he gets half of Roseau River’s tobacco rebate – a status Indian right under Section 87 of the Indian Act. It amounts to about $80,000 a month for each Roseau and Doer.

Bennett said she was unaware of the controversy but added, “I’m happy to look into it and get back to (APTN).”

Coun. Cecil James says her words are what he and others have been waiting for, for a decade.

“It’s better late than never. I’m very happy,” said James.

He’s part of a group that’s been trying to get Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to intervene to get non-Indigenous businessmen out of the Red Sun Gas Bar, which is located on their urban reserve just outside of Winnipeg.

A deal was struck in 2007 between David Doer, who is the band’s former third party manager, and then-chief Terry Nelson along with his daughter Kathy. Some $2.1 million of Roseau’s trust money went into developing the site where the gas bar sits. Many band members feel they should get more benefit from their investment, and want Doer out.

If they ran Red Sun and kept all the profits and tobacco rebate, it would be a cash injection of more than $1-million a year for the impoverished community, James believes. He’s one of two councillors who opposed the deal. This past summer Chief Alfred Hayden and two other councillors restarted the clock with Doer by inking a new 20-year deal to keep him at Red Sun.

“That’s money that’s now flowing out of the community and it would have gone a long way in addressing our housing and infrastructure needs,” James said.

He has formally asked Manitoba Finance Minister Cam Friesen to intervene, given the potential loss of tax revenue for the Manitoba government if regular customers are getting tax-exempt gas and cigarettes. Friesen hasn’t responded.

As for Doer, he denied that he or any other manager sanctioned the practice of giving non-status customers tax-free merchandise by misusing other customers’ status cards. He declined an interview request but sent an email from his lawyer, Dean Giles.

“Mr. Doer is not inclined to submit to an interview or otherwise reply to the allegations that have been made.” his email stated in part. “It is made absolutely clear to all Red Sun employees that all non-treaty customers must pay tax on purchases made at the store. In the past, Red Sun has terminated employees for using their own treaty numbers in connection with sales to non-aboriginal customers or otherwise engaging in conduct of the sort.”

The contract states that Doer must pay 10 per cent of his proceeds to a community fund. But James says he has not been able to access the fund’s books.


Coroner Report: Apartheid Reserve System the Root of Suicides in Quebec Indigenous Communities


Suicides in Quebec indigenous communities were avoidable: coroner

Red Power Media | Feb 03, 2017

Five suicides that occurred in two indigenous communities in 2015 were avoidable, a Quebec coroner said in a report that compared Canada’s reserve system to apartheid.

Bernard Lefrancois’ report was the result of a public inquiry that was ordered in January 2016 after four women and one man died by suicide in a nine-month period.

The victims ranged in age from 18 to 46 and all died between February and October of 2015 in the communities of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam and Kawawachikamach, on Quebec’s North Shore.

In his report, Lefrancois wrote the victims all had unique stories and circumstances, but had their aboriginal heritage in common.

“That fact raises the issue of living conditions in these communities even though, when each death is considered individually, each person may have had a different reason for ending his or her life,” the report said.

Lefrancois’ report concludes the five victims — four Innu and one Naskapi — all exhibited at least one of the factors associated with suicide, which can include alcohol and drug consumption, family difficulties, sexual abuse, mental illness and exposure to the suicide of a loved one.

The coroner added that most of the victims had not wanted to die, but wanted to end to their suffering.

Lefrancois called for improving the living conditions in aboriginal communities and increasing the number of resources as well as the co-ordination between various services in indigenous communities to ensure people receive proper follow-up.

“There were a lot of human resources used by social services after a suicide, but it was requisitioning almost everyone and there was no one left to take care of people at risk,” he said.

Lefrancois noted the Innu community of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam suffers from social problems that include high rates of unemployment, substance abuse and suicide. The troubles are despite numerous community resources including its own police force, social services, three Innu schools, and health service points.

He places the blame for the struggles of aboriginal communities squarely on the reserve system, and describes the Indian Act as “an ancient and outdated law” that treats aboriginal people as wards of the state who are “considered incapable and unfit.”

Lefrancois said the residential schools, which were a source of multi-generational trauma, were “only one product, one beast among many others, of the apartheid system that was introduced by our ancestors and that has been preserved to our day.”

He said he hoped the report would prompt Canadians to question whether the current system still has its place in 2017.

“In South Africa, they finished by abolishing the system of apartheid,” he continued. “They haven’t solved all the problems yet, but its much better compared to what it was before.”

Ghislain Picard, the Chief of the assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, said Canadian and provincial governments now “have no choice” but to look at the efficacy of the services in place.

That, he said, needed to be matched by efforts within the communities to try to figure out how to intervene earlier to prevent suicides.

Picard also praised the Quebec government for its openness to initiating “a process to take a deeper look at the question of social development in the communities.”

Lefrancois’ report contains a number of recommendations, including a “specialized resource” in the communities to take charge of persons who are at risk of suicide. That would include a team of caseworkers and psychologists, and be able to offer longer-term follow-up and lodging close to the community.

He noted that one of the communities sometimes doesn’t have 24-hour police service due to staffing shortages, and pointed out that a local suicide prevention centre receives few calls from members of the aboriginal community because none of the staff speak Innu or Naskapi.

He also recommended that existing services focus on suicide prevention in youth, with special attention given to the Internet and social networks, as well as more programs that help young aboriginals preserve their culture, identity, and health.

A version of this article titled Five suicides in Quebec indigenous communities were avoidable: coroner’s report By Vicky Fragasso-Marquis was originally posted in the National Observer on January 15th 2017.