Tag Archives: Chief Devon Clunis

Cooper Nemeth’s Dad Addresses ‘Heartbreaking’ Letter From Winnipeg Teen

Brent Nemeth talks about the emotions he felt after reading Brianna Jonnie's letter

Brent Nemeth talks about the emotions he felt after reading Brianna Jonnie’s letter

CBC News, Posted: Mar 07, 2016

‘Shout from the rooftops and ends of the earth,’ letter in Cooper’s voice says

The dad of slain Winnipeg teen Cooper Nemeth says a heartbreaking and what he calls damaging letter from teen Brianna Jonnie prompted him to write a response — from himself and from Cooper.

“I was saddened when I first read it. It was heartbreaking to read,” said Brent Nemeth, Cooper Nemeth’s father.

“I was also saddened for the police department. It hurt my feelings. It was very emotional to read that so soon after Cooper’s disappearance and then being found that someone would think so unworthy of themselves over race.”

Jonnie, a 14-year-old indigenous girl, addressed her letter to police Chief Devon Clunis, a number of government officials and members of local media. In it, she says there is a discrepancy in how cases of missing indigenous girls are treated in comparison to others, such as Cooper or Thelma Krull.

Brent Nemeth said he wrote the response because he’s sad for Jonnie but is also concerned “a letter such as this takes us five steps back” in bridging relations with the First Nations community.

He lauded the Bear Clan patrol for its search efforts when Cooper was missing, saying the primarily indigenous group never stopped “for one second to think of race or colour or gender.

“They saw a need and felt the anguish and moved right in to do whatever they could to help as human beings,” he said in a part of the letter written in his own voice.

The Nemeth family later held a dinner to honour the Bear Clan and honour the bond with the First Nations community.

Jonnie’s letter, instead, encourages another generation to believe in a racist way of thinking, Nemeth said.

“It breaks my heart to believe that any child believes I see them as anything more or less than a child who deserves love every moment of their entire lives and who needs to be found when they are lost,” he wrote.

Jonnie describes herself as an honour roll student, volunteer, coach and dancer who is being raised by a loving mother. Though she is not involved in drugs, alcohol, prostitution or other illegal activity, nor a runaway, she says she is more likely to go missing than her peers simply because she is indigenous.

If that were to ever happen, Jonnie urges Clunis and the media to humanize her, not treat her “like another one of them ran away.”

"And if I do go missing and my body is found, please tell my mom you are sorry. Tell her I asked to be buried in my red dress, for I will have become just another native statistic," Brianna Jonnie, 14, wrote in a letter to Winnipeg Police Service Chief Devon Clunis. (CBC)

“And if I do go missing and my body is found, please tell my mom you are sorry. Tell her I asked to be buried in my red dress, for I will have become just another native statistic,” Brianna Jonnie, 14, wrote in a letter to Winnipeg Police Service Chief Devon Clunis. (CBC)

“The colour of one’s skin, their socio-economic status, or whom their legal guardian is should not determine the level of assistance they receive in finding them if they are missing, and yet, it does,” she wrote, adding examples of indigenous girls who went missing and the gap between when they disappeared and when the police issued a public notice.

In comparison, Cooper had his image in the paper the next day and Krull was in online reports less than 24 hours after her disappearance, Jonnie said.

Making gains

James Favel, an organizer with the Bear Clan Patrol, said he is driven to work toward “a new normal” in terms of community responses to missing persons.

“We have made some real gains and I don’t want to see it be lost,” Favel said, adding “you can’t take away from [Jonnie’s] reality.

“I wouldn’t malign her for how she feels. I know that there’s many women in my community that have the same feeling.”

Still, while Favel acknowledges Jonnie’s concerns are valid, he added that negativity surrounding the issue isn’t productive either.

“Delaine Copenace went missing last Friday. We’ve been searching; the media has been all over it. I think coverage has been equal in that respect.”

Brent Nemeth said the family was actively doing everything they could to help find Cooper.

“We used the media to our advantage, we used social media to our advantage,” he said.

“We didn’t sit at home and just file a missing police report. I was constantly on the police, updating every 15 minutes as soon as I made the report. Cooper’s friends texting, tweeting; my sister coming in and putting her keys down on the table and four coffees and saying, ‘We’re going to find him.'”

He said he is saddened that Jonnie believes her worth is based on gender and race, but felt she was off the mark when it comes to who spearheads the searching.

Cooper Nemeth went missing after leaving a house party in East Kildonan on Feb. 14. His body was found Feb. 20 behind a house in the same neighbourhood. (Supplied)

Cooper Nemeth went missing after leaving a house party in East Kildonan on Feb. 14. His body was found Feb. 20 behind a house in the same neighbourhood. (Supplied)

They are “fuelled by families and communities and police can only do the job they are enlisted to do. And it is the same for everyone,” he said, noting Cooper’s family, friends and the community overall “found the leads … the tips … and the feet on the street to rattle the earth.

“It wasn’t 1,500 police officers out there.”

Instead of writing to the police, government and media, Jonnie should have addressed her letter to her parents, Nemeth said.

The following is from Nemeth’s letter, written in the voice of Cooper:

“If I go missing … please please please recognize quickly that this is something completely out of the norm for me and don’t ever let me become another statistic. Handle me missing with the same care and love that you handle me with every single day of my life. Know that the times that I am acting out as a 17-year-old boy and we are struggling through some moments in our house have nothing to do with where I am now.

“Don’t wait for the police to look for me. They will do what they can and what they are allotted to do for every single missing person case there is. They will issue a statement and follow leads but it is up to you Mom and Dad to help find those leads for them and rally every single person you can to help find me. The police can’t do that for us … or anyone else.

“Shout from the rooftops and ends of the earth and call out to everyone you know to join you. Please Mom and Dad … even when you hear things that will make you think I have gone farther off the path you have laid out for me … don’t give up.

“I am just being a 17-year-old kid … trying things that most of us try … but in the big scheme of things, this moment doesn’t define who I am and who you have taught me to be. I may have hid a few things from you because that’s what we do as teenagers.… We are chameleons to our parents.

“Don’t let anything stop you Mom and Dad. When it comes down to it … only you and your strength and your love and your belief in me can bring me home.”

Brent Nemeth’s letter, in the voice of his late 17-year-old son Cooper Nemeth

FB_1

Mobile users: View the document
Brent Nemeth’s letter, in the voice of his late 17-year-old son Cooper Nemeth (PDF KB)
Brent Nemeth’s letter, in the voice of his late 17-year-old son Cooper Nemeth (Text KB)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/cooper-nemeth-brianna-jonnie-letter-1.3478948

Chief, police board grapple with ways to protect aboriginal women and girls

Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Cunis

Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Cunis

By Black Powder Red Power Media

On Friday, the Winnipeg Police Board unanimously approved a motion requiring the police service to strengthen “activities targeted at solving cases of missing and murdered women and girls” and engage the indigenous community in developing safety plans.

Police Chief Devon Clunis wants Winnipeggers to engage in a “difficult” conversation about this city’s ethnic divide as part of a broader effort to better protect indigenous women and girls.

This direction followed a September city council motion asking the police to take “a proactive approach to prevent, investigate and solve the plight” of missing and slain indigenous women in Winnipeg.

Clunis said the service accepts the police board’s motion — but insisted once again his officers already do an “excellent” job investigating and solving crimes committed against indigenous women and girls.

“I don’t think we’re deficient in that at all,” Clunis said following the police board’s approval of a motion that also included calls for quarterly reports into the improvement of protection of indigenous women and girls.

“It’s not the race that determines how you investigate a crime. A crime is a crime is a crime. We do a very good job on those investigations.”

Rather, Clunis used the police board meeting as another opportunity to proclaim the time has come for Winnipeggers of all backgrounds to consider how the history of indigenous relations with other Canadians in effect, colonial history has led to a modern socio-economic gap along ethnic lines.

“The current situation we see many indigenous individuals in is part of a past. We have to have that difficult conversation and say what’s happened in the past and what we’re seeing is a reflection of the past in the current context, so what do we need to rectify that,” Clunis said.

“I think some time people simply feel (indigenous) people choose to be a drunk on Main Street or they choose to be involved in the sex trade. No. We need to have those specific conversations and say why those individuals are living in those conditions.”

Clunis said, “the affluence some of us are experiencing” is a part of this historic inequality.

The chief said he is not certain who will lead such a debate. He said the police service will not solve the problem of missing and slain indigenous women simply by responding to calls.

Police board members, however, characterized their motion as clearly addressing the need to change policing policies.

Highlights from a Winnipeg Police Board motion instructing the Winnipeg Police Service to better protect indigenous women and girls from violence and exploitation:

  • Strengthen police activities targeted at solving cases of missing and murdered women and girls and communicate those activities, when that doesn’t jeopardize investigations.
  • Enhance cultural awareness and sensitivity training among police officers.
  • Improve the police response to domestic violence and increase support to victims of violence and exploitation.
  • Ask Winnipeg’s indigenous communities for help in developing safety initiatives and seek their input into developing the police’s strategic plan by June.
  • Create an indigenous advisory council on policing and crime prevention.
  • Ask the police chief to present a report about investigations into missing and murdered indigenous women to the police board in January.
  • Ask the chief to present a status report about improving protection for indigenous women and girls in February – and then issue a quarterly report, starting in April.

Both the city council and police-board motions followed this summer’s disappearance and murder of Tina Fontaine, which sparked renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

Tina Fontaine, 15, was reported missing on Aug. 9, 2014

Tina Fontaine, 15, was reported missing on Aug. 9, 2014

From The Winnipeg Free Press Print Edition December 6