Category Archives: Contemporary Issues

Current Events and Politics

Raymond Cormier, 53, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Tina Fontaine, 15, whose body was found in Winnipeg's Red River in August 2014.

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.

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

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.

... Red Sun Smoke Shop & Gas Bar | by Jeannette Greaves

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.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the public as a pipeline protestor stands behind him at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

On Cross-Country Tour, Trudeau Hears Growing Anger and Frustration from Indigenous Canadians

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the public as a pipeline protestor stands behind him at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the public as a pipeline protestor stands behind him at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Trudeau challenged time and again by indigenous people at town hall meetings

Staff | Jan. 28, 2017

Ottawa (NP) – On his just-completed nine-city town hall tour of Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got sharp and sometimes angry questions about aboriginal affairs — a sign of the growing impatience and frustration many indigenous people and their leaders have with his government.

And the reviews, in some cases, have been less than kind.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with pipeline protestors as they stand and hold signs at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with pipeline protestors as they stand and hold signs at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas, who was at Trudeau’s Wednesday night town hall forum in Saskatoon, characterized one of Trudeau’s answers on indigenous youth centre as “dismissive.”

Trudeau told the crowd in Saskatoon that First Nations chiefs who told him that money was needed for TVs and sofas in indigenous youth centres had not been listening to their own youth.

“When a chief says that to me, I pretty much know that they haven’t actually talked to their young people,” Trudeau said in Saskatoon. “Because most of the young people I’ve talked to are asking for a place to store their canoes and paddles so they can connect back out on the land and a place with Internet access so they can do their homework in a meaningful way because their homes are often too crowded and they need a place to work and study.”

Trudeau offered an almost identical answer — that chiefs were out of touch with their own youth — when challenged the next night in Winnipeg by Eric Redhead of Shamattawa First Nation, a community of about 1,500 located about 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg near Hudson Bay.

Shamattawa had pointedly asked Trudeau why the federal government was slow to respond to the suicide crisis on many First Nations reserves. Redhead singled out the Jan. 8 deaths, by suicide, of two 12-year-old girls, Jolyn Winter and Chantell Fox, from Wapakeka First Nation, in northwestern Ontario, about 200 kilometres from the Manitoba border.

One of the girls was the granddaughter of Wapakeka Chief Brennan Sainnawap who, in a letter to Health Canada last July, begged for more funds to deal with a mental health crisis among youth in his community. His request was turned down. A senior Health Canada bureaucrat explained that the request came “at an awkward time” in the federal government’s budget cycle.

This week, an anonymous donor, moved by the deaths of the two girls and the plight of the Wapakeka community, pledged $380,000 which the community believes can pay for four mental health workers.

A protestor shouts at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he speaks a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017.

A protestor shouts at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he speaks a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017.

“Now we have a private donor who stepped up — this is not the Conservative government, this is your government — who said it was an awkward time,” Redhead said. “We didn’t vote you in for that. Is this the new government now where the private sector is funding the First Nation suicide prevention program?”

In response, Trudeau agreed with Redhead’s assessment. “We have seen far too many tragedies ongoing in indigenous communities and we need to more. Absolutely.”

But then Trudeau largely repeated his answer from the night before in Saskatoon, saying, indigenous leaders who ask for sofas and TVs for their youth centre “haven’t done a very good job of listening.”

“‎The Prime Minister was reflecting on countless conversations he has had – over many years – regarding challenges facing Indigenous youth,” Trudeau’s press secretary said in an e-mailed statement late Friday night.  “It is important for him to hear the perspectives and ideas from everyone – including leaders, young people, parents, and elders – in order to better understand the issues they are facing, and how best they can be addressed from community to community.”

As for the comments about canoe storage and wi-fi, Ahmad said, “During these conversations, First Nations youth often raise the need for greater investments in youth programming and services, and we will continue listening to youth in Indigenous communities across the country while working in partnership with them to develop new solutions and opportunities.”

But even as heard much during those town hall meetings, Trudeau was challenged time and again by indigenous people. It happened in Kingston, Ont., in Peterborough, Ont., in Halifax as well as Saskatoon and Winnipeg.


“We live in third world conditions in our First Nations communities and that has to change said a woman in Winnipeg

“The conditions on our reserves our horrible! Horrible!,” said a woman in Winnipeg who said she was a member of the Ebb and Flow First Nation, a community of about 2,000 near the northern edge of Lake Manitoba. “We live in third world conditions in our First Nations communities and that has to change. How is your government is going to help our communities? ”

In Fredericton, Trudeau was told his government had not put in place appropriate measures to consult First Nations on the  Energy East pipeline project. In Kingston, an indigenous woman broke down in tears begging him to “protect our water.” In Peterborough, he was introduced by Curve Lake First Nation Chief Phyliss Williams who reminded the prime minister that her community had no potable water and was living under a boil water advisory.

At more than one, he was criticized for failing to implement the United Nations Declaration of Rights and Indigenous Peoples. Two Dalhousie University students, Alex Ayt and Kathleen Olds, asked Trudeau for a selfie during a photo opp  at a Halifax coffee shop.  They  then used the occasion of being up close and personal with the PM to press him on UNDRIP.

Before Christmas, at events like the Assembly of First Nations annual special assembly in Gatineau, Que., many chiefs spoke about how the Trudeau government was slow to keep commitments, such as lifting a freeze on operating transfers to First Nations governments.

And they spoke of how the current government began with high hopes and high expectations among indigenous Canadians.

“During the election campaign (Trudeau) and his party convinced a lot of our people who normally don’t vote in elections to step forward and come to vote with the hope that change would come about. But change has been very slow in coming,” Jean Guy Whiteduck, chief of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, an Algonquin band based in Maniwaki, Que., said at that December AFN meeting. “At this stage I don’t know if he gets a passing mark.”

During the series of town hall meetings, Trudeau heard from only a handful of chiefs but heard plenty from angry everyday citizens of First Nations communities.

Pipeline protestors stand and hold signs as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the public at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017.

Pipeline protestors stand and hold signs as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the public at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017.

But his response in each case was similar usually. First, he would acknowledge the grievance put to him, often agreeing that the complaint is a valid one, before promising to do better. But that promise would frequently be followed by a recitation of some of things his government has done.

“We invested historic amounts of money in budget 2016 and [we will] continue to invest,” Trudeau said in Winnipeg in response to the woman from Ebb and Flow. “I think that we are starting on a path that is going to change the future for your daughter and the present for yourself. We’re not moving as fast as I’d like on that path — I absolutely agree — but it’s a difficult path to walk.”

— with files from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Source: National Post


Mexico ‘Stunned’ After Trump Approves Border Wall

Staff | Torstar, Jan 25 2017

Fear and humiliation turned to anger and betrayal Wednesday in Mexico, as U.S. President Donald Trump made good on his campaign threats against a neighbour and ally of nearly 100 years.

Trump signed two executive orders Wednesday, the first authorizing the construction of his promised wall along the Mexican border, and the second blocking federal grants to so-called sanctuary cities that don’t arrest illegal immigrants. The orders also call for 10,000 additional immigration officers and 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

The move, which is a dramatic shift in U.S. immigration policy, was not unexpected, but the timing caught Mexico off guard, coming just days before President Enrique Pena Nieto is due to meet Trump at the White House.

“We are stunned,” said Agustin Barrios Gomez, a former Mexican congressman and co-chair for North America of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations. “There is a consensus building that we don’t want to negotiate under threat. American national security and prosperity directly depend on a stable and co-operative Mexico.”

Mexicans across the political spectrum called for Pena, who has never agreed to pay for the wall, to cancel his Jan. 31 visit. So far the leader, whose approval ratings are below 25 per cent, has opted for conciliation over confrontation.

Trump’s orders give the Department of Homeland Security six months to deliver a report detailing how to build the wall, which will be initially funded by money from Congress.

Trump continues to insist Mexico will repay the estimated $8-billion cost of the 1,600-kilometre wall through a variety of means, including increasing fees on visa applications, charging more for border crossing cards and/or taxing remittances of Mexican Americans.

The second order broadens the definition of who immigration agents can apprehend and deport within the U.S., allowing agents to adopt a broader definition of “criminal.”

Although Pena didn’t officially respond Wednesday, top-ranking officials threatened to pull out of negotiations over the reworking of the North American Free Trade Agreement if Trump continues to insist Mexico fund the wall project.

“There are very clear red lines that have to be drawn,” Ildefonso Guajardo, secretary of the economy, told Televisa on Tuesday. It’s a question of respecting sovereignty.” Guajardo travelled to Washington on Wednesday with Mexico’s foreign minister.

Vicente Fox, a former Mexican president, was more forthright, tweeting to Trump’s press secretary: “Sean Spicer, I’ve said this to @realDonaldTrump and now I’ll tell you: Mexico is not going to pay for that f—ing wall.”

Jorge Castaneda, a former foreign minister, told the New York Times: “It’s like we are Charlie Brown and they are Lucy with the football. Pena is a weak president in a weak country at a weak moment, but he has to find a way to get some official backbone.”

The U.S. may have as much to lose as Mexico if the countries stop co-operating on trade and national security, including drug smuggling and migration.

NAFTA, which includes Canada, is the world’s largest trade agreement and the region is an interdependent global supply chain where parts often cross borders several times while products are assembled. More than six million jobs in the U.S. depend on Mexico. Fully 40 cents of every dollar the U.S. imports from Mexico comes from content produced in America.

Mexico would have liked to present a common front with Canada in any NAFTA renegotiations, but that is unlikely to happen, say experts. Canada does not share the same border and security issues.

“Canada doesn’t see common cause with Mexico and has a long history of looking out for itself,” noted Ted Alden, a trade expert with the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Failure to Adjust: How Americans Got Left Behind in the Global Economy.

Canada also does not have a trade surplus with the U.S., while Mexico does.

Trump has not clearly explained how tearing up NAFTA will create jobs. Although some manufacturing jobs were lost to free trade, many were eliminated because of automation and improved productivity.

The U.S. should have focused more on retraining workers, cutting corporate taxes, investing in infrastructure and helping workers hurt by import competition, Alden said.


Leonard Peltier, Convicted of Killing 2 FBI Agents, Denied Clemency from Obama


Leonard Peltier, Convicted of Killing 2 FBI Agents

Obama’s failure to act may have condemned Leonard Peltier to die in prison

By Black Powder | Red Power Media, Staff, Jan 19, 2017

Leonard Peltier, an American Indian Movement activist who was convicted of murdering two FBI agents in 1975, will not receive clemency from President Obama.

Peltier was not on the list of 273 people granted commutations or pardons Tuesday.

The Department of Justice dashed the hopes of Peltier, his family and supporters in a terse email sent to his lawyer Wednesday afternoon.

“The application for commutation of sentence of your client, Mr. Leonard Peltier, was carefully considered in this Department and the White House, and the decision was reached that favorable action is not warranted. Your client’s application was therefore denied by the President on January 18, 2017,” it said.

The denial was posted on the U.S. Justice Department’s website Wednesday.

Peltier’s supporters were hopeful of clemency after Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks.

Among those supporting Peltier’s last-ditch bid for freedom is Pope Francis, who wrote to the White House on Tuesday, Peltier’s attorney, Martin Garbus, said on Wednesday.

Peltier, 72, is incarcerated at the federal prison in Coleman, Florida, where he is in poor health and this was thought to be his last opportunity to be released from prison.

The decision not to grant clemency was applauded by Ed Woods, a former FBI agent who has fought for years to keep Peltier imprisoned.

Supporters argue Peltier was wrongly convicted in the killings of FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams during a shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on June 26, 1975.

He was given two life sentences.

Peltier has always maintained his innocence.

His supporters believe there were many flaws in his trial, appeal and the initial investigation.

“We are deeply saddened by the news that President Obama will not let Leonard go home,” read a statement from Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

“The failure to act may have condemned him to die in prison.”

Peltier’s supporters don’t think he will have a chance of clemency after Donald Trump becomes president Friday.

Leonard Peltier’s projected release date is October 11, 2040, at the age of 96.


Prison Guard and Inmate Transformed Through Indigenous Spirituality


In an effort to transform their lives, prison guard Chris Brooks and inmate Randy Spence each followed an Indigenous spiritual path referred to as “walking the Red Road”. The result was more than they could have imagined.

Staff | CBC Radio, Jan 15, 2017

When Randy Spence first arrived in prison, he felt lost.

“I went in thinking I’ve already been labelled as a monster in society’s eyes, so I might as well live up to what people see me as,” he said.

Spence didn’t adapt easily to life behind bars. He got into fights and he stole from other inmates.

He became involved in gang violence inside the prison, and after participating in a violent incident, was sent to solitary confinement for 18 months.

Stuck in his cell, alone with his thoughts, Spence says he was forced to confront his emotions and his identity in a way he hadn’t before.

“I sat there and I started dealing with my emotions, because I had nothing to sit and talk about with anybody,” he said. “It kind of takes a toll on your mind. I felt helpless, I felt hopeless, I felt like I didn’t matter as a person.”

That’s when Spence, a Cree man from Manitoba, decided to try to get in touch with his Indigenous side.

“I knew I was Native, but I didn’t know what ‘being Native’ meant,” he said. “That’s when I really started talking to elders and the services they provide.”

Randy Spence and Chris Brooks (Terry Kelly)

Randy Spence and Chris Brooks (Terry Kelly)

Spiritual transformation

Spence began to learn more about Indigenous culture—a spiritual path sometimes referred to as walking the Red Road—by talking to elders and participating in traditional activities like sweat lodge ceremonies. Although he still struggled with the anger and addiction issues that had dogged him in the past, he felt a renewed sense of purpose in life.

“As soon as I started following the Red Road, all of those negative things gradually went away,” he said. “It lifted my spirit. It made me look at myself as a different person.”

Spence says his newfound spirituality inspired him to make positive changes in his life. He completed his high school education, and when he was offered a chance at parole, he took it seriously. If he re-offended, he knew he might not get out again.

“I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in jail,” he said. “I didn’t want to be that 60-something-year-old inmate playing that, ‘I’m a tough guy’ role.”

Life on the outside

Life outside of prison was difficult for Spence. He was living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, far from his home in Manitoba. He began to have panic attacks and worried that he wouldn’t be able to adjust to his new surroundings.

He asked his parole officer for help, and said he wanted to participate in more Indigenous spiritual activities. That’s how he met Chris Brooks, an Indigenous spiritual counsellor and former prison guard—and a man who Spence says helped him turn his life around for good.

Brooks belongs to the St. Mary’s First Nation, a Wolastoqiyik community in Fredericton, where he offers spiritual counselling and leads traditional practices like sweat lodge and pipe ceremonies.

“It’s a belief system that is old, and it’s simple,” Brooks said. “I look at it as a simple way to live your life in a good way.”

Spence started to regularly participate in ceremonies with Brooks and other elders at St. Mary’s, and he found that over time he was able to let go of his demons.

Today, he is living a new life. He’s now a counsellor himself, helping people the way Brooks helped him. “I don’t want to say I’m 100 per cent ouf of the woods, I still deal with a lot of anger and issues, but I handle them in the best possible way,” he said.

“If I got to talk to myself 10 years ago and say, 10 years from now you’re going to be a treatment counsellor, you’re going to be engaged to be married, you’re going to have a beautiful family and you’re going to be sober, and you’re going to be clean, and you’re going to be in a better place than you are now—I would have told myself you are lying.”

Walking the Red Road

Brooks worked for more than 20 years in Canadian correctional facilities. And in the early years, he had a very different view of the inmates.

Chris Brooks (Terry Kelly)

Chris Brooks (Terry Kelly)

“In a maximum security environment, the inmates don’t talk to you, and you don’t talk to them,” Brooks said, recalling his early years as a prison guard. “So my view towards offenders was, ‘They’ll never change, they’re the scum of society.'”

He also had his own personal demons. He was an alcoholic, and like Spence, didn’t know much about his own Indigenous identity. But his curiosity was piqued when he noticed elders regularly visiting the inmates at the prison where he worked.

“One day I stopped and talked to one of the elders and I asked him, I said, ‘Why are you doing this?'” Brooks said. “And his reply was, ‘Because I care.’ And that’s sort of how it started for me.”

Indigenous spiritual practices

In order for Brooks to become a spiritual counsellor, he had to prove himself.

“To earn these things, to be a pipe carrier, to be a sweat lodge keeper, you have to go out into the bush to find yourself spiritually,” he said.

That means spending four days out on the land, fasting all the while, without taking any food or water. The practice is based on the symbol of the medicine wheel, which is divided into four quadrants to represent the spiritual, physical, mental and the emotional.

“When you’re out fasting, you’re weakening yourself, depriving yourself mentally, physically and emotionally to gain spiritually,” he said.

Chris Brooks and his ceremonial drum with The Seven Sacred Teachings painted on it. (Terry Kelly)

Chris Brooks and his ceremonial drum with The Seven Sacred Teachings painted on it. (Terry Kelly)

Brooks did these fasts about once a year, he said, each time with a different goal. The first time, he was praying for a person close to him. The second, he was preparing to be a pipe carrier.

Ceremonial pipes are used for healing and prayer, and are smoked by the pipe carrier on others’ behalf, Brooks said.

“A pipe is medicine that we use. It represents life. The stem represents male, and the bowl of the pipe represents female,” he said.

“If maybe somebody in your family was ill, you would come to me and ask me if I could smoke my pipe for your family member, and I would do that for you. While I’m smoking it, I would give thanks and pray for you, and your family member.”

During another fast, Brooks was preparing to be a sweat lodge keeper. A sweat lodge is a low, dome-shaped structure heated by hot stones, used in traditional cleansing ceremonies. The shape of the structure is meant to evoke the belly of a pregnant woman, Brooks said.

When you enter the sweat lodge, “You sort of get to go back in time, to our beginning as human beings. And we get to go back into the womb of our mother,” Brooks said.

A fire is lit outside the sweat lodge and used to heat the stones. They are brought in seven at a time, which Brooks said represents the seven grandfather teachings of humility, wisdom, love, courage, respect, honesty and truth. As water is poured on the hot stones, the dark lodge fills with steam.

“You’re going back into the womb of your mother to reconnect with yourself, and reconnect with mother earth as well,” Brooks said. “It represents a new beginning.”

Traditional ceremonies like these can offer a deep sense of meaning to indigenous inmates struggling with their identity, Brooks said.

“I think connections with people is a big thing. Learning about our history, learning about our culture, learning about our ceremonies and what they can bring,” he said. “Colonization destroyed a lot of our ceremonies. The Indian Act, for example, outlawed them—if you got caught doing it you could go to jail.”

“I tell people, Aboriginal spirituality is not a religion,” he said. “It’s just how you live your life with harmony and balance with creation.”

LISTEN to Part One of CBC Radio series ‘Healing the Soul of the Prisoner’ on Tapestry with Mary Hynes



Indigenous Leader and Land Defender Arthur Manuel Dies in B.C.

Indigenous leader and land defender Arthur Manuel dies in B.C.

Indigenous leader and land defender Arthur Manuel dies in B.C.

Staff | World News – Metro Vancouver, Jan 12, 2017

Arthur Manuel, a long-time outspoken indigenous leader in British Columbia, has died at age 65.

The former chief of Neskonlith First Nation near Merritt, and former elected head of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, founded the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade and was one of the leading critics of Canada’s policies towards First Nations.

His father, Grand Chief George Manuel — co-founder and former president of the National Indian Brotherhood, which became the Assembly of First Nations — is considered one of the most influential indigenous leaders in B.C.’s history.

Manuel died on Wednesday, but Metro could not immediate confirm what caused his death.

“Arthur Manuel was, without question, one of Canada’s strongest and most outspoken indigenous leaders in the defense of our indigenous land and human rights,” the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said in a statement Thursday. “We are so profoundly grateful for Arthur’s many sacrifices and contributions to our ongoing struggles to seek a full measure of justice for our indigenous peoples.

“Arthur’s legacy will continue to reverberate throughout our ongoing indigenous history for many, many generations to come.”

Most recently, the veteran leader in the Secwepemc nation joined the Standing Rock Sioux encampment in the U.S., which faced police rubber bullets and water cannons before halting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Last year, he co-authored the book Unsettling Canada: A National Wake Up Call.

Manuel was from a family of indigenous activists. His father, George Manuel, was president of the National Indian Brotherhood and the World Council of Indigenous Peoples.

Manuel’s sister is renowned indigenous filmmaker Doreen Manuel, who teaches and coordinates the Indigenous Independent Digital Filmmaking program at Capilano University.

And his daughter Kanahus Manuel is herself a leading figure in Secwepemc activism — particularly after the Imperial Metals tailings pond collapse at Mount Polley Mine.

Outpourings of support flowed in from other indigenous leaders across B.C. on Thursday. Former three-term Tahltan Nation president Annita McPhee posted on her Facebook wall that the indigenous community “lost a warrior” in Manuel’s passing.

“You were a true warrior of our rights and title and I was so blessed to have known you,” she wrote. “You were so inspirational, humble and so strong. I was so proud listening to you. You didn’t act like we had rights and title, you lived it.”

For Wet’suwet’en land defender and hereditary chief Toghestiy — also known as Warner Naziel — Manuel was a source of guidance to younger generations of indigenous people looking to protect their traditional territories.

“He picked up his late father George Manuel’s indigenous rights torch and carried it proudly throughout the world,” he said on Facebook. “He leaves behind a family of warriors who will continue to do the same. I will miss our conversations and his guidance.”

Manuel was seldom in the mainstream news headlines, but was renowned in First Nations circles and amongst non-indigenous environmental advocates alike. Roughly a decade ago, he co-founded a national network, Defenders of the Land.

“I learned so much from Arthur Manuel,” wrote Tzeporah Berman, co-founder of ForestEthics (since renamed STAND) and author of This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge, in a Facebook post. “A great, kind, gentle yet fierce leader … So sad. He will be missed by many.”

For Alberta oil sands critic Crystal Lameman, of Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Manuel “epitomized what it meant to be a warrior, a man for his people and his family,” she said in a Facebook post.

“The indigenous rights movement lost a pillar, a man who upheld what it means to be resistance, to live the struggle, and to never give up,” Lameman said. “… He is a brave reminder of forgiveness, determination, love and perseverance.”

Metro News Vancouver Published on Thu Jan 12 2017


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On New Year's Day, the body of 22-year-old Rudy Lynn Kishayinew was found outside a business a block away from St. Paul's Hospital. Her friends and family tell CBC they still have questions about the circumstances of her death. (Credit: Facebook)

Family, Friends Question Why Saskatoon Woman Froze to Death

On New Year's Day, the body of 22-year-old Rudy Lynn Kishayinew was found outside a business a block away from St. Paul's Hospital. Her friends and family tell CBC they still have questions about the circumstances of her death. (Credit: Facebook)

On New Year’s Day, the body of 22-year-old Rudy Lynn Kishayinew was found outside a business a block away from St. Paul’s Hospital. Her friends and family tell CBC they still have questions about the circumstances of her death. (Credit: Facebook)

Friends say Rudy Kishayinew was asked to leave hospital hours before she died

CBC News: Jan 12, 2017

Family and friends say they have unanswered questions about a 22 year-old Saskatoon woman who froze to death on New Year’s Eve after they say she was asked to leave the hospital.

When Rudy Lynn Kishayinew froze to death behind a needle exchange, she was not wearing a jacket or shoes, her sister Crystal Kishayinew says.

A number of friends and acquaintances have told CBC Kishayinew and a girlfriend were both asked to leave St. Paul’s Hospital hours before the young woman’s body was discovered.

Environment Canada’s records show the temperature dipped to –20 C that night, with the wind chill making it feel like –33.

‘What happened to this girl is not right’

“They were looking for a place to get warm,” when they went to the hospital said Loretta Wilson, an elder from the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, who first met Kishayinew at the Saskatoon Tribal Council’s health centre on 20th Street West.

Wilson said the night Kishayinew died, she didn’t “have a place to go.”

Rudy Kishayinew and son

Rudy Kishayinew posted this photo to Instagram in October with the caption ‘Us.’ Friends described her as ‘a beautiful person’ who will be missed. (Instagram)

“She was just coming in there to warm up, to stay alive,” said Wilson.

“It would have been different if she was loud and obnoxious and making a big scene. Maybe they would have called the cops if she had done that.

“What happened to this girl is not right,” Wilson added.

CBC News has asked the Saskatoon Health Region to clarify how security guards at the inner-city hospital handle cases where people are asked to leave in inclement weather.

“Emergency departments and hospitals are busy places and often contain patients and visitors in waiting room areas,” a health region spokesman said in an email.

“As for security services, they work in extremely challenging situations and make decisions daily with the goal of keeping hundreds of patients, families, staff and community members who access our facilities safe every day.”

The health region refused to explain Kishayinew’s contact with hospital security that night, citing privacy concerns. It also turned down a request by CBC News to screen surveillance footage from New Year’s Eve.

No foul play, police say

Four days after Kishayinew’s death, police issued a news release which said “based on the results along with evidence from the scene and interviews conducted by the Saskatoon Police Service, investigators have determined that foul play was not involved.”

Kishayinew found behind needle exchange

Rudy Kishayinew’s lifeless body was found a few steps away from the Saskatoon Tribal Council’s health centre on New Year’s Day. (CBC)

Saskatchewan’s Office of the Chief Coroner said it’s still waiting for toxicology results before it can conclude what caused Kishayinew’s death.

Its investigations typically take four to six months.

Friends of Kishayinew described her as “a beautiful person” and told CBC she will be missed. Some said they plan to hold a vigil in her honour on Friday evening.

“When she walked out of [St. Paul’s] she was probably half-frozen, it didn’t take much,” said Wilson. “That’s a shame. That’s disgusting. Somebody should have to answer to this.

“How many more Aboriginal people are they going to find out there?”