Sindy Ruperthouse Homicide: Police Issue $40K Reward

Family members say Sindy Ruperthouse was last seen in April 2014. (Radio-Canada)

Family members say Sindy Ruperthouse was last seen in April 2014. (Radio-Canada)

CBC News

Family members say Ruperthouse last seen in April 2014

Quebec provincial police have issued a $40,000 reward for any information that can solve the case of Sindy Ruperthouse, the Algonquin woman whose disappearance heightened concern about the treatment of aboriginal women in Val-d’Or.

The Sûreté du Québec issued a release Wednesday describing Ruperthouse as five foot four inches tall and 131 lbs, with brown eyes and black hair.

Family members say Ruperthouse was last seen in April 2014.

However, the police statement says she went missing on April 24, 2015 and was 44 years old at the time.

Her parents, Johnny Wylde and Émilie Ruperthouse Wylde, have previously raised concerns about the SQ’s handling of the case.

Radio-Canada’s investigative program Enquête looked into the matter and, in the process, uncovered a larger story about allegations of assault by police against aboriginal women.

Johnny Wylde

Johnny Wylde raised questions about the SQ’s handling of Sindy Ruperthouse’s disappearance. (CBC)

After her case received widespread attention, the SQ announced this fall it was investigating her disappearance as a homicide, even though her body has not been found.

The Grand Council of the Cree has also offered a $50,000 reward to anyone with information on Ruperthouse’s whereabouts.

Anyone with information is asked to call the SQ at 1-800-659-4264.


Police Street Checks: Valuable Investigative Tool Or Racial Profiling?


Edmonton Police defend the practice of random street checks.

By Andrea Huncar, CBC News Posted: Sep 14, 2015

While Edmonton police defend ‘carding,’ critics say random checks target aboriginal, other racialized groups

Robert L’Hirondelle speaks openly about his past problems: leukemia, alcohol, homelessness, an assault conviction.

But these days, he’s sober, stays out of trouble and can often be spotted performing in downtown Edmonton.

That’s where he recently bumped into a pair of patrol officers. He shared the story with them of how he turned his life around.

One officer praised L’Hirondelle. The other began questioning how he made his money.

“I was kind of put on the spot, so I kind of froze up. And I have an anxiety disorder and my anxiety started to kick in,” recalled L’Hirondelle, 22.

‘As a young aboriginal male who had problems with addiction and now is doing well for himself, police target me.’ – Robert L’Hirondelle

The officer asked for his identification to run his name through the police computer system for warrants.

Robert L'Hirondelle

Robert L’Hirondelle, 22, claims Edmonton police ‘target me.’ (Andrea Huncar/CBC)

“He told me: ‘Oh I just want to put a note in our system that we ran into you and that you’re doing good. Are you OK with that?'”

L’Hirondelle wasn’t OK with that. He exercised his legal rights and said no. By law, unless someone is under arrest, that person is not required to answer questions or provide identification.

The officer persisted but his partner pulled him away. The incident still haunts L’Hirondelle.

“As a young aboriginal male who had problems with addiction and now is doing well for himself, police target me,” claimed L’Hirondelle.

“I literally try to hide myself from police when I’m down here. I shouldn’t have a reason to be fearful of these officers, but I’m literally scared to come downtown.”

Tens of thousands stopped randomly

Each year, Edmonton police randomly stop, question and document tens of thousands of citizens who are not under arrest. It’s a practice police call street checks, but others know it as carding.

Figures provided by Edmonton police show between 2011 and 2014, officers carded an average 26,000-plus people per year, a total of 105,306 over four years.

Police insist street checks help solve and prevent crimes. Acting Staff Sgt. Brent Dahlseide, in charge of downtown foot patrols, said the stops aren’t motivated by race.

“It’s not who. It’s the behaviour,” or the location, said Dahlseide.

“I know we don’t racially profile. I would be very taken aback if somebody came up and told me that my members who I’m putting out on the street daily were conducting their business in a racial manner. It would really surprise and shock me.”

Dahlseide said street checks might be misperceived as racial profiling based on preconceived notions about police, or when more checks are conducted in an area heavily populated by one visible minority group.

Asked about L’Hirondelle’s case, he said the officer could have been checking for an outstanding warrant, so it wouldn’t come back to “bite him [L’Hirondelle] in the butt.”

If there was a warrant, the situation might simply have been cleared up with a promise to appear in court, and L’Hirondelle would have been allowed to carry on his way.

‘Moving towards a police state’

When he was younger, Lewis Cardinal said he remembers being stopped regularly by Edmonton police and being aggressively questioned walking to and from work.

Now, Cardinal, vice-chair of the Aboriginal Commission for Human Rights and Justice, said he thinks those kind of random checks are happening even more, as the urban aboriginal population explodes and many on low income live in high-crime areas.

Lewis cardinal

Lewis Cardinal, vice-chair of the Aboriginal Commission for Human Rights and Justice, believes random police checks are happening more: ‘We are being stopped, questioned.’ (Andrea Huncar/CBC)

“It seems to us we are moving more towards a police state,” Cardinal said.

“We are being stopped, questioned: ‘Where is your identification, who are you, what are you doing here.'”

Cardinal stressed he has overall respect for police who put their lives in harm’s way. But when human rights are overlooked, questions need to be raised, he added.

‘I know for a fact that information from street checks helped link an individual to either our victim or to a subject where we needed to help identify the persons involved.’ – Acting Staff Sgt. Brent Dahlseide

Cardinal said it’s not uncommon to hear someone say they were “stopped for being aboriginal” even though the person was just minding his or her own business. Outreach workers in some immigrant communities told CBC it is happening to them as well.

“They feel that they are being targeted because of who they are, because of the colour of their skin,” said Cardinal.

“There’s a lot more aboriginal people and people of color being stopped than anyone else. So that speaks a lot to profiling.”

Street checks ‘invaluable’ for probes: police

In fact, there are no hard police statistics to back that up.

Not every street check is documented. But those generating “notable information” are recorded, including information such as gang affiliations, a description of the individual and race, said Dahlseide.

Dahlseide said police don’t keep tallies broken down by ethnicity for people who are street checked. While it may be difficult to prove statistically, Dahlseide said he’s confident street checks are “invaluable” for solving crime.

“I know for a fact that information from street checks helped link an individual to either our victim or to a subject where we needed to help identify the persons involved,” said Dahlseide, who spent four years with the city homicide unit.

When a subject’s name is searched,  all files associated with that person come up, he noted.

“One street check may be something we have used for the furthering of five or six different types of investigations,” Dahlseide said.

Critics say there’s no proof that street checks help to reduce crime.

“There’s no evidence that really demonstrates that doing all this street checking is really preventing crime in any way,” said Cardinal.

Street checks under review in Ontario

In Ontario, street checks are under review after a firestorm set off by data confirming people of colour are carded disproportionately. The issue gained prominence by the personal account of black freelance journalist Desmond Cole, who revealed police had interrogated him in random checks more than 50 times.

“You know being a member of a minority is not a crime and it’s not a reason to be suspicious of anybody,” said D’Arcy DePoe, past president of the Alberta’s Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association.

“If you start with the assumption that a group of black kids is up to no good — well then you’re going to card that group of black kids. But would the same group of white kids in the same neighbourhood get carded? The statistics tell us that minorities get carded, let’s find out why. ”

Adrian LaChance is manager of the Running Thunder Dancers aboriginal group. He served time in prison for drug trafficking, and doesn’t mind being stopped for ID.

“I think, ‘Yeah, cool, right on.’ They’re looking out for the best interests of  the community and I’m OK with that,” he said.

“They have a job to do — they’re looking out for each and every one of us — and for people saying they’re just focusing only on aboriginal people, it’s nonsense. They have a job to do — they can feel that energy that people give off if they’re trying to hide stuff.”

But L’Hirondelle said random street checks on aboriginals remain a concern for him, which is why he’s speaking out.

“I just really want to let people know that if it’s happened to me, it [could] happen to you.”

OPP To Issue Report On Missing And Murdered Aboriginal Men, Women

A final report by the OPP looking into cases of missing and murdered aboriginal men and women has now been drafted and the force is consulting with stakeholders. (J.P. MOCZULSKI For The Globe and Mail)

The Globe and Mail

Ontario’s provincial police force is finalizing a report on the unsolved murders and disappearances of aboriginal women – and men – that have occurred within its jurisdiction, raising the hopes of First Nations that some investigations will be reopened.

The RCMP have acknowledged more than 1,200 cases in Canada of murdered and missing aboriginal women between 1980 and 2014. Now other forces, including the Ontario Provincial Police, are assessing the scope of the problem in their own regions.

The trails of many of the perpetrators have gone cold and, in many instances, the killers are no longer being actively sought. But increased determination on the part of police agencies across the country to solve crimes against Canada’s indigenous women and girls, along with improved investigative techniques, raises the possibility that some grieving families may finally get the answers they have been seeking.

Supt. Mark Pritchard, the commander of the OPP’s aboriginal policing bureau, said the work of compiling a list of the cases and the details surrounding them began three years ago and arose out of concerns expressed by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Sisters in Spirit movement.

While those groups focused on the number of aboriginal woman being slain, Supt. Pritchard said the OPP decided to also look at the cases of missing and murdered aboriginal men. A final report has now been drafted and the force is consulting with stakeholders.

“The report names specific people and locations and dates,” Supt. Pritchard said. “For every one of those, we want to touch base with the families and let them know that it’s happening and also let them see it.”

Once the report is made public, he said, “there is always a value in fresh eyes looking at old cases and technology changes, new approaches, new investigative techniques … .”

Ray Michalko, a former RCMP officer who is a private investigator in British Columbia, said he believes there would be much to gain from the reopening of cold cases involving aboriginal victims in every part of Canada.

Police in B.C. say that “back in the day,” they were not given the resources to adequately investigate the murders and disappearances of indigenous people, Mr. Michalko said. “If I am right, then there are going to be cases across the country where more could have been done or should have been done,” he said. “Maybe by reviewing these files, they may come up with something.”

Families of victims remain skeptical that the police are truly interested in finding out what happened to their loved ones – especially in those cases where much time has passed.

Tamara Chipman, the 22-year-old mother of a two-year-old boy, vanished 10 years ago this month while hitchhiking out of Prince Rupert, B.C., the northernmost tip of the what is known as the Highway of Tears. Her aunt, Gladys Radek, has spent the past decade raising awareness about the problem of the missing and murdered women.

In Ms. Chipman’s case, the police were not notified until a few weeks after she vanished. “It was pretty much a cold case for them and I think they pretty much gave up on her almost immediately,” Ms. Radek said.

If there was any interest on the part of cold-case investigators to take a new look at her disappearance, “we would love to see that happen,” she said. “But I doubt it will. There is a lot of racism with the police, a lot of stereotyping.”

Still, some First Nations leaders are optimistic that the amount of recent publicity given to the murders of aboriginal women could see cold cases reopened and crimes solved.

“The reality is that First Nations women were really second-class, third-class citizens and that’s why we’re dealing with these cases,” said Isadore Day, the Ontario regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations. But “the culture has changed. Social justice is real. There’s a lot more transparency and accountability on the part of the police agencies and I think willingness from folks like the Ontario Provincial Police.”

Once the OPP release their report, the cases it outlines could jog memories, he said. “We may see people step forward and talk about those cases that they wouldn’t have in the past.”

Native Vote Could Make The Difference In Canada’s Elections

Hundreds of supporters gather on Parliament Hill, in support of a group of young aboriginal people who traveled 1,600 km on foot from the James Bay Cree community of Whapmagoostui, Quebec on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday March 25, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Fred Chartrand

Hundreds of supporters gather on Parliament Hill, in support of a group of young aboriginal people who traveled 1,600 km on foot from the James Bay Cree community of Whapmagoostui, Quebec on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday March 25, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Fred Chartrand

The Huffington Post

But voter ID laws could prevent indigenous Canadians from exercising their democratic right.

Canada is facing a critical moment in its history.

The Canadian dollar is at an 11-year low, and some say the country is in a recession. Oil producers in the tar sands are selling at a loss. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which had banked on turning the country into a sort of petrostate, is now mired in scandals. Author Stephen Marche’s scathing critique of the Harper administration, entitled “The Closing of the Canadian Mind,” recently became the most-read story in The New York Times.

Meanwhile, in oil-rich and notoriously conservative Alberta, the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) swept to victory in the May provincial elections — a seismic shift that Globe and Mail columnist Doug Sanders described in a tweet as akin to “Bernie Sanders becoming Texas governor by a big majority.”

With national elections scheduled for Oct. 19, an unlikely voting bloc could play a key role in deciding the future direction of the country: Native people.

The Assembly of First Nations has identified 51 “ridings,” or electoral districts, out of a total of 338 throughout the country, where the Native vote could swing the election. The AFN is a national advocacy organization that represents more than 900,000 status Indians (indigenous peoples governed under the Indian Act) hailing from 634 Native communities across Canada.

“[O]f course, that can make and mean the difference between a majority government and a minority government,” AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde told The Huffington Post. “Our issues matter, our voices matter and our vote counts.”

Canada’s two minority parties, the left-wing New Democratic Party led by Tom Mulcair and the centrist Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau, have taken notice. They’re counting on a strong turnout by Native voters to oust incumbent Harper’s Conservative majority.

This all might be a bit surprising to Americans — who have never had to think about the Native vote in national elections, and are accustomed to campaigns defined by a standoff between Democrats and Republicans, rather than a dance between three or four political parties. In the U.S., third parties rarely factor in national politics. In Canada, where three or four political parties are often embroiled in a tight race, any one political party could rarely, if ever, hope to win a popular majority of the vote.

This is partially because Canada uses a parliamentary system handed down from the United Kingdom. Instead of voting directly for prime minister, Canadians vote for the member of Parliament that will represent their riding in a first-past-the-post election. The party that wins the most ridings usually forms a government with its leader as prime minister.

Recent polls suggest that Harper’s Conservatives will likely lose their majority in October, and that the NDP will form a minority government with Tom Mulcair as prime minister.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

A rally against the proposed Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia, Canada. CREDIT: MARK KLOTZ/FLICKR

A rally against the proposed Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia, Canada. CREDIT: MARK KLOTZ/FLICKR

The Idle No More Movement

The Harper years have been defined by unrest among the poorest of Canada’s poor: Native people.

Under the banner of the Idle No More Movement, the indigenous Canadian equivalent of Occupy Wall Street, Native people led marches and protests against Harper government policies that underfunded aboriginal social services and promoted nonconsensual natural resource development in territories claimed by indigenous nations. The movement shut down railways, malls and highways across Canada and sparked solidarity protests around the world.

“We’ve had the Idle No More Movement … because we are saying the status quo is not acceptable,” said Bellegarde. “The poverty, the marginalization is not acceptable, and people want to see that change in our country.”

The impact of Idle No More continues to reverberate in Native communities across Canada, and in the runup to national elections, Mulcair’s NDP and Trudeau’s Liberals have tried to turn Native frustrations with Harper into votes for their respective parties.

Both opposition leaders spoke at last month’s AFN general assembly, taking shots at the Conservatives and making promises to promote reconciliation in line with the findings of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission June 2015 report on widespread abuses inresidential schools that many Native people were forced to attend.

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">MP Charlie Angus stands with Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, prior to challenging a federal decision to suppress police and court evidence of abuse against children at the St. Anne's Residential School in 2013.</span>

Charlie Angus stands with Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, prior to challenging a federal decision to suppress police and court evidence of abuse against children at the St. Anne’s Residential School in 2013. CREDIT: VINCE TALOTTA/GETTY IMAGESMP

Ambitious Book Rocks Tight Race

Now, less than two months before the national elections, NDP member Charlie Angus is coming out with a new book, Children of the Broken Treaty. Angus — the MP of the northern Ontario constituency of Timmins-James Bay and one of Maclean’s Magazine’s 25 most powerful Canadians in 2012 — details the fight for aboriginal education rights in the Cree community of Attawapiskat. The community is covered by Treaty 9 in northern Ontario, which was signed by indigenous nations in 1905, relinquishing vast northern territories to Canada.

The community of Attawapiskat is familiar to many Canadians, and has become a symbol for the government’s neglect of Native people. It’s kind of like the Ferguson, Missouri, of Canada.

It’s notable that Angus published a book about Native education in Attawapiskat the same year the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its report. It would be like Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) writing a book about policing in Ferguson in the runup to the 2016 presidential elections.

Although Angus claims he didn’t write Children of the Broken Treaty to win the Native vote, the publication of a book by a prominent NDP leader suggests that Native issues and Native voters will be important to this campaign.

Children of the Broken Treaty focuses on the story of Shannen Koostachin, a young Cree woman who insisted upon her right to a decent education. Before Koostachin died in a car accident in 2010, she had became a well-known Canadian activist: TV personality George Stroumboulopoulos described her as one of “five teenage girls who kicked ass in history.” After her death, Canadian youth carried on her legacy through the Shannen’s Dream campaign, which Angus introduced as a motion to the House of Commons in 2011 to provide adequate funding to deliver equal education to Native communities. It passed unanimously in 2012.

Throughout the book, Angus makes the case that Canada has denied Native children their basic rights to education through a callous history of broken treaties, empty promises and bureaucratic neglect — an ongoing reality that is central to Canadian history.

“Treaty 9 transferred some of the richest hydro, mineral and timber wealth in the world to the province and the federal government,” Angus explained to HuffPost. “At the signing of the treaty, Ontario is an economic backwater — it’s nowheresville in terms of the economy. Yet, from the access to those resources, Ontario emerges as one of the economic powerhouses on the continent, while the treaty partners [First Nations] in Treaty 9 are some of the poorest, most underfunded failed communities in Canada.”

Angus emphasizes in his book that the promise of education was key to convincing Native communities to sign treaties that relinquished their lands to Canada. But those promises were never kept, and their legacy remains in the chronic underfunding of Native education by the Conservative government, he argues.

“We need to be talking about the systemic inequity in this country towards indigenous children and indigenous rights,” said Angus. “The Harper government is actually trying to set the colonial clock back.”

With the NDP holding a small lead, and Native issues continuing to make headlines, Children of the Broken Treaty could play a key role in the fight for the Native vote leading up to the elections.

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">Robert Falcon-Ouellette is challenging NDP incumbent Pat Martin in inner-city Winnipeg, Manitoba.</span>

Robert Falcon-Ouellette is challenging NDP incumbent Pat Martin in inner-city Winnipeg, Manitoba. CREDIT: RHODA KWANDIBENS

Liberals Recruit Young Native Politician

Although the Liberals are not releasing any books from the campaign trail, they too are making a case for the aboriginal vote, and their first policy announcement focused on Native education.

In the riding of Winnipeg Centre — which covers the poor inner city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, an area populated by an underclass of Native people — the Liberals have nominated Robert Falcon-Ouellette, a Cree hailing from the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan, to challenge incumbent NDP MP Pat Martin.

Ouellette, 38, was somewhat of a Cinderella candidate in Winnipeg’s mayoral elections, coming out of nowhere to finish a respectable third by talking about issues of race and class facing the city’s indigenous poor.

Ouellette had opportunities to join other parties, but ultimately decided to run for the Liberals. He considered joining the NDP, but said he was deterred by the Manitoba provincial NDP’s troubled record of removing Native children from their communities and families through the provincial foster care system, in which Native children comprise nearly 90 percent of the system’s 10,000 children. Native leaders and critics have compared the foster care crisis in Manitoba to the residential school system.

“The NDP [in Manitoba] has actually contributed to creating this situation of this large indigenous underclass with their child and family services system,” Ouellette told HuffPost. “The reason I believe [this injustice] is perpetrated by a socialist government, the NDP — a government that should be for the people — is because they just take [the Native vote] for granted.”

Ouellette says there are advantages to being positioned in the political center, and sees being a challenger as an advantage. “The Liberal Party is in the middle: it gives me the opportunity to talk to people on the right of the political spectrum and on the left of the political spectrum,” Ouellette said. “This is why I love the Liberal Party: it’s a party that has to prove itself every day.”

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">A Native boy outside his house on the Lil'Wat Nation reserve in Mount Currie, British Columbia.</span>

A Native boy outside his house on the Lil’Wat Nation reserve in Mount Currie, British Columbia. CREDIT: ANDREW MEDICHINI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Voter ID Laws

But in their pursuit of the Native vote, both Ouellette and Trudeau’s Liberals and Angus and Mulcair’s NDP will have to overcome the new, so-called “Fair Election” voting law imposed by the Harper government. The legislation requires potential voters to provide proper identification that includes their address — or to have another person with two forms of proper identification vouch for them. It also eliminates the practice of issuing voter information cards, which enabled potential voters to corroborate their address if they didn’t have the right ID.

The Conservative government claims the law will prevent voter fraud. However, critics say that the new more stringent rules are unnecessary, and will prevent students, the poor and indigenous people from voting — much like the voter ID laws the Republican Party has implemented in the U.S.

For Native people in Canada, an Indian status card is sometimes their only form of identification. Status cards do not include an address, and many rural Indian reserves where Native people live do not demarcate streets and house numbers anyway.

Ouellette illustrates this problem when he discusses his door-to-door campaigning in inner-city Winnipeg. There, Native people are so poor they have no telephone or TV bills to prove their residency, no driver’s licenses or money to pay for government-issued IDs, and no credit cards or health papers, either. It all adds up to no opportunity to participate in elections — when, for the first time, many are actually expressing an interest in voting.

“The Fair Elections Act is the bane of my existence,” Ouellette said. “I think it’s just taking some of the things the Republican Party has been putting forward in the United States to disenfranchise voters and take away their constitutional rights.”

For its part, the Conservative Party is pushing back against the bad name it has received from the opposition parties and many Native people. Against Angus’s research, which points to the Harper government’s underfunding of social services in Native communities, spokesman Stephen Lecce touted the party’s record on education and other issues in an email to HuffPost.

“Under Prime Minister Harper, we have taken action to improve the quality of life of Canadian First Nations by increasing investment in Aboriginal education by 25%,” Lecce wrote. “We have built over 40 new schools for Aboriginals, gave women living on reserves the same matrimonial rights as all Canadians and enhanced skills training to ensure they take full advantage of Canada’s economic prosperity.”

He also defended the Fair Elections Act. “Our changes enable voting while protecting the integrity of the system,” Lecce added. “These changes also reflect that almost 90% of Canadians believe it’s reasonable to require some form of identification in order to vote. Elections Canada now permits the use of over 40 different pieces of identification, including an Indian status card, band membership card or Métis card.”

No polls currently have data that predicts how Native voters will cast their ballots in October. However, history can be instructive, and an analysis of Elections Canada data from 2011 shows the NDP was the favorite on Indian reserves, garnering 43 percent of the vote — an eye-catching 12 points higher than the party’s performance among the general population.

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption"><span style="color: #262626; font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 16px;">The Idle No More Movement holds a protest on Parliament Hill.</span></span>

The Idle No More Movement holds a protest on Parliament Hill. CREDIT: AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Native Visions For Canada

Despite these new bureaucratic obstacles, Bellegarde and the AFN are encouraging all Native people to get out and vote. “We have an opportunity on October 19th to make the difference between a majority and a minority government, to make sure that our issues and concerns are heard,” he said. “We can’t be put to the side any longer. We need to work collectively together to close the gap that exists [between Native people and the rest of Canada], and it’s a great opportunity now to take advantage of that and bring about that change. Our people have a vision for Canada as well.”

Angus agrees that now is the time to seize a historic moment for Canada and its indigenous peoples.

“We will never be the nation we were meant to be until we understand that the real wealth in our nation isn’t what’s in the ground; it’s in these underfunded, isolated reserves where these children are,” he said. “When you look into their eyes and see the possibility of change and power — these are our future leaders. And woe to us if we don’t recognize that we simply can’t afford to squander another generation.”

RCMP Expected To Release New Report On Murdered, Missing Indigenous Women


By Jorge Barrera | APTN National News

The RCMP is expected to release a new report on murdered and missing Indigenous women Wednesday, according to a spokesperson.

The report will be an update on the federal police force’s work on the file since last year’s release of its National Overview on Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women. That report revealed that 1,181 Indigenous women had been murdered or gone missing since 1980.

RCMP Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer said the report was set for release Wednesday afternoon during a press conference.

The update report was originally scheduled for release in May. It is expected to focus on the “next steps” identified in the 2014 initial report. The next steps included a focus on “enhancing efforts on unresolved cases.” Almost half of missing and murdered Indigenous women cases fall under the jurisdiction of provincial or municipal police forces.

The RCMP also said it would be unveiling improvements on how it collects information on murder or missing persons cases which would now include Aboriginal origin as an identifier.

The update report, however, will not include information on the “ethnicity of the perpetrators of solved Aboriginal women homicides.”

Earlier this year, the RCMP said it would release a new report after it became embroiled in a controversy triggered by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt over that issue.

Valcourt said during closed-door meeting with some Alberta chiefs in March that 70 per cent of the perpetrators linked to solved Indigenous women murder cases were also Indigenous.

The Mounties initially refused to back Valcourt, stating it was against RCMP policy to reveal the ethnicity of perpetrators. But as the controversy grew, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson confirmed the 70 per cent statistics in a letter to Treaty 6 Grand Chief Bernice Martial. Paulson said in the April 7 letter that consolidated data from 300 police agencies reviewed by the RCMP supported the statistic.

Paulson also said that in the cases of solved murders of Indigenous women, 25 per cent of the perpetrators were non-Indigenous and five per cent were of an unknown ethnicity.

Paulson, however, did not reveal any regional breakdowns or provide any information on what percentage of cases stemmed from cities versus on reserves.


Youth Representative Criticizes B.C. Government For Aboriginal Teen’s Death

British Columbia's representative for children and youth

British Columbia’s representative for children and youth

The Canadian Press

An indifferent care system and persistent inaction by front-line workers led to the death of an aboriginal teenage girl in Vancouver, British Columbia’s representative for children and youth has determined.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has released a scathing report after investigating the life and death of Paige, a 19-year-old who overdosed in the city’s troubled Downtown Eastside in April 2013. The teen’s last name was not revealed in the report.

Turpel-Lafond says the Ministry of Children and Family Development inexplicably allowed Paige to remain in the care of her mother, who struggled with substance abuse, despite being the subject of 30 child protection reports in her lifetime.

The report says Paige’s life was chaotic from the start, as she was exposed to violence, neglect, open drug use and was moved more than 50 times to different homeless shelters, safe houses and single-room occupancy hotels.

It says the teen suffered from a syndrome that left her legally blind without her glasses and developed substance abuse problems that landed her in the emergency room or in detox centres at least 17 times.

Turpel-Lafond says social workers, police, health care workers and educators show constant indifference to aboriginal children, and she is demanding that the provincial government take immediate action.

Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux says she was horrified by the report and that her ministry will work with other service providers to learn from what happened.

Aboriginal Soldiers Among Canada’s Top Snipers In First World War

Cpl. Francis Pegahmagabow, credited with 378 kills.

Cpl. Francis Pegahmagabow, credited with 378 kills.

Modern sniping was born amid the muck of the battlefields of the First World War and some of its deadliest practitioners were soldiers from Canada’s First Nations communities.

Foremost among them was Cpl. Francis Pegahmagabow, credited with 378 kills during his four years on the shell-shattered front lines of Europe. Historical records indicate that Canada could claim eight of the top dozen snipers from all countries involved in the fighting.

“Of those eight, at least five and probably six are aboriginal of some sort – Metis, First Nations or Inuit,” said Maj. Jim McKillip, a historian with the Canadian Forces department of history and heritage.

Pegahmagabow was the best known of them and the Ojibway was the most highly decorated aboriginal soldier in Canadian history, winning the Military Medal with two bars. That’s the equivalent of getting the honour three times.

Pegahmagabow, who was from the Parry Island Indian Reserve in Ontario – now know as the Wasauksing First Nation – not only made his mark as a scout and sniper but during combat at such bloody battles as Passchendaele, Ypres, the Somme and Mount Sorel, he also captured dozens of prisoners.

He enlisted in August 1914 and served until the end of the war, when he returned home and became an activist for his people.

“He was very keen,” his granddaughter, Theresa McInnes, said in a telephone interview. “I think he wanted to prove himself. He strived to be better. He just had great determination.

“He just wanted to go to war and represent his people and, I think, all of Canada.”

Even wounds could not keep him from the front lines for long, she said.

“He was really determined to get back after being wounded. He couldn’t wait to get back fighting. That was just him. He wanted to be there for the other soldiers.”

While Pegahmagabow was treated like an equal in the army, he endured prejudice when he returned to civilian life.

“He went to war thinking he would be equal to all people and when he came back he was not, so I think he was quite disappointed in that,” said McInnes, who was born within weeks of his death in 1952 but learned about him from relatives.

Pegahmagabow grappled with his experiences in the war and the after-effects of his wounds when he came back. Poison gas had damaged his lungs so badly, he had to sleep in a chair to stop them from filling with fluid.

But McInnes, whose mother married one of Pegahmagabow’s sons, says her mother remembered the soldier as “a kind man” who cared deeply about his family.

“She said he was the nicest man but when he came back he was very poor.”

While he has often been clouded in obscurity, efforts are underway to recognize Pegahmagabow, who rose to be chief of his band and also later served as a member of his band council, fighting for aboriginal rights and treaties.

“He just didn’t sit back,” said McInnes, who noted a plaque and sculpture in his honour are planned. “He was a fighter all around.”

Among other notable snipers were Johnson Paudash, of Kawartha Lakes, Ont., who was described as a soft-spoken man with keen eyesight; Cree Henry Norwest, who hailed from the Edmonton area and had a reputation for striking fear into the Germans; and Louis Philippe Riel, nephew of Métis leader Louis Riel.

Although Canadians excelled at it, sniping was introduced into the war by the Germans, who equipped soldiers with specialized training and rifles equipped with telescopic sights. The allies were slow to catch on. The Germans had issued 20,000 telescopic sights while the British had none.

“Everyone was getting outshot by the Germans for the first half of the war,” McKillip said.

The British eventually set up a sniper school in late 1915 or early 1916, the historian says, but even then they lagged with equipment. They were reluctant to add a telescopic sight to their rifles because they thought it slowed the rate of fire and when they did attach one, it was in an awkward position on the side of the weapon, which made it difficult to use.

In the Canadian forces, snipers were drawn from the regular infantry and men with an aptitude for shooting were sought.

“The demographics of the Canadian Expeditionary Force meant that there was a fairly substantial proportion of the force that did have an outdoors background, most of it farmers but also hunters and fishermen and trappers,” McKillip said, noting British soldiers tended to be city-dwellers.

Marksmanship wasn’t the only quality needed to be a good sniper, McKillip said.

“People realized pretty quickly that sniping was more. It was shooting and hunting combined – the skills of camouflage and concealment. The kind of hunting that you do to hunt animals at close range were the same sort of skills for concealing yourself from the enemy.”

McKillip said the image of a sniper as a lone wolf is a myth and they operated in pairs, with one man serving as a spotter and zeroing in on a target with a telescope.

The same system exists today except the team has been expanded to three, with the third man acting in a support capacity.

“Personality is a very big consideration in this,” McKillip said of the snipers both then and now. “Probably the quality most required in a sniper is patience. First of all, they had to use stealth to get into a lot of these firing positions and this would take lots of patience and sometimes long, laborious crawls or stealthy walks through the night to get into position and hide.

“It’s not uncommon at all to . . . get into position one night and not move the entire day. A lot of patience and stamina and nerves of steel because they were often put into very dangerous circumstances.”

Usually, snipers set up in their own little outposts away from the main body of troops, not just for tactical but safety reasons.

“Once a team started being effective, the enemy would react, the enemy would hunt these guys,” McKillip said. “Quite often the mechanism for hunting them was to try and spot them and then bring down artillery fire on them.”

McKillip pointed out if the snipers were in with the rest of the troops, that fire would land on everyone, not just the snipers.

The snipers lived in the same conditions as the other soldiers and followed a similar routine. Besides seeking out targets of opportunity, they would also be assigned missions such as taking out machine-gun nests or artillery crews or even hunting enemy snipers.

Ironically, in the early days of the war many soldiers thought sniping was a cushy job because the snipers didn’t have to do as many of the more tiring duties, such as labour.

“They thought you can go anywhere and lie in the tall grass,” McKillip said. “They did get quite a bit of attention from the enemy so I think by the end of the war they were recognized as specialists doing a dangerous job.”

By Nelson Wyatt


Australians Protest Indigenous Community Closures

The Western Australian government says it can't afford to provide basic services to many remote Indigenous communities. | Photo: Peter Boyle/ Green Left Weekly This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article.

The Western Australian government says it can’t afford to provide basic services to many remote Indigenous communities. | Photo: Peter Boyle/ Green Left Weekly


Australia’s major cities have been inundated with protesters infuriated by a proposal to cut basic services to remote Indigenous communities.

Thousands of Australians marched nationwide Friday to protest proposed shutdowns of remote Indigenous communities.

In Melbourne, the city center was filled by an estimated 10,000 protesters frustrated by the proposed closures, according to activists.

“Every so often, the beast of Australian genocide rears its colors in full light of day. The forced closure of (Western Australian) Aboriginal communities is one such moment,” activist group Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance said in a statement.

Similar rallies took place in all of Australia’s major cities.

A spokesperson for the organizers of the Perth rally said the protests had also received international support, with solidarity protests cropping up in New Zealand and outside the Australian High Commission in Ottowa, Canada.

“Overwhelmed, overwhelmed with support,” SOS Black Australia representative Della Rae Morrison told SBS.

Friday’s rallies were the second wave of nationwide protests against the proposed closures, which could see between 150 and 274 Indigenous communities across the state of Western Australia lose access to basic municipal services like water and electricity.

Alarm bells first rang in late 2014, when the federal government said it could no longer afford to maintain infrastructure in remote communities, and handed responsibility to the states. Western Australia’s government responded by stating it too would be unwilling to cover basic utility costs. Despite receiving around AU$90 million (US$68 million) from the federal government in exchange for taking responsibility for the communities, the state government says many communities may soon be scuttled.

The state’s premier Colin Barnett has responded to backlash to the proposed closures by arguing the government hasn’t decided how many communities could lose services, though he conceded, “I would expect there’d be a significant number.” “No person will be forced from their land.

No person will be forced from their community but the state will not be able to provide services across that many communities,” he told ABC.

Speaking to teleSUR in March, Western Australian Indigenous community organizer Jodie Bell said the impact on communities has been trivialized by the government.

“We know we are dealing with a very stubborn Western Australian premier – he has shown this on many occasions, over many issues. However we need to keep the pressure on him until he consults with communities, and at least allows communities a seat at the table to discuss this issue rationally,” she said during an exclusive interview.

Bell continued, “Our spiritual and cultural life is intricately linked with our country and we have fought hard in the past 30 years to regain the ability to live in our country following years of displacement as a result of government policies.” “We will not move, we cannot move,” she said.

This content was originally published by teleSUR

Brazil Issues Executive Order To Safeguard Indigenous Lands


Prensa Latina

Brasilia, Apr 20 (Prensa Latina) The official Union journal has published today an executive order ensuring the protection of 232,544 hectares of indigenous land, distributed in three áreas of the Brazilian states of Amazonas and Para.

The legislation comes into effect with the release of the presidential order that demands for the rights of four aboriginal ethnic groups in the nation, said Flávio Chiarelli, head of the Native National Foundation (FUNAI).

This way, the federal government shows its willingness to guarantee the rights of native peoples, Chiarelli said.

He announced that in 2015, other lands will then be part of the native heritage, with a population of about 820 thousand people, spread in almost 300 ethnic groups that speak 274 different languages and represent nearly the 0.26 percent of the total amount of Brazilians.

The release of the executive order comes a day after the celebration of the National Indian Day and after protests of thousands of indigenous people in Brasilia against a bill that would give Parliament the power for demarcation and protection of indigenous areas.

So far, the government has the power to do so, but the bill intends to transfer that power ot the Parliament.

B.C. Aboriginals Hope To Represent Residential School Day Students In Lawsuit

St. Michael's Indian Residential School entrance, with two students on the driveway, Alert Bay, B.C. is shown in 1970.

St. Michael’s Indian Residential School entrance, with two students on the driveway, Alert Bay, B.C. is shown in 1970.

The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – Two First Nations in British Columbia are looking to take the federal government to court on behalf of all the former day students of the country’s notorious residential school system.

The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and Shishalh bands are asking permission from the Federal Court to launch a class-action suit representing aboriginal children who attended residential schools but returned to their families at night.

“Every single one of them has a story similar to the people who resided in the schools,” said former Shishalh chief turned councillor, Garry Feschuk, a plaintiff in the case and whose wife is a former day student.

“I really believe it’s time that these people are heard and we start to heal our people.”

Three separate class-action suits are being considered by the court: one for former day students, one for descendants of former day students and one for bands impacted by members who attended residential schools as day students.

The certification hearing starts Monday and is scheduled to last all this week, the allegations of which have not been proven in court.

Feschuk said he expects a decision to be reached by September.

In 2008, the Canadian government issued a formal apology for its historic role in the residential school system, but that did not include compensation for the day students who attended the schools alongside live-in students.

The lawsuit alleges day students suffered the same loss of cultural connection and language as their residential counterparts, who did receive compensation.

It argues that the program was an intentional element of Canada’s education policy and resulted in serious and life-long harm to survivors.

Feschuk estimated there are more than 300 former day students belonging to the two representative bands, but he was unable to provide an overall number for the entire country.

“It’s taken a lot of work to get us to where we are today,” said Feschuk, adding that the legal process began more than three years ago.

“I’m just hoping that in the end we can achieve the justice that our people have been waiting for. They’ve waited long enough.”

Justice Sean Harrington will ultimately decide whether the two bands should be allowed to speak for all of Canada’s former aboriginal day students.

That decision could then be appealed by either side before going to trial, provided a negotiated, out-of-court settlement isn’t reached in the interim.