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‘Our ancestors knew’: Maskwacis Cree enact Treaty 6 Medicine Chest clause over virus outbreak

First Nations enact ‘medicine clause’ to call state of emergency.

EDMONTON — Several Cree First Nations have jointly enacted Treaty 6’s Medicine Clause to call a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chiefs of Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana Band met Sunday to make the “difficult decision.”

The leaders fear present issues of overcrowding, lack of health care capacity and proximity to Alberta’s largest cities and outbreak centres make their nations particularly vulnerable.

“If the virus were to get into the First Nations communities, it could be devastating,” Marlene Poitras, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Tuesday at a conference and gathering of the chiefs on Ermineskin First Nation.

“The Maskwacis declaration is unique in that it specifically references the Famine and Pestilence Clause in treaty. Our ancestors knew that these days were coming.”

The Medicine Chest clause is not present in the treaties signed before Treaty 6, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. Its famine and pestilence clause grants Treaty 6 nations protection from those things.

The chiefs did not expand on what commitment they were looking for from the federal government.

“We’re hoping that the government does their part now,” Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback said.

“They’ve got to follow through and respect their part of the treaty.”

According to Alberta Health, one COVID-19 case has been confirmed in Wetaskiwin County, with which Treaty 6 territory overlaps.

Ermineskin Cree Nation activated its emergency operations centre on March 17, the same day the province of Alberta declared a public health emergency.

The nation has been limiting house service calls to top-priority calls and gatherings to 10 people or less, with physical distancing.

On Tuesday, the leaders pleaded for their youngest members to respect the precautions.

“Young people, you heard your leaders,” International Chief Wilton Littlechild said.

“Listen. Listen to their message that this is a very serious issue and you need to take care of yourself. Take good care of yourself.”

The office of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations was also closed earlier in the month to ensure the safety of workers and minimize community transition, but has remained operational.

AFN Regional Chief Marlene Poitras joined the chiefs of Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana Band on March 24 to announce their enacting of Treaty 6’s Medicine Chest clause. (Source: Facebook / Ermineskin Cree Nation)

By: Alex Antoneshyn / CTV Edmonton, published March 24, 2020.


965 Indigenous artifacts found in Kitchener during road construction

Phase 1 of road work on Fischer-Hallman between Bleams Road and Strasburg Creek was set to begin in May of this year and run throughout the construction season. (Region of Waterloo )

An archaeological assessment that involves hand excavation will be conducted on Fischer-Hallman Road

Indigenous artifacts and evidence of a longhouse and First Nations village have been found at a location in south Kitchener where road construction is set to start on Fischer-Hallman Road this spring.

The Region of Waterloo has ordered what’s called a stage 4 archeological assessment after 965 items were found in an area of Fischer-Hallman Road between Bleams Road and Strasburg Creek.

The latest stage, which will be led by an environmental company and a First Nations field liaison will “involve hand excavation to identify, document and salvage all archeological artifacts.”

A stage 4 archeological assessment is estimated to take about six to seven months according to a regional report and cost $1.6M.

During stage 3 of the assessment by an environment company, evidence of a First Nation village and a longhouse was found at the site. A First Nations field liaison representative has been working with the organization hired to do the archeological work.

The work to widen Fischer-Hallman Road between Bleams Road and Strasburg Creek was set to begin in May of this year and last through the end of construction season in November.

The roadwork is part of a four-phase road project in the area that will be completed by 2025.

By: CBC News · Posted: Mar 04, 2020


Photo credit: Dan Lauckner / CTV Kitchener.

Injunction granted against rail blockade in Kahnawake, south of Montreal

The blockade in Kahnawake, south of Montreal, has been in place in since February 10, disrupting both freight and commuter rail services. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

But Mohawk Peacekeepers said they have no intention of enforcing court order

A Quebec court has ordered Mohawk protesters to dismantle a barricade erected along a rail line running through Kahnawake, south of Montreal.

The injunction takes effect immediately, but it was not immediately clear how it will be enforced.

At a public meeting in Kahnawake Monday night, the head of the Mohawk Peackeepers police service said it had no intention of carrying out a court order against the protesters.

On Tuesday, Premier François Legault raised the possibility that Quebec’s provincial police force, the Sûreté du Québec, would be involved in an operation.

“The barricades have to be dismantled for the good of the economy,” Legault said at an event in Montreal.

The blockade in Kahnawake has been in place in since February 8, disrupting both freight and commuter rail services.

Following Monday night’s community meeting in Kahnawake, the band council issued a statement applauding both the Quebec government and CP Rail for their patience, and for not having used the “confrontational tactic” of seeking an injunction.

Canadian Pacific Railway, which owns the rail line, filed the injunction request on Tuesday morning. Quebec’s attorney general is listed as an intervenor in the decision.

Protesters set up a blockade in the Lennoxville area of Sherbrooke, Que., on Tuesday. (Brigitte Marcoux/Radio-Canada)

Protests continue elsewhere in Quebec

This latest development comes as protests continued elsewhere in Quebec in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to a pipeline in British Columbia and Mohawk activists arrested at a rail blockade yesterday in Ontario.

A few dozen people set up wooden pallets and camping gear along the line in the Lennoxville area of Sherbrooke, Que. One sign read: “Stand up. Fight back.”

As well, a blockade on the highway running through the Mohawk territory of Kanesatake and Oka, Que., 60 kilometres northwest of Montreal, was in place for a second day.

The mayor of Oka, Pascal Quevillon, said Tuesday morning school buses would be delayed due to the blockade, which has reduced Highway 344 to one lane.

“We hope that it doesn’t continue too long,” he said of the blockade.

Kanesatake resident Brigitte Beauvais said that partially blocking traffic is a peaceful way of expressing their support.

“It’s not anything aggressive. We’re not trying to, you know, fight with anybody. We’re just showing people that we’re in support with B.C. and Tyendinaga and they’re our brothers and sisters. And we’re just here to show that we’re supporting them,” she said.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Sûreté du Québec said officers were “watching the situation very closely.”

With files from Kate McKenna and Radio-Canada’s Brigitte Marcoux

By: CBC News · Posted: Feb 25, 2020


Report finds stops, searches of protesters ‘unlawful’: Watchdog

VANCOUVER — A civilian police watchdog has released what Indigenous advocates in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are calling an “explosive” letter condemning RCMP actions against Indigenous protesters.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed a complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP alleging Mounties unlawfully restricted access to a remote logging road in northern British Columbia before they enforced an injunction this month on behalf of Coastal GasLink.

The association filed statements on behalf of eight Wet’suwet’en members and supporters who say they were turned away from the area when trying to deliver supplies, give legal support or visit pipeline opponents at a camp along the road.

Commission chairperson Michelaine Lehaie says in a nine-page response letter that she won’t begin a public interest investigation because she doesn’t want to delay the resolution of issues being raised.

She says similar issues and allegations against the RCMP have already been raised and investigated and she believes there is “significant” public interest in addressing them.

She says her unpublished report about RCMP actions in 2013 against Indigenous-led anti-shale gas protests in Kent County, N.B., found RCMP stop checks went beyond the limited purpose mandated by the courts and were inconsistent with the charter rights of vehicle occupants.

She says the Commission found there was no legal authority to require passengers to produce identification at stop checks in that case and that routine vehicle searches of individuals entering the protesters’ campsites were not authorized by law.

Lehaie sent her report to the Mounties in March 2019 but has yet to receive a response from the RCMP Commissioner.

“The report that has been completed is absolutely explosive,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said at a news conference in Vancouver.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafonde, director of the University of British Columbia’s Indian Residential School and Dialogue Centre, said the fact that the RCMP has not responded to the commissioner almost a year after receiving the report raises questions about the civilian oversight body’s power to compel the RCMP to act.

The people who filed the complaint in 2013 have yet to see the report and she said a seven-year delay in justice is unacceptable.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Turpel-Lafonde said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.


Manitoba premier accused of racist language in fundraising letter on blockades

Indigenous land defenders set up a blockade at a rail station along the CN line at Diamond, Manitoba, on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.

Nationwide blockades and protests over the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia are hurting the cause of reconciliation with Indigenous people, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Friday.

“What some of the people who have gone overboard in these blockades have done is they’ve weakened the case of reconciliation, not helped it,” Pallister said.

“They’ve shifted some public view against some of the things that I’ve been working for.”

Protesters shut down a major Canadian National rail line west of Winnipeg for about 24 hours this week.

Pallister has called for the blockades to be ended quickly so that railways and roads can be reopened. In a fundraising email he sent to Progressive Conservative supporters on Thursday titled “These illegal blockades,” Pallister also asked for donations to fight what he called “two-tier justice.”

“We will stand up for the freedoms and rights of all people. But we won’t stand back while two-tier justice happens in our province,” the email read.

“And we won’t hesitate to seek an injunction in the future, if (a blockade in Manitoba) happens again.”

Manitoba’s opposition parties accused Pallister of inflaming the situation with his choice of words. Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said phrases such as “two-tier justice” in this context are racist.

“It was a racist bullhorn, as far as I’m concerned,” Lamont said.

“He’s leaning into the very serious politics of division and verging on hate-mongering.”

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister suggested protesters blocking rail lines are damaging the cause of reconciliation. (Cory Funk/CBC)

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he doesn’t feel Pallister is racist, but rather is pitting Indigenous and non-Indigenous people against each other for political gain.

Pallister said his words were not racist and were referring to a distinction between people who obey the law and people who do not. The protesters included many non-Indigenous people, he noted.

“I don’t think we want a society where some people are putting themselves above the law with no consequence. That’s what two-tier justice systems might do and that’s a danger to all of us.”

While Pallister has promised a swift crackdown on any future blockades in Manitoba, the opposition parties have called for dialogue.

“I want to see trains moving again but I also want to see Indigenous rights respected,” Kinew said.

“And it’s my role as a leader to … try and urge people that I know towards what I think is a good resolution, and that will come through negotiation and dialogue.”

The blockades on train tracks across the country have forced Via Rail to stop passenger service in most areas. But Via was still operating Friday on a line owned by Hudson Bay Railway between The Pas and Churchill in northern Manitoba.

Service also continued on a line owned by Canadian Pacific Railway in northern Ontario between Sudbury and White River.

By: Steve Lambert · The Canadian Press · Published in CBC News: Feb 14, 2020