Category Archives: Contemporary Issues

Current Events and Politics

Saskatchewan chief saddened by lack of help to stop suicides

Chief Ron Mitsuing of the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation voices his concerns about a suicide crisis in his community at the Legislative Building in Regina on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. Photo by The Canadian Press/Mark Taylor

The chief of a northern Saskatchewan First Nation says he is disappointed at the lack of long-term help from the provincial and federal governments to deal with what he says is a suicide crisis.

Ronald Mitsuing of the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, along with another band leader, met in Regina on Wednesday with ministers and the deputy premier.

The leaders are concerned about what they are calling “cluster suicides” in their community of Loon Lake, about 360 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

They say there have been three suicides, including one by a 10-year-old girl, in three weeks and eight suicide attempts, mostly by young people.

Mitsuing said he asked Premier Scott Moe and officials for help now, as well as for a long-term suicide prevention strategy to help all First Nations.

“Things are happening now. They can’t wait anymore,” he said.

“Kids are losing their lives and, if they keep waiting, it’s going to happen again.”

Mitsuing said Saskatchewan Health Authority officials sent to help his community will eventually leave and temporary assistance isn’t enough to prevent future deaths.

He wants community members to be trained on how to spot signs of suicidal thoughts and on how to properly respond.

“Right now our teachers are also burning out over there. They’re stressed. Our whole community, front-line workers, are stressed.”

Rural and Remote Health Minister Warren Kaeding said the first step was to provide immediate help, which has been done, and then to plan for any medium- and long-term solutions.

“It’s a little early in the juncture to determine what those services are, but that’s something that’s going to be community-led, and we’ll certainly have those conversations with officials,” he said.

The Ministry of Health is reviewing its services and looking at what is offered elsewhere in Canada.

The Opposition NDP has put forward a private member’s bill that would create a suicide prevention strategy. Its leader says the Saskatchewan Party government has failed to act on reducing poverty and developing economic opportunities in the north.

“Nothing that we’ve seen from them so far indicates that they actually take this seriously which … causes me to wonder whether this is something they care about,” said Ryan Meili.

Band CEO Barry Mitsuing Chalifoux said an ongoing strategy would better help prevent suicide crises and give local governments ideas on what resources could be of help in their communities.

He said federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller called last week to offer his condolences. Chalifoux said he understands work is being done by federal officials to see what support may be coming and he believes they will respond.

“I’m just hoping they do that soon,” Chalifoux said.

The First Nation wants parenting programs and funding to hire additional supports in order to monitor its youth, he said.

In the fall of 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called several suicides by children in northern Saskatour girls between the ages of 10 and 14 had taken their own lives over a short period of time.

“We continue to be committed to working with Indigenous communities across the country to deal with this ever-occurring tragedy,” he said at the time.

Earlier that year, a string of suicide attempts in Attawapiskat in northern Ontario garnered international media attention when the Cree community declared a state of emergency.

By The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2019.


Trans Mountain monitoring anti-pipeline activists, labelling some as ‘persons of interest’

Kanahus Manuel, centre, is the focus of many of Trans Mountain Corporation’s activity reports that were obtained by CBC News.

The federally owned Trans Mountain Corporation is monitoring pipeline opponents and designating some as persons of interest who warrant closer scrutiny, according to internal records provided to CBC News.

The Trans Mountain documents show its security officials recorded the names of individuals who posted anti-pipeline videos and statements on social media, along with the names of those tagged in the posts or who shared the content.

Trans Mountain also singled out two individuals it considered to be persons of interest — labelled “POI” in the documents — and compiled information on their movements and their interactions with different protest groups targeting other resource projects.

A person of interest is a police term used to identify an individual who may be a witness or connected to a crime, but is not a suspect.

In one instance, outlined in the documents, a Trans Mountain security official reported the company had uncovered the legal name of an activist, labelled a “core POI” who was using an alias. The documents detailed the movements of the individual, past activist history and their relationship with other protest and Indigenous groups.

Scrutiny of Tiny House Warriors

“New information about a core POI confirms the Tiny House Warrior Camp [which refers to a protest camp in northern B.C.] is attracting some fringe and more extreme activists,” the document says.

The Tiny House Warriors set up five tiny houses last year in an area around Blue River, B.C., which is about 230 kilometres north of Kamloops. The group also has a second camp about 60 km north of Blue River, in an area around Valemount near the Moonbeam Bridge, where they have set up a yurt.

The area where both camps are set up is in the path of the pipeline project and within the territory of the Secwepemc Nation, which those in the camp say has not consented to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, though some bands in the nation have signed onto the project.

The activities of individuals connected to the Tiny House Warriors is a prime concern in the documents.

Ottawa bought Trans Mountain Corp. for $4.5 billion in 2018. It is a Crown corporation accountable to Parliament through the Canada Development Investment Corporation, which reports to the minister of finance. It is subject to federal laws and policies on privacy.

Trans Mountain Corp. is responsible for a pipeline expansion project that would twin an existing pipeline from a terminal east of Edmonton to a marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

Who else sees this information?

The corporation would not say what it does with the names it gathers in its reports or how it determines someone to be a person of interest. Nor would it answer questions on whether it shares this information with other federal departments or the RCMP.

“Trans Mountain’s first priority is safety and we are committed to protecting the integrity of our facilities, the safety of our employees, contractors and the general public,” the corporation said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

“We are aware of publicly available commentary, including posts on social media related to the industry, our operations and the expansion project.”

The documents, about 55 partially redacted pages, were obtained under the Access to Information Act and provided to CBC News by Joe Killoran, a lawyer with the Jensen Law Group in Kamloops, B.C.

Joe Killoran, a lawyer representing Kanahus Manuel, provided the documents to CBC News.

Killoran represents Kanahus Manuel, a Secwepemc warrior who has been one of the leading spokespeople for the Tiny House Warriors, a group which is opposed to the Trans Mountain expansion. Manuel is one of the main subjects in the documents.

Many of the documents are “activity reports” compiled by Trans Mountain. The activity reports provided to CBC News appear to cover a period between Dec. 6, 2018, and Dec. 12, 2018, and an area between Hope, B.C., located 150 kilometres east of Vancouver, and the Alberta border.

The activity reports primarily contain social media information, along with short commentaries on anti-pipeline social media chatter on Facebook and Twitter, planned demonstrations, along with analysis and descriptions of the situation on the ground.

“Tensions are rising between locals and pro-pipeline individuals … and the Tiny House Warrior camp,” reads one entry.  “Further incidents between THWs and locals are likely.”

Another entry noted that Greenpeace Canada had tweeted in support of some members of the Tiny House Warriors who had been arrested following a protest in Kamloops, B.C., on Dec. 10, 2018, and that video was circulating of the event.

“The Tiny House Warrior protest at the Kamloops meeting was again a publicly stunt that will be used to gain attention for the group and for Greenpeace,” said the entry. “The video and arrests will be used to gain sympathy from Indigenous people in order to build support and legitimize their own campaigns.”

Killoran said he was surprised by one of the documents in their description of the activists.

“They seemed to perceive them as the enemy who needed to be spied on or checked on, even though they didn’t have any evidence of anything being illegal,” he said.

The dates of the reports cover the time period when Frank Iacobucci, a former Supreme Court justice, was holding consultation meetings with First Nations leaders on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Kamloops, Vancouver and Victoria.

Iacobucci was appointed in 2018 by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to lead a new round of consultations after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed cabinet approval of the expansion project partly because Ottawa failed to adequately consult Indigenous communities.

New appeals by First Nations

The Federal Court of Appeal also recently allowed a new round of appeals from several First Nations who are challenging the adequacy of the last round of consultations.

Manuel is facing mischief and intimidation charges related to two incidents in September and October involving a Trans Mountain facility — where the RCMP said a padlock was stolen and workers faced confrontation from demonstrators — and involving a road-work crew near Valemount, B.C.— where the RCMP said demonstrator disrupted their work.

Killoran said Manuel is pleading not guilty in both cases.

Killoran said Manuel’s wrist was fractured during her last arrest near Valemount on Oct. 19. Manuel said her wrist was put in a cast after a hospital visit following her release. The RCMP denied she was injured.

Jeffrey Monaghan, associate professor at Carleton University’s Institute of Criminology and Justice, is concerned that the monitoring interferes with right to free expression.

Jeffrey Monaghan, an associate professor of criminology at Carleton University, said the documents raise troubling questions about the type of information Trans Mountain is gathering, how it’s being stored and who has access to it.

“It raises all kinds of questions about what it means to have rights of expression in a democracy,” said Monaghan, who co-wrote a book called Policing Indigenous Movements, which examines how Canadian police, military and intelligence agencies surveil activists.

Monaghan said he saw this type of information gathering around the Idle No More movement, a national Indigenous rights movement that sprang up during the winter of 2012-2013.

He said some of the information contained in the documents — the tracking of movements of some activists — seemed to suggest it came from sources beyond social media posts.

“This data is travelling. This is kind of a non-policing entity that is doing all kinds of surveillance and data accumulation that is patched in to the policing establishment,” he said.

Monaghan referred to an incident report in the documents about a small but boisterous protest on Dec. 10, 2018, at Thompson River University in Kamloops, B.C, that used drums and red paint — which was used to leave hand prints on the wall of a university building and dumped on the sidewalk — to disrupt one of Iacobucci’s consultation meetings with First Nations leaders.

The incident report shows Trans Mountain discussed security plans for the meeting with Natural Resources Canada security, the RCMP and security for the university.

Natural Resources Canada referred questions to Trans Mountain.

The RCMP did not respond to a request for comment.

Asked for a response to Trans Mountain’s tactics, Pierre-Olivier Herbert, a spokesperson for Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s office, said in an emailed statement that the government “expects Trans Mountain to adhere to the highest ethical standards and in a manner that is respectful of individual privacy.”

Kanahus Manuel, centre, pictured here doing construction, says she is undeterred by on-line surveillance.

The activity reports primarily focused on Manuel’s posts in connection to protests, while listing those she tagged, as well as those who responded with comments or shared her videos.

Manuel said the ongoing surveillance won’t deter her opposition to the pipeline expansion.

She said the majority of Indigenous people oppose the pipeline expansion and the resistance is much deeper than what surfaces on social media.

“A lot of the underground is getting prepared and is getting strong culturally, spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally,” she said.

“I don’t stand alone. I don’t hold that fear of them. I know I am not alone. They don’t want to make a martyr out of me, because the whole country will uprise.”

The documents also designated two additional individuals, who have participated in Tiny House Warrior actions, as persons of interest.

The POIs

Trans Mountain gathered an extensive amount of information on one of those individuals, Freddy Stoneypoint, an Anishinaabe man who attended Carleton University and was involved in the 2017 Canada Day teepee protest on Parliament Hill, the documents show.

In a section subtitled, “POI Freddy Stoneypoint aka Zaagaasige GIIZIS,” the document says Trans Mountain discovered his real name.

“It was recently learned that GIIZIS’ legal name is Freddy Stoneypoint, approximately 31 years of age and was a Carleton University student in 2017.”

Freddy Stoneypoint, far left, was labelled a core person of interest by Trans Mountain Corporation security reports. Stoneypoint is pictured here with Candace Day Neveu during the 2017 Canada Day teepee protest.

The document, which identifies Stoneypoint as a “core POI,” does not say how the corporation learned this information. It does say Stoneypoint was involved in the Canada Day teepee protest and a blockade on an oil exploration well in August 2017, 20 kilometres north of Gaspé, Que. — information available online.

The report notes that Stoneypoint arrived at a Tiny House Warrior camp in the summer of 2018, but that he had since left to join a Line 3 protest against an Enbridge pipeline replacement project in Manitoba. The report says he had a “falling out” with the “matriarch” of the Line 3 protest and refers to posts on Facebook as evidence.

CBC News provided screen grabs of the report to Stoneypoint, who said the information they had on him was “flimsy.”

Stoneypoint said he wasn’t surprised because he already knew the RCMP had a file on him based on what he saw in Gaspé.

“I guess it kind of like affirms the level of attention I am receiving for essentially nothing,” he said.

“It speaks to the level of uncertainty my defence work poses to the state. As a result, their reaction is to tighten whatever rule of law amplifies repressive tactics against Native people just for being on the land.”

An excerpt from a Trans Mountain Corporation ‘activity report’ that indicates Freddy Stoneypoint as a person of interest. (CBC News)

Another entry documents social media activity around the Dec. 10, 2018, protest of Iacobucci’s consultation meetings with First Nation leaders at Thompson River University.

The protest resulted in the arrest of two of Manuel’s sisters and her brother-in-law.

“Kanahus Manuel was not present at the protest, but rather remained in Blue River at the [Tiny House Warrior] camp. Her posts demonstrate she watched the livestream through her phone,” the document says.

“The anti-TM community has joined in on sharing the videos, expressing their outrage over the arrests.”

The document then lists the names of four people who responded to the videos and included screen images of Facebook and Twitter posts.

‘Really creepy’

Another partially redacted activity report notes that Manuel commented on a video that was posted to her Facebook timeline.

It says Manuel tagged a woman named Denise Douglas, who lives “in Rosedale near Chilliwack.” This information is publicly available on Douglas’s Facebook page.

Denise Douglas, of the Cheam First Nation, crouches on the ground in front of police officers as she demands access to a building where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was meeting with the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee, on the Cheam First Nation near Chilliwack, B.C., on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The entry then names another individual, indicating that she “also shared this video on her timeline” and that she tagged six other people, who are all named in the report.

Douglas, who lives in Cheam First Nation, said she has never been to any of the protest sites set up by Manuel. Douglas said she and Manuel’s family have known each other for generations.

“I’d say it was an infringement of my privacy, especially if they are following me now,” she said.

Douglas said that while she opposes the pipeline expansion, she has focused on challenging her band council for signing a deal with Kinder Morgan, the previous owner of the pipeline.

“Are they singling me out? Are they profiling me? Because you know, it feels like it,” she said.

“I do care that my name is out there … I find it really creepy.”

An excerpt from the Trans Mountain Corporation documents that shows the name of Denise Douglas recorded in report along with other individuals, redacted by CBC News, who interacted with the posted video. (CBC News)

By: Jorge Barrera · CBC News · 


‘This is oil country’: Newly painted Greta Thunberg mural gets defaced, covered in slurs

An Edmonton man defaced a newly painted mural of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on Sunday morning. ( Andreane Williams/CBC)

The artist says nothing lasts forever

A newly painted portrait of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was quickly defaced — first with a pro-oil message, and later with a slur against the teen.

The mural was painted on a section of a downtown “free wall” along a bike path that runs parallel to 109 Street near the Alberta Legislature. Local artist AJA Louden has confirmed he painted Thunberg Friday.

A CBC journalist was shooting footage of the mural on Sunday morning when James Bagnell walked up with spray paint and began painting “Stop the Lies. This is Oil Country!!!” over the teen’s face.

“This is Alberta. This is oil country. My father has worked in the oil industry. We don’t need foreigners coming in and telling us how to run our business, support our families, put food on our tables,” he said.

Bagnell said as soon as he saw photos of the mural on social media, he decided to go down and “deal with it.” He said his father, who recently died, would have been “disgusted” to see the portrait of Thunberg.

He said Canada shouldn’t change its energy industry because other countries are worse offenders.

James Bagnell paints a pro-oil message over a downtown Edmonton portrait of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. (Gabrielle Brown/CBC)

“I think it’s absolutely intolerant of them to tell us how to change our lives and our people. She should go back to her country and try to make her country better.”

He said Thunberg is a child who is “doing what she’s told,” and doesn’t know better. He said he’s not against becoming more eco-friendly, but said Thunberg offers no solutions.

“Just shut up until you have solutions,” he said.

Later, when CBC returned to shoot more footage, a different man was further defacing the mural — this time calling the teen a derogatory term, and telling her to get out of the country. The man declined to be interviewed.

A newly painted mural of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was further defaced on Sunday morning. CBC has blurred a derogatory term that later appeared on the mural. (Andreane Williams/CBC)

‘Not a big deal at all’

Reached by email Sunday after the initial pro-oil message was painted, Louden said it’s normal for artists to paint over each other’s work as it’s a free wall.

“Nothing lasts forever — one of my favourite things about that wall is that anyone is allowed to express themselves there, so I’m not upset at all. I haven’t seen what went over it, but if anyone is upset about what was painted over the portrait, they can just paint back over it, it’s not a big deal at all,” Louden wrote.

Mary Bjorgum, a passerby who watched the artwork go up on the wall, was also not surprised, but disappointed, she said.

“Incredibly disappointed because it was a beautiful piece of artwork, time and effort went into making it,” Bjorgum said. “I appreciate that they want to express there but to actually deface it is quite another thing.”

Thunberg was in Edmonton Friday to attend a climate march and rally at the Alberta Legislature that was attended by thousands of people. Her visit attracted a smaller, counter protest presence.

Thunberg then travelled to Fort McMurray, where she met with leaders of the Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, as well as to participate in a BBC documentary about the region.

CBC News · Posted: Oct 20, 2019


Release report into RCMP conduct during Rexton protests, says anti-shale gas group

Vehicles were burned at the scene of a shale gas protest in Rexton six years. Anti-shale activists want the report into RCMP conduct during the violent clashes made public. (Courtesy of Gilles Boudreau)

RCMP vehicles burned, dozens arrested in October 2013 protests in Kent County

Anti-shale gas activists are calling for the release of an independent investigation into RCMP action during violent protests in Rexton six years ago.

Dozens were arrested during months of protests near Elsipogtog First Nation that saw a blockade erected on Route 134 to stop gas exploration in the area.

In October 2013, RCMP officers used force to disperse protesters and six RCMP vehicles were burned during the clashes.

The independent Civilian Review and Complaints Commission investigated complaints about police conduct during the protests. Commissioners held public meetings in the Kent County area in 2015.

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance says it has heard nothing from the commission since that time, and it’s tired of waiting. It’s calling on RCMP and government officials to release the commission’s findings.

Alliance spokesperson Denise Melanson says it’s important to know the truth.

Denise Melanson, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, said the group is becoming impatient and wants to see the report. (Radio-Canada)

“What happened was so anti-democratic and, you know, when governments use force and the secret state to impose things on the public, we’re not talking about a democracy anymore,” Melanson said.

“This is really, really important. And it’s not just that I need to prove that I was right about what happened. It’s more that we really need to know that our government isn’t behaving like this.”

Report delivered to RCMP

In an email, a spokesperson for the commission confirmed the Rexton riot report was delivered to the RCMP last March.

When the RCMP commissioner’s office reacts, the commission will prepare its final report, the spokesperson said.

The report contains testimony from 130 witnesses, 50,000 records and thousands of video files.

The evidence gathered is voluminous: 130 civilian witnesses were heard, 50,000 records and thousands of video files collected, which may explain why the investigation lasted so long.

The Council of Canadians is circulating a petition to ask Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to release the report.

CBC News also contacted Public Safety Canada. The department referred the query back to the complaints commission.

With files from Radio-Canada

CBC News · Posted: Sep 18, 2019 



Minnesota court rejects challenges to Enbridge Line 3 pipeline approval

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – The Minnesota Supreme Court declined on Tuesday to hear environmental and tribal challenges to Enbridge Inc’s Line 3 oil pipeline, a decision that removes one potential obstacle for the already-delayed project.

The ruling means the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC), the state regulator that approved the Line 3 project last year, will not have to consider additional environmental issues.

Line 3 is part of Enbridge’s Mainline network that transports western Canadian oil to Midwest refineries. The replacement project would double capacity to 760,000 barrels per day, providing much-needed relief from congestion on existing Canadian pipelines.

Pipelines carrying Canadian oil have fallen short for years of meeting demand because of delays with Line 3, the Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain and TC Energy Corp’s Keystone XL.

Line 3 was meant to be in service by the end of this year but has been delayed until the second half of 2020 because of issues with permitting.

“We agree with this decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court which now allows the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to move forth with the permitting process for the Line 3 replacement,” said Guy Jarvis, Enbridge’s executive vice president of liquids pipelines. “We look forward to the MPUC providing their guidance on the remaining process and schedule.”

The American Petroleum Institute also welcomed the court’s decision. Erin Roth, executive director of API Minnesota, said Line 3 was the “most studied pipeline project in state history.”

In June, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the Public Utilities Commission had failed to address how an oil spill from the line would affect Lake Superior within the project’s environmental impact statement.

Groups including Honor the Earth and the Mille Lac Band of Ojibwe that oppose replacement of Line 3, which was built in the 1960s, petitioned for the state Supreme Court to review other aspects of the impact statement that the appeals court approved. Those petitions were denied on Tuesday.

“We are profoundly disappointed that the Minnesota Supreme Court felt more interested in siding with the rights of a Canadian corporation to proceed with a high-risk project than protecting the rights of the Minnesota Anishinabe and indigenous people and the rights of nature,” Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, said.

Calgary-based Enbridge’s shares closed up 0.15% on the Toronto Stock Exchange at C$46.70.

(Reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney)