Watchdog: Calgary Police Made Mistakes In Investigation of Colton Crowshoe

Colton Crowshoe’s family speaks out against police investigation. Jul 26. Calgary. Body found in pond next to Stoney Trail

The Canadian Press  | April 13, 2017

CALGARY — An Alberta agency that investigates police says Calgary officers made a series of mistakes as they investigated the disappearance of a young indigenous man who was later found dead.

But the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team says it does not believe those errors in Colton Crowshoe’s case were the result of racism or that they amounted to a crime.

“The evidence gathered in the ASIRT investigation clearly demonstrates that the initial stage of this investigation was beset by a series of assumptions, errors, and oversights by (Calgary Police Service) personnel,” executive director Susan Hughson said Thursday afternoon.

“I want to make it clear, CPS has not been cleared of wrongdoing. CPS’s investigation into Colton Crowshoe’s missing person complaint was not done properly. The one thing we can say is that it was not the result of racism that we could find evidence of, but they are not cleared.”

Police charged 18-year-old Crowshoe in July 2014 with trespassing and break and enter. He was released from custody and was last seen on video walking away from a police station in good spirits.

But a few days later his family reported him missing and, three weeks later, his body was discovered in a city retention pond. An autopsy determined his death was a homicide and that case remains unsolved.

Crowshoe’s relatives alleged police did not take their missing person report seriously and accused the force of racism.

Colton Crowshoe

Hughson said ASIRT reviewed 28 other missing persons investigations and could find no evidence race played a role in how Crowshoe’s was handled.

Still, the investigation was botched.

“Several of the missing person policy protocols were not followed,” she said. “As a result, there was minimal investigation of the missing person report, no follow-up or file continuity, no accountability or file ownership, a failure to document relevant new information, and most importantly, no police-initiated communication with the family.

“They (the family) may have been wrong about the racial profiling potentially, but they are not wrong that there were problems with Colton’s missing persons investigation.”

The family also alleged that Crowshoe was roughed up during his initial arrest.

ASIRT examined that allegation as well and found that there were no grounds for criminal charges against officers.

“In this case, it is clear that at the time this contact occurred, the officer is in the lawful execution of his duties. He is doing his job,” Hughson said.

She gave the Calgary Police Service credit for reviewing the case itself after it came to light and making changes to the way missing persons cases are investigated.

She said there are lessons to be learned for all police forces when it comes to missing persons cases.

“They need to be treated as potential homicides in many cases,” she said. “Often people will turn up so I understand why there is almost a complacency … but in the cases where they don’t, that time can be critical.”

The Calgary Police Service issued a news release late Thursday saying their internal review has resulted in changes being made to improve the process of managing missing person files.

Those changes include “clearer guidelines for frontline officers and investigators as well as a more thorough accountability framework” that adds checks and balances to ensure missing person files are “managed to the highest standard possible.”

The service also said its policy around communicating with family members of missing persons has also been strengthened.

“To ensure we have covered all the concerns in the ASIRT investigation, we will be reviewing their report in detail to determine if any additional lessons can be learned,” said the statement.

“The tragic death of Mr. Crowshoe remains an active investigation and we ask for anyone with information to come forward.”

Hughson said Crowshoe’s family is devastated by the young man’s death.

“Someone out there knows what happened to Colton Crowshoe,” she said.

“This is a good, loving family that never gave up. Please, I am going to ask you to come forward. Give this family the chance to heal.”

[SOURCE]

 

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Hundreds Gather at Vigil and March for Christine Wood in Winnipeg

Christine Wood, 21, disappeared in Winnipeg in August 2016. Photo: Red Power Media

Hundreds remembered Christine Wood at a vigil on Wednesday 

By Red Power Media, Staff | April 13, 2017

A vigil was held Wednesday evening in Winnipeg for Christine Wood. It began at 341-Burrows Avenue, the house where Winnipeg Police believe the young indigenous woman was murdered. Friends, family and community members then marched to Thunderbird House on Main Street.

About 250 people gathered to remember Christine.

During the march drummers lined the street to pay their respects to Christine’s family.

On Aug. 19, Christine, 21, went missing after a visit to Winnipeg with her family from Oxford House First Nation in Manitoba. She never came back to her hotel after going out that evening.

On Saturday, April 08, Brett Overby, 30, was charged with the murder of Christine.

Police also allege Christine was killed on or around Aug. 20 – the day after she went missing.

RELATED:

Officers arrested and charged Overby, with second-degree murder. Christine’s body has still not been found.

A community vigil for Christine was held at St. Mary’s Parish on 365 Burrows Avenue, near the location where she was killed. The service was put on by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and the Bear Clan Patrol.

Melinda Wood weeps as she attends a walk for her daughter Christine with her husband George Wood, left, and Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth, right. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth led the march alongside Christine’s parents, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.

The march finished with a memorial at the Thunderbird House.

Marchers make their way to a memorial for Christine at the Thunderbird House. Photo: Red Power Media

Police say the accused and Christine were unknown to one another and it does not appear there was a relationship between them.

Christine’s family and her parents George and Melinda Wood, along with members of the community, including the Bear Clan Patrol, have all been looking for Christine since her disappearance on Aug. 19.

“I can’t really explain how it feels to lose a child like that, a daughter, your only daughter, your baby,” George Wood, Christine’s father said. “I just hope whoever this person is, and I’m not going to waste my words labeling him, I just hope he does the right thing to say where he put her body.”

People living on the Oxford House First Nation also gathered for a vigil to honour Christine last Saturday.

Brett Overby Charged with Second Degree Murder in Christine Wood Homicide, Body Still Missing

Christine Wood, 21, disappeared after she went out with friends for the evening on Aug. 19, 2016. (File Image)

Police believe Christine Wood killed hours after going missing

By Black Powder | RPM Staff, April 10, 2017

Days after police charged a Winnipeg man with second-degree murder in the disappearance of Christine Wood, officers said they still have not found her body.

According to Global News, on Saturday, Brett Overby, 30, was charged with the murder of Christine Wood, 21. Documents also allege Wood was killed on or around Aug. 20 – the day after she went missing.

On Aug. 19, after going out that evening, Wood from Oxford House First Nation, never returned to the hotel where her family was staying after coming to Winnipeg for a medical appointment.

The case was treated at a missing person’s investigation until January 2017, when the homicide unit took over as lead investigators.

Overby, was arrested March 21 after police searched a home in the 300 block of Burrows Ave. At the time, he was charged with an unrelated offence.

CTV News reports, Winnipeg Police Service Sergeant John O’Donovan said officers ended up at that home as a result of information from a number of warrants and production orders on electronic devices Wood used prior to her death.

The Forensic Identification Unit stayed at the home for several days.

Overby, was questioned, but he was let go as there wasn’t enough forensic evidence to lay any charges.

Brett Overby, 30, was charged with the murder of Christine Wood, 21. Instagram. Source Global News

On April 6, forensics tests came back and the following day the Crown Attorney authorized a second degree murder charge against Overby.

Police were able to provide evidence to the Crown’s office that Wood, not only was she present, but she was killed in that house.

Although police believe Wood was killed in Overby’s home, they do not have any information from the accused on where her body is.

During a media conference Monday, Police Chief Danny Smyth said “We will continue on this investigation until we find her remains.”

In September the police said there were “multiple sightings of Wood.” They also said she was was facing some “personal challenges” and may be associated with people tied to drug trade.

However, police now say, they do not believe drugs or gang affiliations are involved.

Police also say the accused and Wood were unknown to one another prior to Aug. 19 and it does not appear there was a relationship between them.

Winnipeg police press conference concerning Christine Wood, Monday.

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson was at the media conference speaking on behalf of Wood’s family.

“After the most difficult eight months of our lives, we are mourning the loss of our daughter,” North Wilson said in a statement written by Wood’s family.

The family will be in Winnipeg for a vigil on Wednesday.

Advocates Say Missing And Murdered Women’s Inquiry Failing To Reach Out To Families

Lorelei Williams, left, speaks as Fay Blaney, right, listens during a Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls news conference in Vancouver on April 3, 2017. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Canadian Press | Apr. 03, 2017

The national missing and murdered Indigenous women’s inquiry has failed to adequately reach out to loved ones and survivors, says a coalition of advocacy groups and families less than two months before hearings are set to begin.

The Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in British Columbia is calling on the commission and federal, provincial and territorial governments to do a better job of communicating with distraught families.

“This is the last chance that family members who want to be heard, will be heard,” said Michele Pineault, the mother of Stephanie Lane, whose DNA was found on serial killer Robert Pickton’s farm. “This inquiry is very, very important to a lot of people.”

Coalition member Fay Blaney said at a news conference on Monday that the group was concerned about recent media reports that said the inquiry had only located about 100 family members or survivors.

An RCMP report in 2014 said police had identified nearly 1,200 missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Ms. Blaney said she understood the federal government had not shared with commissioners the names of those who came forward during preinquiry consultations due to privacy obligations.

She said the commission should immediately request that all levels of government and Indigenous organizations reach out to family members and survivors to ensure they know how to register to be a witness.

The coalition is also concerned that federal, provincial and territorial governments appear not to be assisting the inquiry, Ms. Blaney added.

Chief commissioner Marion Buller was not immediately available to comment, but the inquiry is holding a series of regional advisory meetings across the country to receive input from survivors and families before the first public hearing on May 29 in Whitehorse.

The commission has said families and survivors who would like to share their stories do not need to apply for standing and should instead send an e-mail or call a toll-free number.

But Lorelei Williams, whose aunt went missing decades ago and whose cousin’s DNA was found on Mr. Pickton’s farm, said the commission should be pro-actively reaching out.

“I’m feeling so frustrated and very upset about what is going on with this inquiry so far,” she said. “Families are freaking out right now.” Ms. Williams questioned why preinquiry consultations were held at all, if not to collect names of family members for the inquiry.

“What did they do that for?” she asked. “I’m going to assume that those families put their names forward for a reason. … They want to be a part of this.”

Shawn Jackson, a spokesman for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, said it transferred to the national inquiry in November a database of information collected during the preinquiry process, including meeting recordings and correspondence.

However, Mr. Jackson said many people participated in the consultations anonymously and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada is prevented by privacy rules from providing the lists of participants.

The coalition is also urging the inquiry to make efforts to include “families of the heart,” or friends. Evelyn Youngchief’s friend Georgina Papin was killed by Mr. Pickton and she said many friends of the missing and murdered would like to speak.

“We’ve been waiting for a very long time,” she said. “Changes need to be made on how aboriginal women are looked at. Stop killing us.”

Stephanie Lane’s mother, Ms. Pineault, said it has been difficult to tell her story over and over again for the past 20 years.

“It’s at a point now where I just want to say, ‘I want a life of normalcy. I just want to stay home and not have anything to do with this.’ But I have to do it to the bitter end.”

[SOURCE]

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

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

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

CBC News Posted: Mar 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandy Banman

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

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

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

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

‘They are human beings’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[SOURCE]

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

Family of Aberdeen fire victim speaks out

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

CBC News Posted: Mar 15, 2017

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

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

Jeanenne Fontaine

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

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

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

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

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

Kind, full of laughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flett said the family is desperate for answers.

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

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

aberdeen house fire

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

Vigil planned for Saturday

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

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

RELATED: 

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

Kim Kostiuk

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

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

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

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

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

With files from Courtney Rutherford, Caroline Barghout

[SOURCE]

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

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

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

CBC News: Mar 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[SOURCE]

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.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/iteam/raymond-cormier-tina-fontaine-direct-indictment-1.3991305

Why Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Should Resist Calls to Include Men

A new coalition called Expand the Inquiry wants violence against men and boys included in the MMIW inquiry. Its use of statistics downplays the violence inflicted on Indigenous women. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

A new coalition called Expand the Inquiry wants violence against men and boys included in the MMIW inquiry. Its use of statistics downplays the violence inflicted on Indigenous women. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Coalition that wants men and boys included is aligned with controversial men’s rights group

By Stephanie Cram, CBC News Posted: Dec 17, 2016

Last week, a new coalition called Expand the Inquiry met with federal officials to argue for the need to expand the terms and scope of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women to include men and boys.

The coalition’s leader, Chief Ernie Crey of Cheam First Nation in British Columbia, became an advocate for Indigenous women after his sister, Dawn Crey, was killed by Robert Pickton.

Crey said he refocused his attention after hearing from families across the country about the lack of advocacy for missing and murdered Indigenous men.

Chief Ernie Crey of Expand the Inquiry says his group didn't research the previous campaigns of the Canadian Association for Equality before joining forces. (CBC )

Chief Ernie Crey of Expand the Inquiry says his group didn’t research the previous campaigns of the Canadian Association for Equality before joining forces. (CBC )

His coalition argues that because 70 per cent of murdered Indigenous people are men, they should be included in the inquiry.

But that statistic doesn’t change the fact that Indigenous women face a significantly higher rate of violent victimization than men, including physical and sexual assault.

And it doesn’t change the fact the MMIW inquiry was created to explain why Indigenous women are targeted and find ways to stop it.

Those explanations and solutions would be much different in the case of violence against Indigenous men and boys.

What stands out most about the Expand the Inquiry coalition is that it has aligned itself with the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) — one of the loudest and most controversial voices in so-called men’s rights activism.

The group has been accused of trying to spread misleading information about domestic violence, including with a billboard ad in Toronto last year that suggested men are as likely as women to be victims.

The Canadian Association for Equality put up this billboard ad in Toronto in 2015. (CBC)

The Canadian Association for Equality put up this billboard ad in Toronto in 2015. (CBC)

Crey admits Expand the Inquiry didn’t vet CAFE.

“They were the group that came forward, and said can we join forces … I haven’t delved into their history, their campaigns or issues they’ve involved themselves in,” Crey said.

“I would be the last one to say that everyone and anyone I’ve ever worked with can be painted lily white … without blemish.”

‘Many, many inquiries’

CAFE spokesman Justin Trottier says the stories of missing and murdered men should be included in the inquiry because violence against Indigenous women has already been extensively studied.

“We’ve had many, many inquiries into murdered and missing girls and women; this isn’t the first one,” he said.

That’s simply not true.

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry examined the disappearances of women along B.C.'s Highway of Tears. (Wikimedia)

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry examined the disappearances of women along B.C.’s Highway of Tears. (Wikimedia)

In 2010, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in B.C. examined the disappearances of women along the Highway of Tears, a stretch between Prince Rupert and Prince George, but didn’t specifically examine the unique circumstances of Indigenous women who’d gone missing or been murdered.

Neither has any other federal or provincial inquiry.

Domestic violence statistics

Expand the Inquiry’s argument relies on the same de-contextualized piece of data that CAFE used for its billboard.

“So-called gender based violence, or domestic violence is [thought to be] something that men perpetrate on women,” Trottier told CBC News. “And actually when we do the research we find that both men and women experience domestic violence at comparable rates.”

That rate is four per cent, according to a Statistics Canada survey — as opposed to statistics in the same report based on police data.

But of those men and women who said they were abused, the women were twice as likely to have experienced the most violent forms of spousal abuse, including being sexually assaulted, beaten, choked or threatened with a gun or knife.

Plus, the violence against Indigenous women the inquiry was created to study extends far beyond the home.

A 2016 Statistics Canada report found Indigenous women experience double the rate of violent victimization of Indigenous men. And triple that of non-Indigenous women.

The disparity is clear. Explaining it is complicated, which is why the inquiry is focused on women.

‘They were the group that came forward, and said can we join forces … I haven’t delved into their history, their campaigns or issues they’ve involved themselves in.’– Chief Ernie Crey, Expand the Inquiry

But stats aside, Trottier says the inquiry is starting out with problematic assumptions about the nature of violence against Indigenous people.

“If this is a sincere effort to understand the root cause of violence in Indigenous communities … then I don’t think we should go in already decided that the problem is one of solely violence against women,” Trottier said. “It might actually be issues that affect both men and women.”

Terms of inquiry are broad

He says Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has said the stories of missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys could be included in the inquiry.

“The terms of the inquiry are broad enough, that if the commissioners wanted they could include hearings where families would talk about missing and murdered sons, husbands [and] male loved ones,” Trottier said.

Still, there’s disagreement within the coalition about whether the inquiry’s terms need to be changed.

Commissioners, from left, Marion Buller, Qajaq Robinson, Marilyn Poitras, Michele Audette and Brian Eyolfson listen during the launch of the inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women back in August. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Commissioners, from left, Marion Buller, Qajaq Robinson, Marilyn Poitras, Michele Audette and Brian Eyolfson listen during the launch of the inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women back in August. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Trottier says yes, but Crey says he’s optimistic families of missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys will be allowed to share their stories.

“What I’m trying to do in my advocacy work is to try to reach out to these families and say … ‘Please go to the inquiry, and share your story.’ I don’t think these families will be turned away,” Crey said.

Their stories deserve to be told, but the question is whether splitting the focus of this particular inquiry is a useful idea.

The statistics would suggest the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls got its name for a reason.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/coalition-expand-violence-against-indigenous-women-1.3896346?cmp=abfb

MMIW Commission Won’t Hear Testimony from Families Until Spring 2017

This painting by artist Dave Fadden, called Scream of the Silenced, is a mosaic of tiny intricate designs, representing the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

This painting by artist Dave Fadden, called Scream of the Silenced, is a mosaic of tiny intricate designs, representing the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Families ‘in the dark’ 3 months after inquiry into missing and murdered women launched, advocate says

By Nicole Ireland, CBC News Posted: Dec 04, 2016

Three months after the official launch of the long-awaited inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, a spokesman says the commissioners won’t start hearing formal testimony from the families until the spring of 2017.

“It is important that we take the time to put necessary support systems in place, such as hiring staff and creating outreach plans, before formally beginning the inquiry process this spring,” said Michael Hutchinson, the commission’s recently appointed director of communications, in an email to CBC News.

The independent inquiry led by five commissioners formally began on Sept. 1. The federal government directed the commission to find out why hundreds of First Nations, Métis and Inuit women have disappeared or been murdered in Canada.

Its mandate includes making recommendations on how to remove systemic causes of violence and increase safety for Indigenous women and girls, as well as honouring those who have been killed or gone missing. The commission’s final report is due Nov. 1, 2018.

But Indigenous women’s advocates, initially relieved that their repeated calls for an inquiry had finally been heeded, say the families of missing and murdered women and girls have been “left in the dark” for the last three months.

From left, commissioners Marion Buller, Qajaq Robinson, Marilyn Poitras, Michele Audette and Brian Eyolfson listen during the launch of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Sept. 1. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

From left, commissioners Marion Buller, Qajaq Robinson, Marilyn Poitras, Michele Audette and Brian Eyolfson listen during the launch of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Sept. 1. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

“It’s very emotional for these families to figure out what’s going on,” said Francyne Joe, interim president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). “There’s been very, very limited movement forward.”

The testimony of survivors and families will be central to the inquiry’s work. But families haven’t been able to prepare themselves for the difficult task of telling their stories, Joe said, because they don’t know whether it will be a matter of weeks or months before they are called to testify.

Joe, who is from British Columbia, said an Indigenous women’s advocate in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has asked her to come and meet with families who are upset to the point that they’re talking about not taking part in the inquiry at all.

For years, families who have lost women and girls they love have come to NWAC for help, Joe said, and she hopes she’ll be able to help alleviate their concerns.

“I think as each week passes by, they’re feeling more and more disengaged,” she said. “This needs to be a transparent process.”

“We want to work with the commissioners. We want to make sure that this succeeds.”

Commission understands anxiety

After three months, the MMIW commission still doesn’t have a website for families wanting to find out more information on how to participate in the inquiry.

A government of Canada website provides some basic information and lists a toll-free crisis line people can call if they are dealing with trauma associated with missing and murdered Indigenous women. That website also states that the inquiry “is independent from the federal government” and that “contact information for the inquiry will be posted as soon as it is available.”

An MMIW inquiry website and “social channels” will be ready “within the next several weeks,” Hutchinson said.

Francyne Joe

Francyne Joe, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, says families of missing and murdered Indigenous women want the commission to let them know ‘what’s going on, when is it going on, what do I need to do?’ (Native Women’s Association of Canada )

Since September, the commission has been building its infrastructure and hiring staff, as well as “designing a trauma informed process to receive the statements and testimonies of the survivors and families,” a separate statement attributed to the inquiry commissioners said. “In addition, the commission is working toward the inclusion of Indigenous protocols and practices within its hearing process.”

Joe understands that it takes time to hire staff, including Indigenous counsellors and people to manage the information that will be collected throughout the inquiry. But Indigenous organizations were led to believe that consultations with families would start in January, she said, and she wishes they had been provided with “an honest timeline” from the beginning that they, in turn, could share with affected families.

“[It would have] lessened the amount of stress,” Joe said. “Families would feel more optimistic as to how things are going at this point.”

The national organization representing Inuit women, Pauktuutit, also expressed concern in October about a lack of information coming from the MMIW inquiry.

Commissioners have since started holding biweekly conference calls with Pauktuutit, NWAC and other Indigenous organizations to try to improve communication.

“We feel a bit better about being informed,” Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit, told CBC.

Rebecca Kudloo

‘We want this inquiry to be meaningful for Inuit, especially for the families,’ says Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. (Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada)

“We have promised the families of the murdered and missing that Pauktuutit will keep them updated as to what will happen with the inquiry,” she said. “We’re trying our very best.”

The commissioners recognize people’s frustration, but insist the time they’re taking to get things done is necessary.

“The commission understands that the survivors and families are anxious to have an opportunity to be heard,” according to its statement. “Towards that end, the commission is committed to designing a process which will respect the survivors, families, and all those who need to be heard and will promote reconciliation and healing across the country.”

Joe and Kudloo agree it’s critical the commission has culturally appropriate emotional support in place before, during and after those meetings.

“We don’t want the commission coming in, opening wounds and leaving,” said Kudloo.

But Joe said she believes it’s possible “to move forward faster, but still effectively.”

“This isn’t the first time the government has had an inquiry or a commission,” she said. “I mean, we want to make sure that the right supports are in place. But they knew this [before].”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/mmiw-commission-after-three-months-1.3876397