Tag Archives: Bernard Valcourt

Fighting For Answers About Missing And Murdered Canadian Women

JESSICA BROUSSEAU/The Mid-North Monitor Demonstrators stand united in the middle of Highways 6 and 17 during the five minute traffic slow down.

JESSICA BROUSSEAU/The Mid-North Monitor Demonstrators stand united in the middle of Highways 6 and 17 during the five minute traffic slow down.

By Jessica Brousseau / Mid-North Monitor, August 25, 2015

The numbers are growing as the fight for a national inquiry into missing and murdered women continues.

A demonstration was held on Aug. 18 with the familiar voices for the United Urban Warrior Society (UUWS) being joined by new supporters who refuse to take the federal government’s “no” for an answer.

Gathering at Giant Tiger, the group walked down the road before coming to a stand at the junction of highways 6 and 17.

Isadore Pangowish, leader of the UUWS Manitoulin-Sudbury chapter, has organized demonstrations and rallies such as the one held on a humid Tuesday morning.

“Our numbers have grown over the two years,” Pangowish said. “The more we protest maybe, just maybe, we will get our national inquiry.”

A national inquiry has been demanded of the federal government.

“The more and more that we come out, maybe Stephen Harper and Bernard Valcourt will open their eyes.”

While online comments are a mix of support for the cause there is the presence of frustration at the highway being shut down momentarily. But the negativity will not deter the UUWS in any future events.

Pangowish said they were closing the highway a few minutes at a time, but there may come a day when it might be shut down longer.

“This is a government highway. We do not own this highway. It is not a First Nation highway.”

Just like the highway, the inquiry into the growing number of missing and murdered women isn’t a First Nation issue.

“This is for everyone, it doesn’t matter their race.”

His statement was echoed throughout the demonstration as Deputy Grand Council Chief Glen Hare made the same remarks during one of the shutdown periods.

“This is for all women!” Hare exclaimed while pointing to the surrounding communities. “Not just Anishnabek (women), but the women in this community, and those communities out there.”

He called for community members to “stand with us.”

Hare said the demonstration is a political matter and they want leaders to “take hold” of the issue of missing and murdered women, starting with the inquiry.

“Politicians questioning what good would an inquiry be? For me, I think the role of the court system would be to strengthen up.”

Hare was referring to when a woman gets a restraining order against an individual, but the laws do not necessarily protect them.

“A restraining order, I truly believe, gives that individual more (power),” he said. “It’s a challenge. And it happens.”

He said it is sad for family members to grieve over the death of their loved one while the murderer is getting bail.

“That’s the hurting part.”

“It’s extremely important that the awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women, and all women is brought to the forefront,” said Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing NDP incumbant candidate Carol Hughes, who was at the demonstration. “We need to have a comprehensive inquiry.”

Hughes said the national inquiry would help give closure to families. She also mentioned the Truth and Reconciliation report, which also supported the inquiry.

SheShegwaning First Nation Chief Joe Endanawas told the demonstrators that they are supported and be proud of who they are.

“It’s good that you’re here, support the cause,” he said.

Endanawas had a message for the women at the rally, saying they do not deserve to be talked down to or put down.

“We are human beings,” he said.

Still no answers

The hurt remains with family members, years after the death of a loved one.

It’s been two years since Michelle Atkinson’s daughter Cheyenne Fox was found dead in Toronto.

Fox came from the Loon Clan at the Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation on Manitoulin Island and was 20 years old when she fell from the 24th-floor balcony.

The Toronto police called the incident suicide. But her mother says it was murder.

How she was informed of her daughter’s death left Atkinson feeling like it was “just another dead Indian” to the people who told her the life-changing news.

“That’s how I feel,” she said between sobs. “I am angry because nothing has been done to this day.”

Atkinson and family friend Jackie Bowerman describes Fox as a very funny, caring mother.

“She was lively and energetic,” said Bowerman.

“She had her struggles, but she was coming home,” said her mother.

“They had people who really loved them,” she said between tears. “People who still love them.”

“I lost a cousin way back in the 1950s, she disappeared and we never heard from her,” said Endanawas. “We still don’t know where she is or how she died. She must have died…”

The missing and the


Kassandra Boulduc, 22, of Elliot Lake, was found off the shores of Lake Ontario in 2013.

Tina Fontaine, 15, of Sagkeeng First Nation was found murdered in Red River Manitoba in 2014.

Meagan Pilon from Sudbury disappeared at age 15 in 2013. She has yet to be found.

These women are just a handful of Canadian women who have gone missing or have been discovered murdered in the past couple of years.

A report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stated there have been more than 6,500 female homicides between 1980 and 2012.



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.




True Crimes, Faulty Statistics And Aboriginal Women

The Canadian Press - Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt (left) and Minister of Status of Women Kellie Leitch speak to reporters at a separate press conference following the National Roundtable for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Ottawa on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Canadian Press – Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt (left) and Minister of Status of Women Kellie Leitch speak to reporters at a separate press conference following the National Roundtable for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Ottawa on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

By Colby Cosh | Maclean’s

How the heck did Bernard Valcourt get himself into a fix like this? In a March 20 closed-door meeting with a group of western First Nations band and region chiefs, the federal Aboriginal affairs minister apparently got defensive when the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women came up. Valcourt pointed out that an estimated 70 per cent of murders of indigenous women are perpetrated by indigenous men.

The chiefs knew that there was no such finding in the RCMP’s “operational overview” of the topic issued last year. It was, indeed, a noticeable gap in the report. The RCMP had strongly disavowed any ability or desire to make factual assertions about the racial demographics of a subset of murderers. So the chiefs very understandably asked Valcourt where this number had come from, and the minister was left babbling that he would come up with something. Whatever goodwill had been present in the room was gone.

A cynic would say Valcourt had committed a breach of the delicate manners that prevail in face-to-face talks between a minister and the leadership of his clientele. It would be equally valid to say he had failed to show sufficient respect. “Manners” and “showing respect” are two names for the same thing, and it is a thing that cannot be shrugged off by a federal minister of Aboriginal affairs.

Valcourt has since obtained a letter from RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson saying that, yes, there are RCMP data “confirming” the 70 per cent figure. Predictably, that hasn’t cooled the controversy: it has only inflamed it.

When the RCMP released its original report on violence against indigenous women, it let the data do the talking. That was both salutary and, from a public relations standpoint, effective. We learned that there is a surprisingly high number of genuinely missing Aboriginal women, few of whom can have disappeared voluntarily. We learned that fatal violence against indigenous women is declining, though not quite as fast as in the rest of the population. The police were careful to note that they solve homicides of Aboriginal women just as often as they do those of other women.

The interpretation of all that information was bound to be contentious. The special problem of “missing and murdered Aboriginal women” does not seem to exist, if by that phrase you mean a statistical interaction that goes beyond Aboriginal-ness and female-ness. The overall risk to Aboriginal women is about what you would infer from just combining the (very high) general Aboriginal exposure to lethal violence with the (much reduced) general female exposure to it. No third, additional element of risk is apparent in the numbers: over the 1980-2012 period covered in the RCMP report, for example, StatsCan estimates that 14 per cent of all female murder victims were Aboriginal, but 17 per cent of male murder victims were.

The lack of a statistical smoking gun makes an emotional debate more complicated—but at least with the original RCMP report, Canadians, Aboriginal and non-, were exposed to the numbers in a properly documented and footnoted form first. Now the government has introduced new data in a discouragingly improvisational way, without the details of how the 70 per cent number for Aboriginal offenders was arrived at.

Some, like Aboriginal law professor Pamela Palmater, are opportunistically nitpicking at the number—and they have every right to to that, as long as the methodology and the accuracy of the figure are undocumented unknowns. It’s not really even a question of right. There is just no way for anyone to answer those critics, aside from waving Paulson’s letter around.

But other Aboriginal leaders are asking: if the figure is accurate and robust, and if it implies that Aboriginal men have a special responsibility to act on this issue, why did they have to find out from an offhand remark in a meeting? Why did the RCMP pretend not to concern themselves with the identities of perpetrators, then change their minds?

The 70 per cent estimate may turn out to be in the neighbourhood of the truth—the “offender-to-victim relationship” stats for female homicide victims in the original RCMP report suggest that it might not be far off. But there is not much to be made of that number in isolation—is it high? Low? What percentage would be “too” high? The operational overview established that homicides of Aboriginal women aren’t committed disproportionately by strangers, so we already knew that protecting those women isn’t a matter of breaking up some racial conspiracy or spree-killing gang. Would that it were so simple.


PM Harper Failing To Fulfill Mulroney’s Oka Promise On Modern Treaties

(Mohawks from Kahnawake battle with Canadian soldiers during the 1990 Oka crisis. File/photo)

(Mohawks from Kahnawake battle with Canadian soldiers during the 1990 Oka crisis. File/photo)

By APTN National News

As the smoke was clearing from the 1990 Oka Crisis, then-prime minister Brian Mulroney wrote to the premiers of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon about the long, hot summer saying his government would be responding to the demands of “Aboriginal people” in four parts.

At the top of the list was “resolving land claims.”

Mulroney assured the two premiers the issue would receive Ottawa’s full attention.

“The federal government is determined to create a new relationship among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians based on dignity, trust and respect,” wrote Mulroney to former NWT premier Dennis Patterson and former Yukon Premier Tony Penikett in near-identical letters dated Nov. 15, 1990.

The other issues on the list included, “defining a new relationship between Aboriginal peoples and governments,” also “improving the economic and social conditions on reserves” and “addressing the concerns of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples in contemporary Canadian life.”

Throughout the summer-long crisis in Kanesatake and Kahnawake which spread across the country, the issue of comprehensive claims, or modern treaties, continued to crop up as a major irritant from the First Nation side. Pundits and First Nation representatives who appeared on CBC, CTV and other local cable newscasts repeatedly mentioned the need for Ottawa to overhaul its approach to comprehensive claims. APTN did not exist at the time.

In response, after the guns, tanks and helicopters faded from television screens, Mulroney began an overhaul of the land claim system. First, he eliminated the six-claim cap on the number of negotiations Ottawa would deal with at any one time. In 1992, the British Columbia-specific treaty table was created and in 1993 former Progressive Conservative Indian affairs minister Tom Siddon unveiled an overhaul of Ottawa’s comprehensive claim and specific claims policies.

The Letters

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Click To Open Letters

Since then, only four B.C. modern treaties have been settled while First Nations involved in the process have amassed about $500 million worth in loans from the federal government to pay for negotiations. As of January 2013, Canada has issued $1 billion in loans and non-repayable contributions to First Nation groups involved in claims talks which can take up to three decades to reach a final agreement.

It’s also emerged that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet has stalled three modern treaty negotiations for two years.

As it nears the end of its first majority mandate and its ninth year in power, the Harper government is only now beginning to address the issue of comprehensive land claims and folding it into a process named to imply a redefinition of Ottawa’s relationship with its Indigenous nations.

It’s called the “reconciliation framework” and it was first mentioned by Ottawa in a statement issued by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s office last Thursday in response to the release of a report by former federal negotiator Douglas Eyford.

Eyford was appointed last July by Valcourt to meet with dozens of First Nations across the country on improving Ottawa’s comprehensive land claims policy. As his report points out, Eyford travelled well tilled soil. The federal comprehensive claims policy has been updated three times since its 1973 creation. There have also been eight studies or reports on the issue since 1983, including a 2006 report from the federal Auditor General and two Senate reports, in 2008 and 2012.

“Many of the issues I have considered are neither new nor unforeseen. The observations, findings, and recommendations of these reports remain relevant and compelling despite the passage of time, legal developments, and changes in policy having placed some of the issues in a different context,” said Eyford, in the report.

Comprehensive claims encompass territorial claims, self-government and Aboriginal rights. They are negotiated in areas not covered by so-called “surrender” treaties or numbered treaties. The majority of these claims stem from British Columbia, the North, parts of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Specific claims generally stem from historical grievances over loss of land or the misuse of monies held in trust by Ottawa.

Eyford’s report also mentions a “reconciliation framework” and issues recommendations on its possible creation.

“Canada’s commitment to reconciliation should be reflected in a new framework that: continues to support modern treaty negotiations, but addresses institutional barriers…provides a rights-informed approach to treaty-making,” said the report. “(It should also offer) other reconciliation arrangements for Aboriginal groups that are not interested in negotiating a comprehensive land claims agreement…and improves the implementation of modern treaties and other agreements with Aboriginal groups.”

Valcourt’s office is saying little about its own vision for this new framework aside from sending links to the department’s interim comprehensive claims policy which was widely panned by First Nation groups.

In an emailed statement, Valcourt’s office said the reconciliation framework is simply the renamed “framework for addressing Section 35 Aboriginal Rights.” The minister also has no plans to roll anything out soon.

“This framework will be developed incrementally and through dialogue with partners,” said the statement. “Over the coming months, we will engage with Aboriginal groups as well as other stakeholders, including those who provided input during the engagement meetings (with Eyford), in order to seek their feedback on those recommendations.”

Valcourt’s framework plans, however, are getting a lukewarm response from the Assembly of First Nations.

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Valcourt needed to open direct discussions with First Nations on the issue.

“Any work on a ‘reconciliation framework’ needs to be discussed directly with First Nations,” said Bellegarde. “We are concerned that this government is relying too much on ministerial special representatives and other agents when the federal government has a duty to engage directly with First Nations.”

It all seems a far cry from what was promised following the Oka crisis by the Mulroney government of which Valcourt was once a part.

“I have great respect for the peaceful and patient manner in which most chiefs, elders and Aboriginal people have expressed their grievances and my government will continue to work with these individuals to find appropriate measures to respond to the needs and concerns of Aboriginal people,” said the letters, which Mulroney signed. “These grievances raise issues that deeply affect all Canadians and therefore must be resolved by all Canadians working together.”

According to a memo sent to Mulroney with draft responses to the two premiers, the letters “were developed in consultation with the Department of Indian Affairs.”

The Memo

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Click To Open Memo

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Missing-Women Roundtable To Keep Talking

A group of aboriginal protesters hold hands during a prayer outside the National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Friday, February 27, 2015 in Ottawa. The Canadian Press

A group of aboriginal protesters hold hands during a prayer outside the National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Friday, February 27, 2015 in Ottawa. The Canadian Press

By Bruce Cheadle | The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – It was a day of talks punctuated by powerful symbols.

Beating drums. Tearful family testimonials. Protesters raging against their exclusion from the table. A police officer hugging a protesting victim of violence, who burst into tears.

Leaders of national First Nations, Inuit and Metis organizations, representatives of families wracked by violence, and officials from provincial, territorial and federal governments gathered Friday for a roundtable on the terrible, ongoing legacy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

It appeared the biggest breakthrough was an agreement to meet again before the end of 2016, when they will assess the success of a multi-fronted public awareness campaign and an effort to find better community policing models.

“Today we have seen the beginning of what I hope will be a continuing national dialogue on missing and murdered indigenous women,” Bob McLeod, the premier of the Northwest Territories and the chair of the meeting, told a closing news conference attended by everyone involved except the federal government.

And that was a powerful symbol, too.

A block away in a bunker-like room under heavy security at a different hotel, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Kellie Leitch, the Conservative minister for the status of women, repeatedly called the day’s talks “historic” — while making clear that the central demand for a national inquiry on the issue of violence against indigenous women is a non-starter.

“Our position on the national inquiry is we will not be moving forward with one,” said Leitch, who nonetheless maintained the federal government “supported each of the action items that were put forward on the table.”

Perhaps that’s why they held a news conference separate from the other roundtable participants.

“There was not agreement to some action items that many of us did think would help; the federal government will have to answer that question as well,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne had said just a few minutes before, flanked by the various participants of the talks.

Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, flatly asserted federal leadership is lacking.

“Of course not — simple answer,” said Bellegarde.

“Is the leadership being there? No.”

Bellegarde said a five-year, $25-million federal plan announced last September, which will fund community safety plans, “engage men and boys on and off reserve,” raise awareness of healthy relationships and other measures is a welcome first step.

But everyone at the table agreed the issues run much deeper and broader.

Valcourt, for his part, had his own take on why there wasn’t agreement on a broader agenda.

The Aboriginal Affairs minister said Ontario and New Brunswick had dropped ideas on the table “at the last minute.”

“You can’t at the last minute decide what you will do with a series of 10 (Ontario) proposals — and New Brunswick adds on another four — without ever knowing what they’re about. We are more responsible than that with taxpayers.”

All parties agreed there was no commitment of any new money Friday, although Wynne said the public awareness campaign will presumably cost provinces, territories and the federal treasury something.

There was also common talk of an “action plan” and benchmarks for success, although that too appeared to paper over a divide between Ottawa and everyone else.

Pressed on how outcomes will be measured, Leitch said the federal government has its own goals, without specifying what they are.

“We have ours,” said Leitch, adding the framework from Friday’s talks will have another set. “They will be coming forward with theirs.”

In the end, it might be as much as anyone could hope for from the exercise.

Judy Maas, one of four representatives of families who have lost sisters, daughters and mothers spoke eloquently at the group news conference, holding out hope that action will one day follow the words.

“What I can say today is we spoke loud and clear. We were very truthful in what we had to say, and everyone that was present, I believe that they heard us,” said Maas.

“Just by the fact that we are here, we still have a hand out to say ‘We still are in this relationship together and we’ll walk this journey together.’”