Category Archives: Contemporary Issues

Current Events and Politics

Mohawks take PM to task over unanswered land claims on 30th anniversary of Oka crisis

Mohawks from Kahnawake on Montreal’s South Shore stage a rolling protest on Route 132 to the Mercier Bridge on Saturday, July 11, 2020, to mark the anniversary of the start of 1990 Oka Crisis. JOHN MAHONEY / Mont

Members of the traditional longhouse organized the convoys to commemorate the historical event — a 78-day standoff between Quebec Mohawks and Canadian soldiers over the proposed expansion of a golf course in Oka.

Mohawks from Kanesatake to Kahnawake took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to task Saturday for failing to answer their centuries-old land claims on the 30th anniversary of the start of the Oka crisis.

A convoy of about 100 vehicles carrying Kahnawake residents — many of them sporting Mohawk flags — crossed the Mercier Bridge into LaSalle and back Saturday morning as part of a “rolling blockade” to commemorate the event.

Hours later, a second caravan — this time, carrying Kanesatake residents — took over Route 344 northwest of Montreal though a new development in an area used by Mohawk farmers for generations. Many onlookers stood on their front porch and waved.

Members of the traditional longhouse organized the convoys to commemorate the historical event — a 78-day standoff between Quebec Mohawks and Canadian soldiers over the proposed expansion of a golf course in Oka.

Three decades later, the impasse over land rights remains unresolved — despite Trudeau’s numerous pledges to work toward reconciliation and foster a “nation-to-nation” dialogue with Indigenous communities.

“The summer of 1990 serves as a reminder that the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) are willing to defend their land and protect their people, by any means necessary,” Joe Deom, a spokesperson for the Kahnawake longhouse, told a small gathering in the village Saturday. “The same holds true, 30 years later.”

Ellen Gabriel, a member of Kanesatake’s longhouse, later read the same statement in her community.

Organizers chose to hold rolling blockades instead of marches because of the coronavirus pandemic and the contamination risks that would have resulted from demonstrators being in close proximity to each other, Gabriel told reporters.

The demonstrations come as Kanesatake’s Mohawks continue to fight residential developments in nearby Oka they say would encroach on the pine forest they planted nearly 200 years ago.

“Under Canada’s constitution, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could intervene and stop all development that’s taking place here, and he refuses,” Gabriel said. Indigenous relations minister Carolyn Bennett “is part of that problem of refusing and trying to silence the voice” of First Nations peoples, she added.

“We are fighting for our land.”

Gabriel and her fellow citizens were joined in Kanesatake by New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh and one of his MPs, Manitoba’s Leah Gazan. Singh said he came to Kanesatake “as an ally” to listen, fight for justice and ensure contested lands are returned to First Nations peoples.

He also took time to reflect on the events of 1990, saying: “What happened on this land was the beginning of a powerful movement. Future movements were all inspired by the strength and resilience of the people here. Thirty years later, the lessons have not been learned. The same problem continues.”

Gazan was more blunt.

“There will never be reconciliation in Canada in the absence of justice,” she said. “The people of Kanesatake have waited for over 300 years for this justice, and their justice continues to be infringed upon. It is time that this longstanding land dispute be resolved, that it gets the attention that it deserves from the current federal government to act now. The people of the longhouse have waited long enough for justice.”

The message — and the anger — was the same in Kahnawake.

Trudeau “has made a lot of promises,” a Kahnawake resident who identified herself as Kaherihshon told the Montreal Gazette in an interview. “He’s talked a really good talk about all the things he was going to do to settle the issues of the First Nations people. What has he done to make anything right? What has he done to settle these land claims? There’s nothing that has been done that has made a difference so far. If he wants real truth and reconciliation, then he has to really sit down with the people and say: ‘What do we have to do to make this better? How are we going to help the people?’ ”

Asked what it would take for reconciliation to begin, Gabriel answered: “Land back. It’s going to be an uncomfortable discussion, but when are we going to have it?”

The Montreal Gazette, July, 11, 2020.

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Judge orders Dakota Access pipeline shut down pending review

Protesters against the Dakota Access oil pipeline stand on a burned-out truck near Cannon Ball, N.D., on Nov. 21.(James MacPherson / Associated Press)

FARGO, N.D. — A judge on Monday ordered the Dakota Access pipeline shut down for additional environmental review more than three years after it began pumping oil — handing a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and delivering a blow to U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts to weaken public health and environmental protections it views as obstacles to businesses.

In a 24-page order, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., wrote that he was “mindful of the disruption” that shutting down the pipeline would cause, but that it must be done within 30 days. Pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners plans to ask a court to halt the order and will seek an expedited appeal, spokeswoman Vicki Granado said.

The order comes after Boesberg said in April that a more extensive review was necessary than what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already conducted and that he would consider whether the pipeline should be shuttered during the new assessment.

“The Court does not reach its decision with blithe disregard for the lives it will affect,” Boasberg wrote Monday.

“Yet, given the seriousness of the Corps’ NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) error, the impossibility of a simple fix, the fact that Dakota Access did assume much of its economic risk knowingly, and the potential harm each day the pipeline operates, the Court is forced to conclude that the flow of oil must cease,” he added.

The findings may challenge the legal footing for the Trump administration’s most momentous environmental rollbacks. Trump surrounded himself with industry leaders and workers in hard hats this January when he announced plans to overhaul the rules for enforcing NEPA.

The Dakota Access pipeline was the subject of months of protests in 2016 and 2017, sometimes violent, during its construction near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. The tribe pressed litigation against the pipeline even after it began carrying oil from North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa and to a shipping point in Illinois in June 2017.

The $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile (1,886 kilometre) pipeline crosses beneath the Missouri River, just north of the reservation. The tribe draws its water from the river and fears pollution.

“This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Mike Faith said in a statement.

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners contends proper procedures were followed in granting the original easement for the pipeline, Granado said.

“The economic implications of the Judge’s order are too big to ignore and we will do all we can to ensure its continued operation,” she said. “Billions of dollars in tax and royalty revenue will be lost by state, local and tribal governments in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. Farmers will suffer as crude transportation will move to rail, displacing corn, wheat and soy crops that would normally be moved to market. Ironically, the counties along these rail lines will face increased environmental risks due to the increased amount of crude oil travelling by rail.”

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, decried what he called a “shocking” ruling and noted that the pipeline is moving 570,000 barrels of Bakken oil a day.

Before the coronavirus pandemic devastated the U.S. oil industry, daily oil production in North Dakota — the nation’s No. 2 oil producer behind Texas — was at a near-record 1.45 million barrels daily. The state’s output slipped to below 1 million barrels daily in May amid low energy prices and sparse demand.

Permits for the project were originally rejected by the Obama administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers prepared to conduct a full environmental review. In February 2017, after Trump took office, the Corps scrapped the review and granted permits, concluding that running the pipeline under the Missouri River posed no significant environmental issues.

The Corps said that opinion was validated after an additional year of review, as ordered by Boasberg, an Obama appointee, in 2017.

Boasberg ruled then that the Corps “largely complied” with environmental law when permitting the pipeline but ordered more review because he said the agency did not adequately consider how an oil spill under the Missouri River might affect the Standing Rock Sioux’s fishing and hunting rights, or whether it might disproportionately affect the tribal community.

The Associated Press, Published Monday, July 6, 2020.

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Winnipeg Bear Clan board member should step down following social media posts: co-founder

Bear Clan co-founder and executive director James Favel. CBC News

The head of Winnipeg’s Bear Clan says he wants a board member gone after a series of Twitter posts, including one where she allegedly suggested people who want police budgets reduced be blocked from calling 911.

The tweets from Rejeanne Caron’s twitter account are no longer publicly viewable, but Bear Clan co-founder and executive director James Favel said they were “problematic to the highest level.”

“It’s remarkable and shocking that we could have somebody with that mindset in our group for so long,” Favel said.

CBC News reached Caron, who declined to comment.

In her Twitter profile, Caron identifies herself as a frontline police officer and a former Conservative party candidate for the 2019 federal election.

Along with being a Bear Clan Board Member, she also says she’s a sex crimes investigator and francophone Métis.

“The views expressed are my own,” her bio reads.

Petition started to have Caron removed

An online petition has now been started by an unnamed Bear Clan volunteer to have Caron removed from the organization’s board.

The petition has more than 1,000 signatures. CBC News reached out to the author of the petition, who declined an interview.

The petition lists examples of some of Caron’s tweets, retweets and replies, which allegedly include denying systemic racism in policing exists and saying that Chief Adam Allan was lying after he accused Fort McMurray RCMP of assault.

Other tweets of Caron’s allegedly include calling the Black Lives Matter movement “new terrorists” and using the hashtag #AllLivesMatter, according to the petition.

She also openly criticized a number of elected representatives, including the prime minister, according to Favel.

“We are not here to vilify anyone. She’s exercising her democratic right to free speech and we respect that,” he said.

But Favel said the issue is that Bear Clan is not supposed to be political, and the views Caron is expressing are “diametrically opposed to the way we conduct ourselves and the way we think.”

CBC News has not been able to independently verify the tweets described by the petition and Favel.

‘I made a colossal mistake’: Favel

Favel, who founded the Bear Clan as an Indigenous-led, grassroots street patrol group in Winnipeg, said all volunteers and staff have to follow a code of conduct on social media posting.

If board members aren’t currently bound by the code, they should be, he said.

“I bear all the responsibility for this. I chose her to be on the board. I feel that I made a colossal mistake here,” Favel said.

Caron is currently still a board member, which she has been since 2018, Favel confirmed.

It will be up to the board to remove her, he said.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer. She should be asked to step down, but they haven’t done that yet,” he said. “The board needs to be responsive to this, and needs to act quicker.”

Board meeting to discuss future of Caron

Board chair Brian Chrupalo, who is also a police officer, said the board plans to meet to discuss the future of Caron soon.

Chrupalo said they’ll hear all sides of the story before making a decision, and will be making more comments in the future.

“I hope people aren’t going to judge the whole organization based on one incident, which again, I don’t have the full details of,” Chrupalo said.

The board had previously posted to The Bear Clan’s Facebook page, which has since been deleted.

“The board of Bear Clan Patrol wishes to state unequivocally that these comments do not in any way represent the views of the board of Bear Clan Inc.,” the post previously read.

By CBC News, posted on June 30, 2020.

[SOURCE]

Why are Indigenous people in Canada so much more likely to be shot and killed by police?

Chantel Moore’s mother Martha Martin, centre, participates in a healing walk from the Madawaska Malaseet reserve to Edmundston’s town square honour Moore in Edmundston, N.B. on Saturday June 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Stephen MacGillivray)

An Indigenous person in Canada is more than 10 times more likely to have been shot and killed by a police officer in Canada since 2017 than a white person in Canada.

A CTV News analysis reveals that of the 66 people shot and killed by police in that time frame for whom race or heritage could be identified, 25 were Indigenous.

That’s nearly 40 per cent of the total. Adjusted for population based on 2016 census data, it means 1.5 out of every 100,000 Indigenous Canadians have been shot and killed by police since 2017, versus 0.13 out of every 100,000 white Canadians.

“It’s totally alarming,” Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde told CTVNews.ca via telephone from Ottawa on June 17.

“This is not acceptable, it’s not right in 2020, but the trends are there.”

The disparity doesn’t stop there. Citing Statistics Canada data and various academic studies, a 2019 report from the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) found several other ways in which the Canadian justice system disproportionately targets Indigenous Canadians, including:

  • Indigenous Canadians are 11 times more likely than non-Indigenous Canadians to be accused of homicide
  • Indigenous Canadians are 56 per cent more likely to be victims of crime than other Canadians
  • In 2016, Indigenous Canadians represented 25 per cent of the national male prison population and 35 per cent of the national female prison population

“Why is it that we’re 4.5 per cent of the population in Canada as First Nations people, but yet the jails are full of our people?” Bellegarde said.

Those who study the intersection of Indigenous Canadians and Canadian-style policing say the answer to that question cannot be found in what happens as cases make their way through the criminal justice system. Nor can it be found in what happens after police arrive at the scene of an incident, or in what happens as officers are dispatched.

The issues that lead to Indigenous Canadians facing overrepresentation in the Canadian justice system have roots that stretch years, decades, even generations into the past, experts say – and will never be addressed if attention isn’t paid to injustices in other parts of the system.

“The conversation needs to be about systemic racism, and the continued colonial constructs that set up too many of these highly dangerous encounters,” Norm Taylor, an executive adviser who has worked with police leaders and provincial governments on issues related to community safety, told CTVNews.ca via telephone from Oshawa, Ont. on June 17.

A SYSTEMIC PROBLEM

Taylor was one of the 11 experts on policing in Indigenous communities who put together the CCA report, which found that the current Indigenous overrepresentations in the justice system are directly linked to historical mistreatment of Indigenous peoples.

They’re also tied to the worse outcomes faced by Indigenous Canadians when it comes to poverty, mental health, addictions and other socioeconomic factors that are considered risk factors for negative encounters with the justice system.

“If you look at your sample, in the vast majority of those cases, you’re going to find … they’re people with a host of risk factors operating, and the system has failed them,” Taylor said.

“In many instances, the subject will hold similar contempt for the health-care system, child welfare, schools and any other elements of the state-run human services, because the system has not served them well. It has not served their families well.”

The CCA report also concluded that moving away from these approaches and improving Indigenous health and well-being can best be achieved by adapting policing approaches to meet the needs of Indigenous communities, focusing on relationships and building trust rather than law enforcement.

Many of these themes are echoed in the recommendations in the 2019 report from the inquiry examining the cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, which are aimed at adding new mechanisms to ensure policing agencies meet the needs of the communities they serve.

These ideas may sound prescient now, as calls to defund the police gather steam across North America, but they’re hardly new. Academics and Indigenous leaders have been touting them for decades, and many police leaders have more recently followed suit.

“Officers are doing the job that is asked, and often they’re doing it under difficult and high-risk circumstances,” Taylor said.

“One of the questions we have to be asking is ‘Is it the job they should be doing? Are they adequately prepared to deal with all the intercultural mistrust? Do they even have the skills to provide a trauma-informed perspective?'”

‘KEEP PUSHING’

Advice along these lines – which Taylor describes as “more about public health than … about policing” can be found in report after report after report presented to governments going back to the last century. While some parts of the country have slowly been moving in this direction, Bellegarde said the continued deaths of Indigenous Canadians at the hands of police are proof that much more needs to be done.

“The complacency of governments for lack of implementation of these reports and the recommendations therein is killing our people,” he said.

Specific starting points for action could include making policing an essential service on reserves, guaranteeing stable funding levels for community leaders to rely on, Bellegarde said, as well as creating civilian police oversight bodies for communities that use the RCMP, increased screening for racial biases during the recruitment process, adding more Indigenous representation in positions of authorities and potentially redirecting some police funding to dedicated mental health response teams.

Although pushing for these changes has long been an exercise in frustration, Bellegarde said he is hopeful that the current wave of protests for justice reform will bear fruit.

“We have to take advantage of the groundswell of support. We have to keep pushing harder,” he said.

By Ryan Flanagan, CTVNews.ca, published Friday, June 19, 2020

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3 grief-stricken Indigenous families meet to share pain, call for justice reform

Grace Frank, Chantel Moore’s grandmother, shows the tattoo she got in memory of her granddaughter. (Jean Philippe Hughes/Radio-Canada)

Families of Chantel Moore, Rodney Levi and Brady Francis meet in Metepenagiag First Nation

The grandmother of Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman killed by Edmundston police, unveiled her new tattoo memorializing her granddaughter — her name as a rose stem above words she often spoke.

“Stay Golden,” Grace Frank told reporters. “They were her favourite words.”

For a week and a half, Moore’s relatives have been mourning the loss of their loved one and seeking answers from police, and on Monday they met with two other Indigenous families from New Brunswick First Nations dealing with tragedy.

The family of Rodney Levi, a 48-year-old member of the Metepenagiag First Nation who was shot and killed by Sunny Corner RCMP on Friday, and the mother and sister of Brady Francis, a 22-year-old Elsipogtog First Nation man killed in a 2018 hit-and-run, sat down with Moore’s family in Metepenagiag.

Ken Levi, Rodney Levi’s uncle, was among the family members to meet Monday. He wants to see community policing return the First Nation. (CBC)

Also present were Metepenagiag Chief Bill Ward and Elsipogotog Chief Arren Sock. They shared in their grief, discussed justice reform and feasted together.

“It’s bringing us together. It’s bringing us all across Canada. We want to put a stop to this. There’s no need of killing our people,” said Frank, who travelled to the province from British Columbia last week.

“With us, all standing together, we’ll be stronger.

“We all want justice.”

Discussing their pain

The uncle of Rodney Levi said it was an opportunity for the families “to discuss their pain.”

“To have the Moore family come all the way here, I don’t know if it’s coincidence or the creator’s way of getting everybody together — I know it’s a bad way — but to have all the face-to-face discussions of how they’re feeling … what they’ve experienced over this thing, really brought everybody together,” Ken Levi said.

Joe Martin, Chantel Moore’s uncle, described how difficult it is seeing how Moore’s young daughter has been affected by her death. (CBC)

He said the families will share information to their respective legal teams as the investigations progress.

Rodney Levi was fatally shot by a police officer who was responding to a call for an unwanted person at the Boom Road Pentecostal Church. Its lead pastor has since said he was a welcome guest.

RCMP say police were confronted by a man carrying knives. A stun gun was deployed several times but was unsuccessful. A member of the RCMP discharged a firearm.

Quebec’s independent police investigation agency, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, is investigating the shooting. The agency is also tasked with looking into Chantel Moore’s death.

Moore, originally from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in British Columbia, was killed by Edmundston police on June 4 during a wellness check. Police allege Moore had threatened the officer with a knife.

Francis’ family and members of Elsipogtog First Nation were saddened and angered by the April 27 judge’s decision to acquit the man charged in connection with his death. The Crown prosecution said May 27 it will not be appealing the verdict.

“There’s no justice for First Nations people in Canada,” Chief Sock said following the decision.

‘This little girl is hurt’

On Monday, Moore’s uncle, Joe Martin, said the three families shared “in the pain felt across this country.”

He told reporters Moore’s six-year-old daughter, Gracie, asked him, “Was my mommy bad? Is that why the cops shot her?”

Metepenagiag Chief Bill Ward wants to community policing return to his First Nation. (CBC)

“This little girl is hurt,” Martin said, turning to look directly in the camera. “Do you know what you did to her? You hurt her.”

First Nation leaders have called for an Indigenous-led team to head the investigations into Moore and Levi’s deaths, and her family are seeking a full public inquiry into the shooting.

Policing alternative

Community policing for First Nations was among the suggestions raised by family members and Indigenous officials Monday.

Ken Levi, a long-time fishery officer for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, previously served as a police officer and band constable working out of the Sunny Corner RCMP detachment.

He said he sees the value in reviving the model.

“We policed our own basically,” Levi said. “When somebody has a bad day and you have community police, your own police, they know who’s having a bad day.”

The Metepenagiag chief echoed Levi, saying the government needs to allocate funds so the First Nation can re-establish community police.

Ward said their voices need to be heard.

“Governments and policing, they were all based on oppression of our people and there needs to be significant fundamental change to all these systems and all these institutions in order for us to be fairly represented and to stop these tragedies from happening to our people,” Ward said.

Meeting with Higgs

On Monday, Premier Blaine Higgs said he and four of his cabinet ministers will meet with First Nations chiefs of New Brunswick on Wednesday.

Higgs said the process of making changes and healing cannot wait.

Ward said he was pleased the premier wants to meet, but he wants to see movement on ending systemic racism.

“Acknowledgment is one thing,” he said, “action is another.”

With files from Logan Perley, Radio-Canada

By CBC News · Posted: Jun 16, 2020.

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