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Pepper spray and riot police: When the Manitoba Legislature was stormed in 1999

Fog from pepper spray drifts in front of police at the Manitoba Legislature on April 6, 1999, when protesters voicing concerns about poor First Nations housing, unemployment and land claims pushed past barricades and into the lobby. (CBC)

Manitoba has seen protests, but scene at U.S. Capitol this week was ‘a unique situation’: former premier

Opening day of Manitoba’s spring session of the legislature in 1999 became one marked by riot police, pepper spray and an angry crowd pushing its way through the doors.

“We have people trapped between the doors, please step back,” shouted a voice from a loudspeaker.

But even that day was a far cry from the scene at the U.S. Capitol this past week, which a former Manitoba premier — who later became Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. — describes as “a unique situation” incited by the president.

Back in April of 1999, a rally of about 500 people, led by Indigenous groups lobbying the Manitoba government for better housing and education and demanding action on poverty and unemployment, knocked down steel barricades and pushed past police to charge the front doors.

They were met by at least 70 police and sheriff’s officers, as well as riot police, who tackled some to the marble floor of the foyer.

“Somehow the Filmon government has to hear us, has to listen,” Bill Traverse, then-grand chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, said at the time about Gary Filmon’s Progressive Conservative government.

“We have to say what has to be said.”

WATCH | The Manitoba Legislature is stormed by protesters on April 6, 1999:

A large chunk of Traverse’s jacket was ripped off his back in the clash.

But it all quickly came to an end.

Several Indigenous leaders, such as Francis Flett, the grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, urged the crowd to let cooler heads prevail, according to a May 1999 report by Windspeaker News.

“We don’t want anyone injured here,” she said. “We’ve made our point and have sent a message to the government.”

Protesters pushed past the barricades at the Manitoba Legislative Building in 1999. (CBC).

It was a scene unusual in its intensity for the Manitoba Legislative Building, but as the provincial seat of government, the legislature has routinely been a rallying point for protests.

More recently, hundreds of people have descended on the legislative grounds for protests around Black Lives Matter, climate change, and against COVID-19 restrictions.

“Sometimes you almost have to have air traffic control, you know, when one or two groups are planning different issues to be protested at the same time,” said former premier Gary Doer, joking about how many people sometimes fill the grounds.

Usually, speeches are made, signs are waved and after a couple of hours the crowds peacefully disperse and move out.

But there have been times when the crowds pushed their way inside.

WATCH | Protesters storm through legislature doors in 1999:

Teachers storm the halls

In May 1996, about 300 teachers stormed the building to protest government proposals aimed at stripping their collective bargaining rights.

Crowding the hallways, they chanted “resign, resign” outside the office of education minister Linda McIntosh.

Earlier that day, at its annual general meeting, the Manitoba Teachers’ Society had denounced proposed government changes to collective bargaining. They then took their outrage to the legislative building.

“There is nothing as draconian as these proposals anywhere in Canada,” said then-MTS president Ken Pearce, according to a report by the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

“Teachers are angry on a level I’ve never seen before. And it’s no wonder. Our bargaining rights will become a mere shell of what they are now — we’ll all be reduced to collective begging,” he said.

WATCH | A 1996 CKND report on the teachers’ protest at the Manitoba Legislature:

Student sit-in

In 1990, university students rallied at the legislative building to protest what they said was underfunding of post-secondary institutions.

A crowd from the three Winnipeg universities and Brandon University chanted Filmon’s name in taunt of the premier while they listened to speeches from opposition party politicians.

“But before the Liberal spokesman could finish, all hell broke loose,” according to an account in the book Taché Hall: Celebrating a Century of Residence Life.

“What had started as a few people muttering ‘Storm the Lege’ had turned into loud cries. Everyone looked at each other, and as soon as we had enough confidence in ourselves as a group, all it took was one signal. Then we stormed the Lege.”

While security looked on, students scrambled up the legislature’s main stairs and filled the second- and third-floor balconies of the centre block, the account says.

“People were going nuts. No thinking involved, just reaction.”

Everyone assembled for a sit-in as the university student union presidents met with Filmon and emerged about an hour later.

“All Filmon had ‘promised’ was a later meeting,” the Taché Hall account says, noting the students felt hollow but headed out.

Washington chaos ‘unique’: Doer

None of the events in Manitoba can be compared in any way to the chaos that erupted at the Capitol in Washington this week, when a mob supporting outgoing President Donald Trump pushed past barricades and forced their way inside the U.S. Capitol.

Five people have now died — including a Capitol Hill police officer — as a result of the riot that happened hours after a Trump said at a rally he would “never concede” to president-elect Joe Biden, and urged the massive crowd to march to the Capitol.

In the Manitoba incidents, protesters weren’t goaded by someone holding the highest seat of power; they did not attack any security or make it beyond the foyer to ransack offices. No windows were broken. No one died.

While the events at the Capitol will go down in history, the ones at the Manitoba legislative building hardly register in online searches. Doer, who was leader of the Opposition NDP at the time, doesn’t recall the 1999 protest at all.

“I never felt unsafe in the building, and I don’t recall anything that made me feel unsafe inside the legislative building,” said Doer, who is also familiar with the seats of power in the United States, where he was Canadian ambassador from 2009 until 2016.

“I noticed that when the Washington rioters were besieging the Capitol Hill, a lot of the windows were broken and the doors seemed to be pretty porous, which surprised me, having gone through that building a number of times when I was ambassador.”

That said, Doer noted he never felt unsafe in Washington, either.

“I witnessed the almost daily protests walking right by the embassy of Canada, on the way to the Capitol building … and there was never an experience of anything that represented a risk inside the building until this week,” he said.

When he attended the Capitol building for the state of the union address, “the security was incredible,” Doer says.

“So this [riot at the Capitol] was a unique situation, in my view. It was incited by President Trump,” he said. “It started with the president signaling it and messaging it and encouraging it this week.”

Given that, he’s surprised security wasn’t tighter.

Despite the rarity of such outbreaks of disorder, Doer has no doubt “every legislature in Canada” is re-evaluating security procedures.

“You don’t want to ever [reveal] what your security procedures are because you don’t want, tactically, to be conveying that to people that may be interested to know what your vulnerabilities might be,” he said.

“I’m sure the emergency measures people, and the security people are reviewing it, but quietly.”

By: Darren Bernhardt · CBC News · 

[SOURCE]

‘Shift in perspective:’ Indigenous place names moving Canada from colonial past

From left to right, Christina Hardie, Robert Houle, Roxanne Tootoosis, Lynda Minoose, Noella Steinhauer, Lillian Gadwa, Terri Suntjens, Theresa Strawberry, Edna Elias and Beatrice Morin are shown in this undated handout image. THE CANADIAN PRESS

EDMONTON — To Terri Suntjens, symbolism means everything.

That’s why she decided to get involved with the City of Edmonton’s initiative to rename its wards. Suntjens, who is from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, became a co-chair of the Indigenous Naming Committee.

“Our elders talk to us about how symbolism is so important,” says Suntjens, who is also director of Indigenous initiatives at Edmonton’s MacEwan University.

“And we can teach from that.”

Earlier this month, the city passed a bylaw to give its 12 numbered wards Indigenous names.

A committee of Indigenous women chose the names, which come from nine groups: Cree, Dene, Inuit, Blackfoot, Anishinaabe, Michif (Métis), Mohawk (Michel Band), Sioux and Papaschase.

Edmonton is a gathering place for all nations, Suntjens says, so it was important to consult with elders across the province.

The decision by Alberta’s capital to give its wards Indigenous names is an example of a movement in Canada away from names or figures with colonial connections.

In the summer, a group toppled a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Montreal after a peaceful march through the city’s downtown, one of several demonstrations held across the country by a coalition of Black and Indigenous activists.

Other statues of Canada’s first prime minister have been a point of contention, too, as some want them removed because of his troubled history with Indigenous people.

In Halifax,a group including the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs recommended a statue dedicated to city founder Edward Cornwallis be permanently removed, and a street and a park honouring him also be renamed.

Commemoration of Cornwallis, a British officer accused of genocide against Indigenous people, is incompatible with current values, the group said in a report in July.

Suntjens says there are schools across the country named after people with problematic colonial histories. Her committee decided early on to stay away from naming Edmonton’s wards after people and to honour the land instead.

“We do not think of people as above us or below us,” Suntjens says. “We don’t put people up on pedestals. That is not our way.”

The name for Edmonton’s former Ward 2, for example, is Aniriq, meaning breath of life or spirit in Inuktun. It was recommended by Inuit elders to honour their people who died of tuberculosis in Edmonton.

In the 1950s and ’60s, about one-third of Inuit were infected with the illness and most were flown south for treatment. Many died without their families being notified and were buried in cemeteries in the city.

Rob Houle, an Indigenous writer and researcher who also served on the renaming committee, says feedback has mostly been positive, but some councillors showed resistance.

“Some might have expected these Indigenous names for the wards to be easier or introductory in nature, but that is not what we were tasked to do.”

That kind of reaction prompted Edmonton Coun. Aaron Paquette to tweet: “For those who might be worried about pronouncing the potential new ward names … if we can pronounce Saskatchewan, we can do anything.”

In British Columbia, a plan in March to use Indigenous names for some communities along the Sunshine Coast was met with backlash.

Peter Robson, president of the Pender Harbour and Area Residents Association, says there was no warning or consultation with non-Indigenous people in the area.

He says his community of Madeira Park was to be renamed “salalus” as part of an agreement between the B.C. government and the Sechelt Nation in 2018.

“One cannot deny that (Sechelt) Nation people lived here before non-Indigenous people. However, there is also a newer history of the land … that too deserves recognition,” read Robson’s letter to the provincial government.

A more successful project happened in Alberta in September, when a racist and misogynistic nickname for a landmark on Mount Charles Stewart in the Rocky Mountains was removed. Elders chose to bring back the feature’s original name: Anu katha Ipa, or Bald Eagle Peak.

Christina Gray, a B.C.-based lawyer and research fellow with the Yellowhead Institute, a First-Nations-led think tank, commends Edmonton’s naming project and says she hopes to see other jurisdictions follow.

“This year in particular, we’ve seen a tidal shift in perspective, especially around problematic figures throughout Canadian history,” Gray says.

“It is also changing in so many different countries that have also experienced colonialism and imperialism.”

By: Daniela Germano / The Canadian Press published Dec. 25, 2020.

[SOURCE]

10 correctional officers charged following death of Indigenous man in N.L. jail

Jonathan Henoche died about a year ago in Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, shown in St. John’s, N.L. in a 2020 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sarah Smellie

ST. JOHN’S, N.L — Ten correctional officers have been charged with crimes ranging from manslaughter to criminal negligence causing death in connection with the 2019 death of an Inuk man in a St. John’s jail.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary announced the charges in a Tuesday news release that didn’t include the officers’ identities, when they were arrested or under what conditions they were released.

RNC Const. James Cadigan said in an interview that the correctional officers’ identities will not be released until the charges are sworn in court, which he said must happen before Feb. 11, when the 10 officers are due before a judge.

Cadigan said the 10 correctional officers were released under conditions set by police and that they have not received a bail hearing.

The charges follow the death of Jonathan Henoche, a 33-year-old Inuk man from Labrador, who died at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary on Nov. 6, 2019, after an alleged altercation with correctional officers. He had been awaiting trial on charges including first-degree murder in relation to the 2016 death of an 88-year-old woman in Labrador.

Shortly after Henoche died, police announced his death was being investigated as a homicide.

Bob Buckingham, a St. John’s lawyer representing Henoche’s family, said Tuesday it is “abhorrent” the officers have been released under police-imposed conditions and that their names have not been made public.

“I have never seen a case where one individual has been charged with manslaughter and allowed to go home, let alone a cabal of 10 correctional officers charged with the care and custody of an individual be charged like this, and not be brought to court,” he said. “It is reprehensible.”

Tuesday’s news release by police said one correctional officer is charged with manslaughter and failure to provide necessities of life; two officers are charged with manslaughter; and the remaining seven officers are charged with criminal negligence causing death.

The accused range in age from 28 to 51. Two of the officers facing criminal negligence charges are women, both in their 30s.

Since 2019, Buckingham has been calling for a public inquiry into Henoche’s death. He said the way this case is being handled brings urgency to the need for a public inquiry.

Jonathan Henoche, 33, was killed inside Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s in November 2019 while awaiting trial for first-degree murder. (Facebook)

The correctional officers, Buckingham said, are being afforded protections and favouritism.

Buckingham said it’s “unbelievable” the 10 officers are home under undisclosed conditions.

When asked if it was customary for people facing manslaughter charges to be released on orders to appear in court at a later date, Cadigan said it is “all within the confines of the law, based on the charges.”

Robert Hoskins, a St. John’s lawyer who had represented Henoche with Buckingham, responded to the RNC news release on Twitter: “As an aboriginal myself, it’s hard not to look at this through the lens of systemic racism,” he wrote.

Hoskins said that by not releasing the officers’ names, police are “offering extra protections that are not usually offered.”

“How many aboriginal accused persons get to have their bail hearings deferred on manslaughter charges? Or get to have their names withheld from the media?”

A spokeswoman for the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, which represents corrections officers, said Tuesday it couldn’t comment on the case.

By: The Canadian Press, published Dec. 22, 2020.

[SOURCE]

Man Kicked Off Hospital Property For Burning Plant Outside Father’s Window In Prayer

Screenshot News 9.

For more than two weeks, David Deer visited his father’s hospital window daily during his battle with COVID-19. Each time, he burned cedar outside the building in prayer.

“I just came every day to lift my dad up and lift this hospital up,” Deer said.

Last week, Chickasaw Lighthorse police ordered Deer to leave the property and had a conversation with a hospital staff member. Deer, a member of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, broadcasted the interactions on Facebook.

In the video, an unidentified staff member told Deer it was “against the law” to burn cedar on hospital property.

In response, Deer and others organized a protest at the hospital. A group of about 30 people walked to a courtyard and peacefully prayed. Hospital staff helped orchestrate the demonstration to ensure patient privacy was protected.

The goal of the protest was to call out the Chickasaw staff and to make sure other natives are not discriminated against based on faith, Deer said.

Screenshot News 9.

“Someone has to be held accountable or this is going to happen again. And we don’t want this to happen again,” he said.

Kevin R. Kemper, Deer’s attorney said they are meeting with members of the Chickasaw government to discuss the issue and possible remedies. Kemper said they are prepared to file a lawsuit in the matter if discussions are not productive.

“We’re not backing down,” he said. “A man who is praying over a dying father. If he can’t say those prayers in the way that he believes in the depths of his heart, then we have way more problems worse than COVID.”

Kevin Meeks, the deputy secretary of the Chickasaw Department of Health issued a statement following News 9’s request for comment.

“COVID-19 has created many challenges and obstacles in health care,” Meeks said. “We are constantly working to adapt to those challenges including our addressing the need for family members to visit patients from outside their window while protecting the privacy of all patients. We have always valued traditional and religious practices and have processes in place to honor those traditions while ensuring all safety requirements are met. We have reviewed our policy and are equipped to safely accommodate requests for ceremonial smudging, burning of cedar or sage outdoors. Our goal is to continue providing quality care to our patients as we navigate these evolving times.”

By: Barry Mangold, News 9, posted on December 8th 2020

[SOURCE]

Demonstration for Black, Indigenous lives sets up at Ottawa intersection

Organizers plan to stay at Laurier and Nicholas until city officials listen to demands

Advocates calling for changes to Ottawa’s budget, police policies and more say they’ll stay at an intersection near the University of Ottawa until the city listens to their demands.

The Day of Action for Anishinabeg and Black Lives is organized by a collection of groups including Justice for Abdirahman, formed after the death of Abdirahman Abdi during a violent arrest in 2016.

They’ve been at the intersection of Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street since Thursday afternoon and say they plan to be there until the city and police start talking to them about meaningful changes.

“At the end of the day, we want folks to be enraged that they have to take alternative routes,” said Vanessa Dorimain, co-chair for Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition and one of the demonstration’s organizers.

“We want folks to be uncomfortable. We want folks to be inconvenienced, because this is how we feel constantly living in this city and in this province and in this country.”

Dozens of people were at a protest camp in a central Ottawa intersection the morning of Nov. 20, 2020, calling for changes to the city’s policies and budget. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

List of demands

A list of 10 demands shared on social media by Justice for Abdirahman include calling upon city council to vote down a $13.2-million increase to the Ottawa police budget, changing police policies around dynamic entries and mental health call responses and ending racism in schools and the health-care system.

“We’re standing hand in hand together against the injustice that happened within our communities, and also to show the city that we will not take any more police violence,” said Ifrah Yusuf, co-chair of Justice for Abdirahman coalition and another organizer.

Canadians need to also be made aware that systemic racism is not something solely happening south of the border, said Dorimain.

While there was an outpouring of anger after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Dorimain said it’s not the same when there’s similar violence here in Canada.

“I think in Canada, especially, we act as if this doesn’t exist … but I mean, folks, it’s right here. We’re going through this every day right here. Be enraged at home because we’re going through it here,” she said.

“I think that it is a little bit disappointing that I feel like Canadians need to feel or need to see a boot on my neck in order for you to understand that racism is alive and well.”

Vanessa Dorimain, co-chair for Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition, says the group plans to stay at the intersection until a dialogue is started with City of Ottawa officials and police about ending systemic violence and injustice. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

1 injured Thursday

Organizers said one person suffered minor injuries when the driver of a car drove into a line of protesters Thursday afternoon, and were disappointed some people were so impatient they couldn’t wait mere minutes.

They also said the response by police was slow.

“Police do not recognize us as an urgency. They do not protect our bodies. They do not care about our voice. They do not care about us and more importantly not meant to protect us,” said Dorimain.

As of noon Friday, Laurier Avenue was closed between Elgin Street and King Edward Avenue. Nicholas Street was closed from Daly Avenue to Highway 417, meaning drivers can’t get off the highway at the Nicholas exit.

In an email to CBC, the Ottawa Police Service said they were on scene Friday morning directing traffic and “ensuring the safety of those involved.”

Police said they were investigating Thursday’s incident and that there was no timeline for ending the roadblocks.

Organizers say there’s been an outpouring of support from the community who have donated a number of items, including food, coffee, tents and firewood. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

With files from Kimberley Molina

By: CBC News · Posted: Nov 20, 2020

[SOURCE]