Tag Archives: Carolyn Bennett

MMIWG Families Slam ‘Colonial’ Inquiry Process, Demand Hard Reset

Marion Buller chief commissioner of national inquiry. (CP)

Relatives, supporters says their concerns have been ignored by commissioners, minister

Dozens of family members, activists and academics have written an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanding the “deeply misguided” inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls be scrapped and restarted with a new panel of commissioners.

The coalition says relatives have been shut out of the process and that commissioners are on a path that will not lead to the successful fulfillment of the inquiry’s mandate.

“They have continually dismissed our concerns, refused to take steps to rebuild trust, and have maintained a deeply misguided approach that imposes a harmful, colonial process on us,” the letter reads. “This has and continues to create trauma as well as insecurity and a lack of safety for our families, communities, and loved ones.”

Families wrote a letter complaining about being excluded three months ago, but say their deep-seated concerns were ignored. The letter was used only to pit families against families, the coalition said.

Families and supporters are also accusing Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett of dismissing their concerns.

A statement from the minister’s office said the government remains committed to ending the “ongoing national tragedy,” and that the inquiry’s terms of reference require that families be central to the commission’s work.

After meeting with the commissioners, Bennett was satisfied they had a plan and dedication to address families’ concerns, which will adapt as the inquiry progresses.

‘Immediate action’

The statement said the government is working in the meantime with Inuit, First Nations and Métis partners to honour the lost and to advance reconciliation.

“We’ve taken immediate action with a new gender-based violence strategy, changes to the child and family welfare system for Indigenous children, safe housing, shelters and work with British Columbia towards safe transport on the Highway of Tears,” the statement reads.

The inquiry has been plagued with problems, including staff departures and last month’s resignation by Marilyn Poitras, a Métis professor at the University of Saskatchewan. She cited issues with the “current structure” of the inquiry, which is set to get underway this fall.

But the letter from relatives and supporters says too much damage has been done and too much time has lapsed to rebuild trust now.

Instead of drawing on Indigenous knowledge and practices, the inquiry has been rooted in a colonial model that prioritizes a Eurocentric medical and legal framework, it reads.

“Such an approach is rooted in a broader culture of colonial violence that is inherently exploitative towards Indigenous peoples and causes ongoing trauma and violence for us as families,” the letter says.

Health, legal and community relations team workers for the inquiry are scheduled to be in two Saskatchewan cities this week to meet with families who wish to participate.

The teams are in Regina and Saskatoon to get in contact with families who want to participate in the truth gathering process which will be held in Saskatoon in November.

Source: CBC News

Indigenous Affairs Minister Promises Probe of Red Sun Gas Bar


Red Sun Gas Bar using status card numbers to sell tax-exempt gas and cigarettes to non-status customers

APTN Investigates | Feb 10, 2017 

Carolyn Bennett came out swinging when confronted with an APTN Investigates hidden camera report that shows a Manitoba gas bar surreptitiously using status card numbers of some customers to sell tax-exempt gas and cigarettes to non-status customers.

“I’m appalled,” said the minister, who is touring Iqaluit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “It’s totally unacceptable. This issue of rights is hugely important and (the tax-exempt right) is for Indigenous people. Anybody in the business allowing this — it’s not right. It’s fraud.”

In a separate APTN Investigates episode ‘Where There’s Smoke’ revealed her department has allowed the gas bar in question to operate on the Roseau River First Nations urban reserve for the past 10 years, despite community opposition and in violation of the department’s own rules that require reserve land to be designated for commercial lease.

Where the gas bar sits was rejected for such use in a 2008 referendum. But INAC never bothered to enforce the result.

A management and sublease agreement between the band and businessman David Doer sees him pay a $10 a year lease to run the gas station and in exchange, he gets half of Roseau River’s tobacco rebate – a status Indian right under Section 87 of the Indian Act. It amounts to about $80,000 a month for each Roseau and Doer.

Bennett said she was unaware of the controversy but added, “I’m happy to look into it and get back to (APTN).”

Coun. Cecil James says her words are what he and others have been waiting for, for a decade.

“It’s better late than never. I’m very happy,” said James.

He’s part of a group that’s been trying to get Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to intervene to get non-Indigenous businessmen out of the Red Sun Gas Bar, which is located on their urban reserve just outside of Winnipeg.

A deal was struck in 2007 between David Doer, who is the band’s former third party manager, and then-chief Terry Nelson along with his daughter Kathy. Some $2.1 million of Roseau’s trust money went into developing the site where the gas bar sits. Many band members feel they should get more benefit from their investment, and want Doer out.

If they ran Red Sun and kept all the profits and tobacco rebate, it would be a cash injection of more than $1-million a year for the impoverished community, James believes. He’s one of two councillors who opposed the deal. This past summer Chief Alfred Hayden and two other councillors restarted the clock with Doer by inking a new 20-year deal to keep him at Red Sun.

“That’s money that’s now flowing out of the community and it would have gone a long way in addressing our housing and infrastructure needs,” James said.

He has formally asked Manitoba Finance Minister Cam Friesen to intervene, given the potential loss of tax revenue for the Manitoba government if regular customers are getting tax-exempt gas and cigarettes. Friesen hasn’t responded.

As for Doer, he denied that he or any other manager sanctioned the practice of giving non-status customers tax-free merchandise by misusing other customers’ status cards. He declined an interview request but sent an email from his lawyer, Dean Giles.

“Mr. Doer is not inclined to submit to an interview or otherwise reply to the allegations that have been made.” his email stated in part. “It is made absolutely clear to all Red Sun employees that all non-treaty customers must pay tax on purchases made at the store. In the past, Red Sun has terminated employees for using their own treaty numbers in connection with sales to non-aboriginal customers or otherwise engaging in conduct of the sort.”

The contract states that Doer must pay 10 per cent of his proceeds to a community fund. But James says he has not been able to access the fund’s books.


Provinces Won’t Have To Shoulder Costs Of MMIW Inquiry, Federal Minister Says

'We are reassuring provinces there will be no costs to the provinces'

‘We are reassuring provinces there will be no costs to the provinces’

Federal government ‘very close’ to launching inquiry, Carolyn Bennett says

By Katharine Starr, CBC News Posted: Jul 12, 2016

The federal government is reassuring the provinces that when it comes to a national inquiry on murdered and missing indigenous women, they won’t have to foot the bill.

“I think there was some misunderstanding, but I think we are almost there in terms of getting the assurances out there that this is going to be done in co-operation,” said Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett in an interview on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

The Liberal government’s spring federal budget pegged the cost of a full national public inquiry at $40 million over two years starting in 2016.

Bennett told First Nations chiefs at their 37th annual general assembly Tuesday that the government is “very close” to announcing the launch of the inquiry, a campaign promise made by the Liberals last year.

But before a national inquiry can begin, all provinces and territories must be on board.

Some provincial and territorial governments have had questions and concerns about their roles and responsibilities in the inquiry, including who was going to cover the cost of travel and other support for families and whether legal representation would be required.

Confusion over terms of reference

Bennett confirmed that “different provinces had different understandings” of what the terms of reference will be.

“I think we are reassuring provinces that there will be no costs to the provinces,” Bennett told Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton.

AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde signs an accord with Carolyn Bennett, minister of Indigenous affairs and northern development, during the AFN general assembly on Tuesday. (Chris Glover/CBC)

“It really is just co-operation around documents, around witnesses. It’s just about us now getting that all pinned down so that we can launch in a timely fashion.”

The provinces and territories will still have a critical role to play in the inquiry, Bennett added.

“We’ll still need the provinces to help with the healing and wellness piece, and to make sure these families are dealt with in a compassionate, culturally safe way,” she said.

“But that’s a shared responsibility, and we are very, very heartened by the co-operation that’s out there now.”


Ottawa Releases Pre-Inquiry Report On MMIW



The federal government has quietly released a series of recommendations from its pre-inquiry consultations with friends and family of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The report was release late Friday with no press release.

According to the report, there were 17 meetings involving 2,000 friends and family across the country, with Indigenous organizations, provincial and territorial leaders, Indigenous leaders, scholars and legal experts.

The government also accepted comments via an online forum and survey.

“The face-to-face meetings provided the government a chance to hear directly from survivors, and families and loved ones of murdered or missing women and girls,” according to the report posted online. “Participants were provided with cultural, spiritual and religious support. Elders were also on hand to provide ceremony and counsel. Also, health support workers were available to provide additional cultural and emotional support.”

According to the report, the government heard:

The leadership should represent Indigenous communities and regions. It should also have a timetable that is sensitive to the needs of survivors, families and loved ones. Efforts must be made to avoid a long, drawn-out and legal process.

The inquiry should include as many individuals and organizations as possible including survivors, families and loved ones, national Indigenous organizations, front-line workers, and Indigenous community leaders and organizations.

It should also respect different points of view.

The inquiry should take a broad approach to its analysis of the issues. It should look at the economic, cultural, political and social causes of violence against women, girls and trans and two-spirit people.

It should also look at the causes of unequal and unjust treatment of Indigenous women, girls and trans and two-spirit people and recommend solutions to the causes of violence.

The inquiry should provide a variety of cultural, spiritual and religious supports and ceremonies. The ceremonies should reflect the diversity of all participants and regions and be supported by elders.

As well, it will be critical to have professional mental health counselling and community-based health supports. Professional and culturally-sensitive counselling will be needed if the inquiry is to be effective and avoid causing further trauma.

What isn’t clear is when the inquiry will start. When it was announced, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said she wanted it officially announced before the House of Commons recessed for the summer.

That is towards the end of June.


Potential Billion-Dollar Deal For Metis As Feds Address Historic Land Dispute

Historic Metis land claim

Historic Metis land claim

CTVNews.ca | May 27, 2016

A potential settlement expected to reach billions of dollars could be presented to Manitoba’s Metis as early as September after the Liberal government signalled it is taking steps to fulfill a 146-year-old disagreement over land.

On Friday, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett quietly stepped away from the Liberal party convention in Winnipeg to sign a memorandum of understanding with Manitoba’s Metis.

The document outlines the government’s intention to finally honour a promise made under Sir John A. Macdonald to distribute 5,565 square kilometres of land, including what later became modern-day Winnipeg, to the Metis.

“It is, I think, as a government my solemn commitment and that of the prime minister to end the status quo, renewing Canada’s relationship with the Metis nation,” Bennett said Friday at the memorandum signing in Winnipeg.

The signing of the memorandum signals that “the parties are taking a historic first step toward a shared and balanced solution that advances reconciliation between Canada and the Manitoba Métis Community,” Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada said in a press release.

Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett signs a memorandum of understanding alongside Manitoba Metis federation president David Chartrand. The document outlines the Liberal government's intention to finally fulfill a land deal from 1870.

Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett signs a memorandum of understanding alongside Manitoba Metis federation president David Chartrand. The document outlines the Liberal government’s intention to finally fulfill a land deal from 1870.

The milestone comes nearly three years after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 6-2 that the federal government failed to appropriately carry out its promise made in 1870. The 2013 ruling lent legal heft to the possibility of land-claim negotiations.

Experts estimate that the settlement could be worth billions.

Sources told CTV News that the modern-day treaty has been months in the making, with the Liberal government preparing to carry out the commitment since it came into office last fall.

Sources also said the memorandum of understanding, signed Friday, was written months ago. They added that a framework agreement on the potentially massive settlement could come as early as September.

And while plenty of details have yet to be hammered out, Metis leaders celebrated the historic step towards finally resolving the longstanding dispute.

“We waited 146 years for this. The future is going to change for generations to come, and we are no longer going to be sitting on the sidelines,” said Manitoba Metis federation president David Chartrand. “This is the new era of our nation.”

The disagreement stems from a promise made by Sir John A. Macdonald’s government in 1870 to set aside land for 7,000 Metis children from the Red River Settlement.

The Metis have argued that it took more than a decade for the government to begin distributing the 5,565 square kilometres of farmland and about 1,000 Metis children never received any of the promised plots.

In many cases, the land was randomly handed out by lottery and displaced the recipients from their ancestral land.

The deal was part of the Manitoba Act of 1870, which Canada’s first government crafted in attempts to end the Red River Rebellion led by Metis forefather Louis Riel. The act also helped Manitoba become a Canadian province.

Another landmark ruling for the Metis came in April when the Supreme unanimously ruled that Metis and non-status aboriginals are “Indians” under the Constitution. The decision opened the door for an estimated 600,000 Metis and non-status Aboriginals to gain access to federal First Nations programs previously denied to them.

With a report from CTV’s Manitoba Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon